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Breaking The Code

2nd November 2020

by National Lottery Good Causes

Anouar Kassim MBE, Founding Director, Milton Keynes Islamic Arts, Heritage and Culture.

“Arts, culture and heritage are the three things that bring us together,” says Anouar Kassim MBE. The 52-year-old father of two received the Queen’s Jubilee Award in 2018 for founding the Milton Keynes Islamic Arts, Heritage and Culture (MKIAC) – an organisation established in 2002 to deliver art workshops, seminars and events that explore the themes of architecture, geometry, arabesque and garden design.

Promoting contemporary and traditional Islamic arts and culture through education, the group works with schools, communities and artists in developing programmes that engage people to tell stories that bring about social impact and change.

The group’s annual Art in the Park festival normally has an attendance of 20,000 – but with restrictions meaning it was unable to take place, the group staged one of their most ambitious projects yet joining up with Bletchley Park (former top-secret home of the World War Two Codebreakers) in March to host the Digital Light: Code Makers event.

Much of Islamic art is built around geometric and mathematical principles and the event brought together digital and calligraphy artists, local schools, as well as colleges and community groups to break codes using algebra and create digital artworks of their own, which were later projected onto the heritage site.

A large, diverse audience of more than 3,000 people attended the show over three nights, and the national and international recognition the event received may lead to it becoming a festival of its own in the future.

The organisation – one of the only BAME-led in Buckinghamshire – is just one of the many fantastic causes who benefit from the £30 million raised by National Lottery each week. Were it not for the funding, Anouar concedes that “we would not have achieved what we have on this journey.”

“We have developed an inclusive platform for emerging artists, and given hope to young people suffering with their mental health from different societies and backgrounds. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without that financial support, emotional support, mentoring and also the way they listen to us and our vision. It is not just one element of delivery – there are many dots we connect together.

“Getting this Arts in the Community award is like meeting the Queen again! I have no idea who put my name forward but I want to say bless you and thank you for giving this hope to us, our volunteers and ambassadors that we can make a difference. Together, collectively, we can continue to deliver great stories through great programmes. Inclusivity cannot be symbolic – it must be nurtured.”