El-Fan Midan presses on with festival - despite police shutdown

Ahram Online, Sunday 7 Sep 2014

Organisers of public art festival say they'll be in Abdeen Square this Saturday - despite the event being cancelled last week and in August by police

El-Fan Midan
El-Fan Midan workshop for children (Photo: Bassam El-Zoghby)

The monthly street art festival El-Fan Midan (Art is a Square) was cancelled on Saturday when security forces responsible for Abdeen Square – site of the festival since 2011 – refused to grant the festival organisers the necessary permits to host the event.

Safaa Fekry, one of the festival's organisers, said police cited security concerns that street vendors – recently banned from downtown – or the hardcore football fans the Ultras White Knights – also at the centre of recent downtown protests – would cause chaos at the event, she said.

No guarantees were given that a permit would be issued for the following week, even if the organisers agreed to postpone it, Fekry said.

Despite the troubles, the organisers said at a press conference at Odeon Cinema on Sunday that they'll go ahead with the event for this Saturday, 13 September, in the same location.

The organisers also said they're asking Culture Minister Gaber Asfour to intervene and support the event.

In June, Asfour pledged to support the festival by facilitating permits from the interior ministry and by providing a monthly grant of LE30,000.

He also intervened after the event was cancelled on 2 August when security forces disregarded a permit issued by Cairo governorate and barred participants and organisers access to the square.

The minister's efforts led to the interior ministry agreeing to allow the festival to run normally the following week.

El-Fan Midan was launched in the spring of 2011, shortly after the 25 January uprising, and has since been run by a group of artists and cultural figures looking to bring culture to all Egyptians.

The festival has showcased various artists, shows and performances marked with a subversive flair.

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