Case Study: Dardishi Festival


Dardishi is an artistically ambitious community arts project that showcases the cultural production of Arab and North African womxn* in Glasgow. ‘Dardishi’ is the feminine verb for ‘chitchat’ in Arabic, and this name was chosen because Dardishi’s formation was largely inspired by conversations had with peers. It also says a lot about the tone of the work Dardishi showcases – work that spurs a wider dialogue on Arab and North African womxn’s issues. Our annual output includes our 3-day Festival, year-round programme of events, and a print and online zine that we edit and publish.

Dardishi’s 2020 programme spans, but is not limited to, performance, film, live music, workshops, and discussions. Arab and North African womxn engage with Dardishi as freelance staff, volunteers, audience members, readers of our print and online zine, writers who contribute to our zines, and artists and cultural practitioners whose work we showcase.

Following the success of Dardishi Festival 2019, our second edition of the Festival took place on February 21st – 23rd 2020 at CCA Glasgow. The second issue of our print zine will be launched in the coming months. Ahead of the pandemic, it was projected that Dardishi’s year-round programme of monthly events were to run from March 2020 – December 2020 at various Glasgow venues including Glasgow Women’s Library, the Art School, Glad Café, Milk Café, Category Is Books, Glasgow Zine Library and Transmission Gallery. At the moment, I am devising ways to run the events virtually.

*Our use of the term womxn includes non-binary and intersex people and trans women.

Project aims

  • Strengthen creative collaboration between Arab/North African womxn and champion the work of Arab and North African womxn as the only platform for Arab and North African womxn’s cultural production in Scotland

  • Provide positive and diverse representation of Arab/North African womxn in the arts

  • Create opportunities that support and develop Arab/North African womxn’s professional and creative practices

  • Fight isolation within our community and facilitate learning for those who have an interest in our work

  • Function as a hub for us to meet in the context of each other's work

  • Take our work to audiences outside of Glasgow’s city centre and help build and sustain community outwith the Festival period


  • Dardishi Festival was very well attended, drawing over 400 people to the Centre for Contemporary Arts over the weekend to experience and enjoy Arab and North African womxn’s art (despite the storm Ciara and Dennis!)

  • We had many people travel in from different cities to attend the Festival. This year, we had people travel from: France, Berlin, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Paisley, Fife and more!

  • Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. According to feedback forms submitted by audience members, 90% said they learned something new by attending the Festival, and 100% said they would attend more Dardishi events in the future.

  • We attracted a very diverse audience at Dardishi Festival 2020. According to our audience feedback forms:

    52% identify as women and 24% identify outside of the gender binary
    75% identify as LGBTQIA+
    56% identify as non-white, with 10% of our overall audience identifying as Arab or North African
    10% of our audience also identify as disabled
    29% are between 16-24 years old
    41% are between 25-34 years old


Supported by Film Hub Scotland:

Pride of Arabia Presents
Pride of Arabia (POA) is a space that centres Arab/MENA/SWANA queers and its diaspora, both online and offline. This video series features three performers who inspire POA’s community and were invited to perform at POA events. POA sat down with each of them to discuss their practice and how it relates to issues around identity, embodiment and what it means to be a womxn performer from the region. POA are interested in reimagining the possibilities of community outside rigid categorisations and producing knowledge that speaks of and for them.

Dardishi Shorts: Community
A shorts programme of films by Arab and North African womxn on the theme of ‘community’, followed by a letter writing session with Refuweegee. As part of their mission to provide a warm welcome to forcibly displaced people arriving in Glasgow, Refuweegee collects donations and handwritten letters to include in ‘welcome packs’ that they give to newcomers arriving in Glasgow through the asylum system.

Arab Blues
This mental health focused event included a screening of ‘Arab Blues’ (2019), followed by a panel of Arab and North African womxn, chaired by Bethany Lamont. Lamont is a Syrian/British writer and founder of Sad Girl Cinema, an ongoing documentary film project exploring mental health narratives in screen culture. Arab Blues is a feature film that follows the story of Selma, a psychiatrist who dreams of opening up her own psychotherapy practice in her home country of Tunis.

Supported by Creative Scotland:

A Larissa Sansour Retrospective and a documentary filmmaking workshop in partnership with DOCMA.

Key partnerships

CCA Glasgow, The Art School, Category Is Books, Glad Cafe, Glasgow Women's Library, Glasgow Zine Library, MILK, Transmission Gallery and funders Film Hub Scotland, Creative Scotland and Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Budget in brief

Overall budget £1450, made up of Film Hub Scotland funding, ticket sales, and contribution to Arab Blues film rights from Doll Hospital. Expenditure on close captions, film rights, panelist fees and Refuweegee workshop fees.

What worked

  • Dardishi Festival was very well attended, drawing over 400 people to the Centre for Contemporary Arts over the weekend to experience and enjoy Arab and North African womxn’s art (despite the terrible weather)

  • We held all the events we had planned to, and they were as diverse as we hoped them to be

  • The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, and the running the Festival itself went very smoothly

What has been difficult

  • Our biggest challenge at the Festival this year was the weather – our audience number were affected as Storm Dennis and Ciara created several blizzards over the weekend. Our staff and audience struggled to get to the venue as train cancellations were made across the central belt. Trains and buses were affected within Glasgow itself – and much of our audience is based south of the Clyde and our venue is north of the Clyde.

    Obviously, another huge challenge is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected our ability to run our year-round programme.

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • We are currently in talks with CCA Glasgow about moving our next Festival from February 2021 to June 2021, to avoid issues with the weather, and to give us a wider cushion of time in case the affects of the pandemic stretches that far ahead in time.

    Something we would like to do in the future, but will require much more funding, is the opportunity to provide a travel bursary for people who need it to attend the Festival. This will be helpful for those on a low income travelling outwith Glasgow (but still in Scotland) and for those who might need taxis as an access measure or for safety.


We always aim to deliver a festival that is accessible and inclusive to all potential attendees. We achieve this by applying strict access measures to all events. For example, there is always a British Sign Language interpreter available at all relevant events, the Festival’s programme (available online and in print) is produced in standard and large print. We also operate a sliding scale ticketing system for all events, allowing attendees to pay in accordance to their economic circumstances. Asylum seekers, refugees and the unemployed are encouraged NOT to pay admittance. Our venue, CCA Glasgow, is fully wheelchair accessible and has gender neutral bathrooms.

Social Cohesion

As mentioned above, the continued rise of right-wing politics in the UK and abroad, and the resulting normalisation of racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-refugee rhetoric in the mainstream British press, makes the existence of Dardishi is as urgent and pertinent as ever. Within this increasingly hostile political climate, we hope to create a refuge and a safe space for all who are oppressed and marginalised.


Dardishi’s programming will always be facilitated in the spirit of community wellbeing and under the trust safety of the Dardishi umbrella. We recognise how important it is for our community to feel welcome, safe and respected in the spaces they navigate, and we are fully invested in realising this.

What audiences said

  • Really great to see content you otherwise wouldn’t see in a cinema space. Great to be given access to different experiences of people. Educational!

  • Insight into different experiences + ways of experiencing queerness. Interesting discussion and reflection before and after films.

  • The quiet room was brilliant and needed as I've just been diagnosed with ME so to know there is a space that is quiet is comfortable was really important. The festival also felt like a safe space.

  • What an amazing festival Dardishi was. A chance to see art you wouldn't otherwise get to experience. Great attention to detail and access.

  • I am very appreciative of the sliding scale system - if it were not for it I would probably not have had the opportunity.

  • A very safe and inclusive place. Very interesting screening full of knowledge, The conversation after the films was really constructive and very safe and friendly.

What professionals, press and partners said

  • As a member of the public, I attended Dardishi 2019 and saw the direct impact it had in creating a safe and inspiring space for Arab womxn and womxn of color. Dardishi’s programming is crucial to the Glasgow arts scene, and wider UK arts scene, as it gives Arab and North African womxn a space to flourish, share, create, network, and communicate. There is also no limit to the healing powers of feeling represented and surrounded with like-minded individuals. – Lauren Davis, Director of Glasgow Zine Library

  • We really respect and appreciate the inclusive feminism that Dardishi leads with and feel they are a great example of what festival practice should be for Scotland. – Angela Ireland of Milk Café

  • We share the enthusiasm of Dardishi to make work of under-represented voices more visible, audible, accessible and ultimately a more prominent part in our national cultural life. – Charlotte and Fionn Duffy-Scott, Owners of Category Is Books

  • The selected programme from Dardishi Festival is not only exciting, but they are works that are urgently needed to be promoted in Scotland and internationally. – Transmission Gallery Committee

Press coverage

  • The Skinny, Dardishi was included in their weekly events roundup:

  • Bella Caledonia, “People amplifying queer voices, people of colour, and working class people in the arts are creating safe spaces through club nights, festivals, events, publications and websites. These include Samar Ziadat of Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) and Dardishi Festival; Sarra Wild of Oh141;, and Veronique Lapeyre of the Zanana Project, to name a few.”