The Islamic Arts and Heritage Festival is being organised on the London Borough of Waltham Forest - The First Borough of Culture, celebrating the artistic and heritage contribution on the borough. We aim to have a weekend where we will have spoken word, human books, guided sightseeing heritage bus tour, art workshops and films. Waltham Forest is a diverse borough with 22% being Muslims compared to 5% nationally. Unknown to many people the northern part of the borough in Chingford in 1894 was the site of London’s first known public Eid prayers which will be marked with a plaque this year.
Our aim is to build upon the first event each year to the big 5 0. What is the big 5 0 one may be wondering? 2026 would be the 50th anniversary of the amazing international World of Islam Festival that took place in 1976 with the opening ceremony being opened by the present Queen Elizabeth II. The event featured museums and galleries taking part by exhibitions, lectures and films
Britain has a rich celebration of Islamic exhibitions, here are a few of them which may surprise you.
- 1745 Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens - Turkish Tent erected decorated with rococo art, this was the first time in UK Rocco art has been introduced in UK
- 1849 Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens – An Algerian family were showcased with what was said to be the first Muslim woman in public in UK
- 1850 Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens – A Grand View of Constantinople
- 1851 The Great Exhibition – Halls from different Muslim countries were present with gems of their country on display. Persia, Turkey, India halls existed.
- 1853 The Oriental and Turkish Museum opened at Hyde Park Corner, which featured wax works of people in different settings. The museum opened before the present Madam Tussauds attraction did.
- 1860s Dr Leitner (who established UK’s first purpose built Mosque in Woking) sought to sell his large collection of Oriental antiquates to the Britain Museum for the sum of £5,000. The Museum trustees declined the offer.
- 1865s Dr Leitner whilst teaching at King’s College wished to hold an exhibition displaying his “Oriental” collection. Trustees discuss the possibility of this being in a cupboard in the hallway outside the library with Dr Leitner insuring the items himself. After extensive research, it is still not known if it went ahead.
- 1890s Dr Leitner having established the Mosque has an enjoining Oriental Museum where his large collection is displayed. It is not totally clear how long the museum lasted but after Dr Leitner died some of the antiquates went to Surrey Heritage Centre.
- 1895 Empire of Indian Exhibition at Earls Court built in a Mughal Indian style. A 300 feet high Ferris wheel with 40 carriages was a highlight of the exhibition.
- 1904 Bradford Exhibition contains a Somalia Village. One of the Somalian females who took part in the display dies and is buried in Bradford with Quran verses on her headstone.
- 1908 Whitechapel Gallery, East London holds the Muhammadun Art and Life exhibition. The opening day to the public incredibly fell on 27th Ramadan. 2018, attempts were made with the gallery for a revisit evening event of this amazing event however the gallery did not even wish to have a meeting and themselves decided not to entertain conversations via email until after a month after the initial enquiry and then decide to break of communication when asked specific questions around diversity.
- 1961 Islamic art in India of the 16th and 17th centuries exhibition on display at British Museum
- 1970 Arab costumes of Palestine exhibition done at the British Museum.
- 1976 The World of Islam Festival – international event, 600 lectures, Queen Elizabeth II opening ceremony, BBC produced 6 30 minute documentaries. The documentaries may be viewed by clicking of the links:
1976 World of Islam Festival Film Series: The Traditional World of Islam (1) Unity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAX4F7fesME
1976 World of Islam Festival Film Series: The Traditional World of Islam (2) Nomad & City https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acW-R80TqHU
1976 World of Islam Festival Film Series: The Traditional World of Islam (3)Man and Nature https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcKSSV3sd5E
1976 World of Islam Festival Film Series: The Traditional World of Islam (4) The Pattern of Beauty https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9XNgLQOHxs
1976 World of Islam Festival Film Series: The Traditional World of Islam (5) Knowledge of the world https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lkEDl79m9E
1976 World of Islam Festival Film Series: The Traditional World of Islam (6) The Inner Life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7apsy7f3Q
- 1976 The Message film has its world premiere in Apollo cinema in Haymarket.
- 1978 Myth and ceremony in Islamic painting exhibition displayed in the British Museum.
- 1983 Group set-up to establish an Islamic Museum in London and Cultural Centre
- 1984 Arts of Islam in the 16th and 17th century exhibited at British Museum
- 1988 Suleyman the Magnificent and the splendour of the Ottoman court exhibition at British Muslim. Some of the exhibits on display had for the first time travelled outside of Istanbul.
- 2006 East-West: Objects between cultures exhibition held at Tate Britain, featuring Christian and Muslim encounters and exchanges over 500 years
- 2009 Milton Keynes Islamic Art, heritage and Cultural is launched after 9/11 connecting communities and celebrating art. Since then it has become an annual event with their main event of the year “Art in the Park”.
- 2010 1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim heritage in our world at the Science Museum saw the launch of the global tour
- 2012 Hajj journey to the heart of Islam exhibition at The British Museum
- 2015 The Birmingham Quran Manuscript is exhibited at Birmingham University. The Quran is believed to have been written by someone who may have met the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)
- 2016 The Quran Manuscript is exhibited at the Faith gallery, Birmingham
- 2018 An Eid celebration at Tate Britain included an Islamic tour of its artwork. The tour breaks the record for the greatest number of attendees on a tour. 4 new additions are made to Tate Britain archives and labels to paintings are subsequently changed.
- 2019 Muslim Human Books launched