Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival, returns to the city from 6- 15 July after a record 10th year in 2011. With a packed programme of music, dance, performance, visual art, comedy, debates, talks, workshops, film, exhibitions and poetry - including many free events - this year’s festival promises to be bigger than ever.

Key events include a World Premiere at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on 15th July from the Alif Ensemble and the play Rest Upon the Wind at Unity Theatre from veteran actor and writer Nadim Sawalha. Festival goers can also enjoy a breathtaking solo piece from ballet dancer Ayman Safieh at St Georges Hall on 14 July. The talented young dancer has been dubbed ‘The Arab Billy Elliot’ and has just been snapped up by dance guru Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures.

Razanne Carmey, Executive Director, Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival said: “This year’s Festival looks ‘Behind the News’ of political change in the Arab world.  Yes the riots and demonstrations, yes the calls for dictators to ‘Leave! Leave! Leave!’ But who are the people on the streets, when they go home?  We want to know the truth behind the news, the life behind the news and the loves, tears and laughter of the news makers. And here in Liverpool, LAAF will let us sample and participate in the rich art and culture of so many countries and communities.”

Another festival highlight is a comedy performance from internationally renowned comedienne and actress, New York based Maysoon Zayid, who brings Laughing Widely to St Georges Hall on 14 July. Maysoon has featured on Comedy Central’s The Watch List, PBS’s America at a Crossroads: Muslim Comics Stand Up, and in Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess With Zohan. Maysoon is also holding a comedy workshop at the Bluecoat on 13 July.

See an exhibition and debate of satirical cartoons at the Walker Art Gallery throughout the festival period (6-15 July) from Reem Abdelhadi. His work Laughing at the Government explores and discusses the history of Arab political humour and the art of drawing cartoons.

LAAF 2012 also sees the return of the ever popular Family day at Sefton Park on 8 July, where visitors of all ages can indulge in a sensory experience of the Arabic world with an afternoon of colour, live music, dance, workshops, stalls and food centred around the park’s beautiful Palm House.

Taher Qassim MBE, Chair, Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival said: “Since its inception in 1998, Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival has grown to become one of the key events on the North West festival calendar. This year is no exception, with an amazing array of vibrant and diverse acts that will attract thousands of visitors, 2012 is looking to be our biggest and most exciting year to date”.

The Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival runs from 6 - 15 July at various venues.