Brighton Festival unveils The Riwaq – a bespoke colonnade on Hove seafront

Syrian architects Marwa Al-Sabouni and Ghassan Jansiz bring a unique architectural element to this year’s Brighton Festival by building a temporary community arts space on Hove seafront in the form of a traditional Arabic arcade.

The Riwaq – the Arabic word for colonnade – is a semi-open space based at Hove Lawns providing a unique contrast and framing to the coast beyond. The bespoke horseshoe-shaped structure, a staple of Islamic architecture, spans almost 30 metres in diameter and serves as a transitional creative threshold between the surrounding city and the great outdoors. ­

The Riwaq will host an eclectic programme of free cultural and community events for the duration of the Festival, running 7 – 29 May. Local organisations and artists staging artistic takeovers include Best Foot Music & In-House Records, whose work celebrates international musicians and the power of creative rehabilitation; award-winning learning-disabled arts company Carousel; and Little Green Pig, showcasing young and underrepresented writers in Brighton & Hove. A wider programme of family events, spoken word and live music and dance performances takes place Wednesdays to Sundays – from Iranian storytelling to screen printing workshops to Bhangra dance sessions.


Marwa Al-Sabouni says:

“The Riwaq is often figuratively used in Arabic traditions as a referential space for culture and knowledge: the Riwaq of poetry, the Riwaq of culture, and so on. At Brighton Festival, The Riwaq is going to represent this transitional space of exchange. It will not only embrace the wonderful performances and events which will take place on its stage, but also host a wide array of great and exciting activities under its roof. The Riwaq will be buzzing, filled with visitors contributing and transforming it into a beautiful meeting spot on the charming seafront of Hove.”

Acclaimed author and architect Marwa Al-Sabouni is a Brighton Festival 2022 Guest Co-Director, alongside Tristan Sharps, Artistic Director of Brighton-based theatre makers dreamthinkspeak. Her book, The Battle for Home, is a ‘visionary memoir’ and reflection on the role architecture plays in communities and was chosen by The Guardian as one of the best books of 2016. Her latest book, Building for Hope, published by Thames & Hudson, explores how conscious rebuilding in the aftermath of conflict and crisis might contribute to enduring peace in an increasingly polarising world.

Marwa and Tristan have chosen the theme of Rebuilding as the inspiration for this year’s programme, exploring it from two different yet complementary perspectives. The Riwaq is made possible with the support of major sponsor Moda Living, alongside additional support from Timber Development UK, setWorks, Webb Yates, DHH Timber and Vanessa Norwood.

Lydia Whitaker, Director of Marketing and Wellbeing at MODA Living said:

“The Riwaq project is an inspirational work based on the importance of bringing communities together, and the value of interaction and experience to wellbeing. This is at the heart of what we do at Moda, where we’re dedicated to building sustainable neighbourhoods that have a positive impact and promote collaboration between communities. We’re proud to be a part of the Brighton Festival and look forward to celebrating arts and humanity with people from all over the world.”

Brighton Festival celebrates a return to full capacity in 2022, with an extensive international programme of over 150 events taking place across Sussex from 7-29 May.


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