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Rachel Gadsden returns home from Qatar / 3 April 2013

photo of a group of muslim men crouching down to paint a mural on the floor

Students from Shafallah Institute Painting. Photo by Tim Hayton

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Our three weeks in Doha, Qatar, were both productive and hugely enjoyable.  Being held at the ever popular and busy Katara Culture Village on the banks of the Gulf at the northern end of the Doha Corniche, over the three week period the comprehensive range of events, installations and performances, which made up the Qatar Arts and Disability Festival, attracted substantial daytime and evening audiences from all over the Gulf region - and indeed the world.

Rachel’s exhibition of paintings achieved record audiences – thanks in no small part to the active on-site publicity generated by an army of British Council staff (including the resourceful and tireless Bahaa Sanjad).  So impressed were some by Mark Brew’s innovative contemporary dance performance that they returned the following evening for the second showing.

Rachel’s outreach programmes too were significantly better attended than we at first envisaged might be likely.  A full and comprehensive range of educational institutions operates in Qatar (and Bahrain) to meet those having special educational needs, and those with visual and hearing impairment; and our experience of all of the institutions that we came into contact with was just how actively outward-looking and innovative they can be – only too happy to embrace and take advantage of the programme of art workshops which, as part of her British Council commission, Rachel came to the Gulf also to deliver.

At last the Festival has drawn to a close; and on Monday 1 April, in our absence, the exhibition was de-installed and shipped home. Likewise all of the other exhibitions and installations.

However, as we understand it, this is far from being the end. Quite the contrary, the closing of this Festival in fact marks just the very beginning of a planned extended period of cultural outreach, focusing upon issues associated with disability, to be spearheaded by the British Council in partnership with the Qatar Ministry of Culture and other Middle Eastern agencies, in the Gulf region.

Now Rachel is considering how it may be possible to collaborate with artists from the region: where opportunities may exist to develop more profound and extended art-related relationships.

So perhaps the work has also only just begun.