East by North East is a Youth Music funded project led by GemArts, providing opportunities for young people from diverse communities to come together and make music.  The project has already enabled over 190 young people to develop and share their compositions and performance skills in a wide range of genres, while addressing issues relevant to their lives, developing life skills and achieving Arts Award.

In addition, GemArts has further diversified the workforce of music practitioners, and East by North East offers training and development to ensure that creativity and diversity is thriving in the North East!

To celebrate the project we’ve asked some of our music leaders to share their thoughts on East by North East, their own development, and the groups they worked with. Read on for our first blog post.

GemArts East by North East Blog by Adam Cogdon, Music Leader

East By North East is a Youth Music funded project that brings together young people, and a staff team, from diverse backgrounds, celebrating different cultures and musical genres.  The music sessions allow us to explore different tastes and develop skills in music and to build confidence together.

Led by GemArts, in partnership with Sage Gateshead and community partners across Newcastle, the project works with a hugely varied and strong team. From the beginning East By North Easy aimed to pair up more experienced music leaders with talented emerging practitioners, to develop and build a diverse resource of delivery staff, spanning creative and cultural diversity as well as musical genres.  From what we learned in the first phase of East by North East, we were able to also expand the project in 2016 to include female groups at many of the centres, this in turn meant we could offer more opportunities to female music leaders to run sessions.

The project partners include:

CHAT Trust (Girls & Boys sessions) – Fenham

North Benwell Youth Project (Girls & Boys sessions) – Benwell

Life Transformational Church (Mixed session) – Fenham

Pottery Bank Pupil Referral Centre (Mixed Session) – Walker

West Walker Family Centre (Mixed Session) – West Walker

Excelsior Academy (Mixed Session) – Scotswood

Success4All (Mixed Group) – Fenham

Recent highlights of the project:

The Mega Boyz group from North Benwell Youth Project were asked to perform at a Holocaust memorial day focusing on the forgotten Czech and Roma people who died.  The young people’s behaviour was excellent and they did a great performance of the Song ‘Mega Boyz Swag’ I was very proud of them.

There was also a great performance from ‘Gipsy Lipstick’ who attend the Girls session at CHAT Trust.  They were quite nervous as it was only their 2nd or 3rd time performing, but I thought they did extremely well! The Lads Band also performed playing their instruments and singing some traditional Czech music.  They were very well rehearsed and sounded very professional.  Both groups were also asked to perform at the same venue a few weeks later at a health awareness day.

CHAT boys band performance  CHAT Boys Band performing

We recently launched a new session as part of the project working with West Walker Family centre, they are referred young people who need a bit of extra support and they take them to various activities.  Young people are already taking part in Djing, Music production and Guitar.  GemArts was chosen to pilot a new Arts Award scheme, called ‘Discover Arts Award in a day’, which we are delivering with the new East by North East group to see if it is something we can use across the whole project.

We have been making great progress at Pottery Bank PRU where traditionally we struggled to get young people to engage and perform. One young lad who had never tried Grime style MCing before but was keen to try it, has been supported by East by North East music leaders to write his own lyrics about his area and the things that go on.  Some of the other group members helped to make the backing music and the Song sounds awesome!  It has really inspired a lot of the group to see what is possible when you try, so I am really pleased with this piece of work.

We also started a new session at Life Transformational Church in the West End, which began in Jan 2017. The participants are mixed gender and range from 2 year olds to teenagers.  The participants are spilt into younger and older groups, each focus on developing Band skills and learning how to play different instruments.

LT Church 1  Life Transformational Church

The Project works with many young people from different backgrounds including, Slovak, Roma, Czech and African.  As well as developing and encouraging musical development the project has also had a positive effect on the participants’ English skills both spoken and written

During the last few months the sessions in the project are now gearing up for the Final Celebration event at Sage Gateshead (12th and 13th April 2017). This is a two day event that celebrates everything achieved throughout the project and brings all the young people from different areas of the city together to make new friends and share their achievements.  Day one will be a day of fun arts based workshops in a different vain from their regular sessions, including Graffiti Arts, Boom Dang group drumming, rehearsal time and other music sessions.  Day two will be an evening performance in the fantastic Sage 2 Hall.  We hosted a similar event in 2015 at the end of the first phase of the project, and it was amazing! The event was well attended by families, friends, partner organisations and local councillors, who all witnessed an exceptional evening of musical talent, fun and very positive young people performing their material.

I know the whole team are looking forward to creating an even better event than last time and giving these young people the platform that they deserve.

Adam Cogdon, EBNE Music Leader

Watch our East by North East 2017 film here

GemArts East by North East 2017 from GemArts on Vimeo.

If you are interested in the project please contact GemArts on 0191 440 4124 or email



Our Friends at Northern Roots are hosting a dance workshops with Deepak Kurki Shivaswamy on Tuesday 19th Sept.

WHEN: Tuesday 19th September, 7pm-9pm
WHERE: Newcastle University Sports Centre, Multipurpose Room A (Floor 3, access via lift available)
This workshop is free and open for all to attend and does not require any previous experience of dance or performance.

Deepak Kurki Shivaswamy is a contemporary performing artist and has been engaged in artistic work as a performer, creator and teacher since year 2000. He has trained and worked with dance companies in India and Europe, and completed a post-graduate diploma in choreography at S.E.A.D in Austria in 2008. His dance creations have been showcased in venues in India and Europe. Presently based in New Delhi India, Deepak is a co-founder of an art collective, The Kha Foundation.

On Sunday 29th October a great drama will engulf NewcastleGateshead, inspired by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and epic civil rights struggles from across the globe, both past and present.
Contact to find out more or to book your place.

Download the flyer fc17_workshop_190917_flyer for more details on Deepak and his work with Freedom City 2017.

Freedom City 2017 is a partnership between Newcastle University, NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Northern Roots.


Autumn Winter 2017 season


Debasmita Bhattachraya Credit Pallab Mondal 8419 Main

GemArts events offer audiences something different, celebrating art and culture from around the world, bringing world famous acts to the north east, offering events and projects accessible to all.

This season is packed with a diverse range of musicians and musical influences (from Ska and Jazz, to Indian Classical and world fusion, featuring sitar, sarod, tabla and more). Family fun days and Kathakali performances offer something for everyone, and a Khyal exhibition, Diwali celebrations celebrate art, culture and community.


GemArts is committed to introducing a diverse and rich cultural offer to as many people as possible, as always keep checking for updates and please visit the Support Us page if you are in a position to make a gift.

Find out more about the season here and download our brand new brochure GemArts-aw2017 .


Love, Loss and Happiness

by Bobby Tiwana, curator of Changes: Stories on the edge.


Still from Heer

I was chuffed to be invited back by Vic and the team at GemArts to put together another film programme for the second summer Masala Festival. Working together on ALIVE! last year was rewarding and much fun, and helping launch GemArts brand new summer festival with South Asian LGBT shorts from across the globe was very exciting.

This year’s theme, which had been brewing for some time, is CHANGESstories about personal and political conflict.  Much has happened in the world especially for us personally in the UK: the EU Referendum, and now Brexit. And more globally, the election of President Trump; the era of post-truth and social media vacuity; and the ongoing dead-end conflicts in various parts of the world with no real progress or resolution. This year also marks 70 years’ since Partition, Indian Independence and the creation of Pakistan, so it feels timely to reflect on the state of South Asia and its legacy. How does the exterior world today affect us in our domesticity: daily rituals, schools, homes, love and minds?

I set myself the task of identifying South Asian content where characters are on the cusp of change due to yesterday or today; and consequently tomorrow will never be the same. The programme includes 6 highly commended and award-winning shorts from Canada, India, Sri Lanka and the UK, with narratives situated in all of these countries and Pakistan.


Still from Mouth of Hell

Childhood is a major theme in three films. HEER (by Honey B Singh) is set in gentle rural Punjab (India). The character Heer finds solace in her kid goat Moti during a difficult time in her life. In MOUTH OF HELL Anant’s instinct for survival leads him to the kind-spirited Sushila with life-changing consequences, set in the Indian interior of Jharkhand (by Samir Mehanovic). Farooq and his Ammi (mum) display a tremendous affection for each other as he tussles with her over his young emotions in THE SCHOOL BAG (by Dheeraj Jindal), set in Peshawar (Pakistan).

Watch the trailer for Mouth of Hell here.


Noma Dumezweni in Out of Darkness

OUT OF DARKNESS is a story told by nine actors. British South Asian writer and director Manjinder Virk has created an arresting work in monochrome where each actor brings their humanity to the fore. We learn about a significant event in the character’s past which has led them to do what they do today. Performed by a sterling cast of British talent.

Watch a trailer for OUT OF DARKNESS here.


Jayampathi Guruge in Returned

RETURNED is part of a new wave of filmmaking (by Vathees Varunan) attempting to make sense of post-war Sri Lanka after 26 years’ of conflict. The male protagonist played by actor Jayampathi Guruge rises out of the sand like a creature hibernating, waiting for the turmoil to pass. He enters a beautiful, bare world of gentle madness culminating to music by Kapila Poogalaarchchi.


Jitin Gulati and Dhruv Singhal in Sisak

SISAK is a love letter to my former younger self. A chance encounter between two men on an evening train in Mumbai (India) leads to a daily intimate episode to play. They appear to be from different worlds of class and mobility yet are drawn to each other by one of nature’s most potent emotions. Set to an original score by Dhawal Tandon this is a beautifully tender and vital piece of storytelling, by Faraz Arif Ansari in a country which still criminalises sex between men.

Listen to the beautiful score by Dhawal Tandon here.

The films will be followed by a post-screen discussion with industry professionals facilitated by myself, Bobby Tiwana.

Changes: stories on the edge, FRI 21 JUL, 7pm, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, South Shore Road, Gateshead NE8 3BA

Tickets £5 Buy here

Ticket includes welcome drink

Age 14+

Running time 2 hours

GemArts NPO 2018-2022 success!

Following this mornings announcement we are delighted to announce that GemArts is part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio from 2018-2022.

GemArts Director, Vikas Kumar MBE said;

“GemArts is thrilled with today’s NPO news. This funding is hugely important to our plans for the next 4 years, and we are thankful that Arts Council England has continued to support our work during the 2018-2022 funding period.

The past 3 years have been a very exciting time for GemArts with regional and national awards recognising the positive difference our work makes, and the introduction of our Masala Festival (back 17th-23rd July) placing South Asian arts firmly on the North East arts scene. The coming 4 years will see the organisation continue to deliver an ambitious programme, supporting and championing the creative case for diversity at every level, offering something truly unique for artists, participants and audiences across the region.

This NPO funding alongside project grants, individual donors and corporate support, will enable GemArts to deliver an artistic programme with creativity, diversity and equality of opportunity at its heart”

GemArts Director awarded MBE for services to Arts and Culture

GemArts Director Vikas Kumar awarded an MBE for services to the Arts and Culture.

Vikas Kumar, Director of GemArts, Gateshead has been awarded an MBE in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to Arts and Culture.

Vikas Kumar of Gem Arts, who has organised the July Masal Festival

Vikas is Founder and Director of GemArts, and since 2001 he has been leading this visionary organisation. Vikas’ passion for creativity, diversity and equality of opportunity has built GemArts into an internationally recognised arts organistion, which continues to grow from strength to strength.

Vikas’ expertise in the South Asian and Diversity Arts sector, from a national and international perspective, has enabled him to develop an excellent network of artists and creative producers worldwide.  Working in collaboration with the voluntary, public and private sector, Vikas has made a significant contribution in increasing arts engagement amongst under represented communities particularly those from a Black and Minority Ethnic and wider backgrounds across the North East.

Through GemArts ambitious and inspiring artistic programme across all strands of work, including concerts, festivals, commissions and workshops, collaborating with flagship venues, community spaces and regional, national and international partners, Vikas has been instrumental in supporting artists at every stage of their career, ensuring that talent and artistic excellence is diverse, thriving and celebrated.

Speaking about his MBE for ‘services to the Arts and Culture’ Vikas said: “I’m honoured and delighted to have received the MBE for services to Arts and Culture. I’m absolutely passionate about the positive difference that arts and culture makes to our communities, and in bringing people together to celebrate creativity and diversity.  This achievement would not be possible without the work and commitment of GemArts and my dedicated team, our amazing trustees, volunteers, artists, communities, audiences and partners, and I’m truly humbled. Finally I want to thank my mum and dad, family and friends for their guidance and support”.

Brief profile (further information available)

Current Position – Founder and Director of GemArts 2001- Present

  • Founder and Director of GemArts, presenting and profiling ethnically diverse arts and culture in the North East, by developing high quality multi-artform concerts, festivals, workshops and commissions with both UK and international artists. In 2016 GemArts launched the first Masala Festival, which brought together Vikas’ vision for the north easts very own South Asian arts festival, and went on to win the Arts Council award at the Journal Culture Awards.
  • Many years involvement, predating GemArts, with local charity Gateshead Visible Ethnic Minorities Support Group (GVEMSG), set up in 1989 to provide support to minority ethnic, refugee and asylum seeker individuals and families in Gateshead. GVEMSG began using participatory arts and cultural events to support integration and promote community cohesion in the local area.
  • In 2001 a pilot project between GVEMSG and Sage Gateshead was launched, funded by Arts Council England’s audience development programme, which focussed its effort on culturally diverse art and artists. The project continued to grow and Vikas launched GemArts, which became a permanent feature in the North East, and is now a sector leader in culturally diverse arts and an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.
  • Vikas has always been a keen business man with an entrepreneurial mind-set. His business acumen and skills with numbers led him to study Accountancy, and he has undertaken many successful ventures. Following in his family’s footsteps he went on to set up and manage his own companies including a Post Office which he ran for over 5 years, and he is also a property portfolio holder.


Voluntary posts that Vikas has held include:

–              Chair of Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts’ Equality and Diversity Committee- 2013-Present

–              Trustee of Baltic Flour Mills Visual Arts Trust- 2007-2013

–              Founding member of Arts Council England Creative Case North Forum – 2015-Present

–              Vice Chair/Trustee of Bensham Grove Community Centre- 2016 – Present

–              Member of Gateshead Children Safeguarding Board Gateshead Council – 2016-Present

–              Member of Gateshead Council’s Diversity Forum- 2015- Present

–              Member of Gateshead Strategic Partnership-2015- Present

–              Member of Hate Crime Tension Monitoring Group (Gateshead) – 2012- Present

–              Trustee of Gateshead Voluntary Organisations Council – 2012-Present

–              Member of South Asian Dance Alliance – 2014-Present

–              Trustee of Sound Sense Board- 2009- 2014

–              Trustee of Tyne Theatre and Opera House Preservation Trust Board- 2011- 2014


Vikas was also awarded Gateshead Volunteers Award in 2009, and the Asian Business Connexions Art and Culture award in 2016.

Vikas dedicates much of his professional and personal time to, and genuinely enjoys attending, as many community and cultural events as possible, and is a true champion for Gateshead and the North East, promoting the region wherever he gets the opportunity. A Gateshead ‘Bensham lad’, Vikas is a keen NUFC supporter, and an active member of the local Hindu temple, having helped develop a popular children’s programme there. Vikas enjoys spending time with all his family, especially his wife Angela and young daughter Anya.

Layout 1

In 2016 Vikas’s team launched the first Masala Festival which went on to win the Arts Council Award at the Journal Culture Awards 2017.  Speaking of the festival Vikas Kumar said “It’s fantastic for Masala Festival to be named winner of the Arts Council Award at the Culture Awards. This award helps GemArts celebrate the creative talents of artists from the region, across the UK, South Asia and beyond, and recognises the incredible support we receive from our participants, audiences, trustees, volunteers, sponsors, partners and local communities, to whom we are hugely grateful! It was a joy to collaborate, connect and celebrate with thousands of people from across the region at our first Masala Festival, and we can’t wait to do it all again. We will continue to champion creativity and diversity at every level, supporting young and emerging artists, and offer people from all backgrounds and ages, community groups and schools, engaging opportunities to take part in our culturally rich and diverse arts offer.”

Last year Masala Festival offered a truly eclectic programme, spanning traditional and contemporary South Asian arts, and this year’s festival (17th-23rd July) promises to be even more ambitious building on successes, collaborating with venue partners, places and spaces, commissioning new work and presenting internationally significant South Asian artists and art forms from the UK and abroad.  GemArts Masala Festival 2017 will continue to bring a mix and blend of the very finest South Asian Arts and Culture to the North East this summer, with 2017 marking the 70th anniversary of India and Pakistan’s Independence, some work focuses specifically on this important milestone in India and the UKs history.

For more information on Masala Festival visit

All media and image requests contact



Layout 1

GemArts award winning Masala Festival returns with a mix and blend of the finest South Asian Arts and Culture, 17th – 23rd July 2017.

 Building on the success of last year’s Masala Festival, GemArts bring you an even bigger and more ambitious line up of music, theatre, film, visual arts, storytelling, dance, workshops, food, and lots more, with artists from across the UK, South Asia and beyond! We have put together an incredible programme, and I do hope you can join us.

The North Easts very own South Asian Arts Festival offers audiences and partners the opportunity to reflect on the past, celebrate the present and get excited about the future, in this special year which marks the 70th Anniversary of India and Pakistan’s Independence.

We look forward to welcoming you to the second Masala Festival and sharing this amazing programme of events with you.

Click on the events to learn more about MASALA FESTIVLA 2017 events:

Monday 17th SACRED SOUNDS: Sikh music traditions and the First World War (Sage Gateshead)

Tuesday 18th MASALA FESTIVAL at Q Festival: Indian storytelling, Dance classes, Foodie talks & more (Gateshead Quayside)

Tuesday 18th CHAI, CHAAT & CHUTNEY: cooking demo with ex GBBO contestant Chetna Makan (Food Nation, Newcastle)

Tuesday 18th GANDHARVA CHOIR: the first ever visit to the North East from India’s top choir (Sage Gateshead)

 Tuesday 18th DALJIT NAGRA Heritage and Identity: Poetry reading & discussion (Culture Lab, Newcastle)

 Wednesday 19th & 20th NO DOGS, NO INDIANS: a powerful new play by Siddhartha Bose (Live Theatre, Newcastle)

Thursday 20th SARATHY KORWAR QUINTET: Indian folk & Jazz (The Black Swan, Newcastle)

 Friday 21st CHANGES: stories on the edge, film programme (BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art)

Saturday 22nd MASALA FESTIVAL at Trinity Square: Family workshops (Trinity Square, Gateshead Central)

 Saturday 22nd MOVIES AT MASALA: screenings of The Jungle Book (2016) and Gandhi (1982) (Jam Jar Cinema, Whitley Bay)

 Sunday 23rd MASALA MINI MELA: Free family fun day with workshops, performances & lots more (Live Theatre, Newcastle)

 Further information to follow, any questions do get in touch with .

Download our beautiful new brochure GemArts Masala Festival 17 FINAL.

PhD Studentship opportunities

National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) PhD studentships

To begin in October 2017

Deadline for studentship applications: 19 June 2017 applications to supervisors

Award offers will be issued after 11 July 2017

Any queries should be directed to

Find out more here

The Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership and Northumbria-Sunderland Centre for Doctoral Training invite applications for NPIF studentships funded via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Each studentship is a collaboration between a partner organisation and University, allowing students to work with industrial and commercial partners, and leading academic researchers. Through the scheme students have access to a number of training opportunities including placements and internships.

Building Capacity in the (Multi)Cultural Arts Sector

New research into the cultural economy shows that while there is considerable public interest in access to creative jobs, there is a concern that these jobs are limited to organisation with privileged backgrounds (Oakley & O’Brien 2016; Taylor & O’Brien, 2016). Yet research that investigates the practices of arts and culture organisations that represent multicultural ethnic communities and employ minority performers and artists is virtually non-existent in the UK. This studentship will study capacity-building and resilience-enhancement in multicultural-led small creative and cultural enterprises, with emphasis on how networking processes and digital awareness impact productivity and opportunities in the sector. Particular attention will be paid to the ways that enhancements to ethnic creative industry production might not only expand and improve the cultural economy, but also act as intellectual and social ‘borderwork’, ‘contact zones’ and/or ‘engines of connectivity’ (Cooper & Rumford, 2011).

How To Apply

If you are considering applying for one of these studentships, you must first consult the Guidance Notes.

Prospective ‘Supervisor-led route’ applicants must also consult the list of 31 Research Fields and e-mail the relevant supervisor as soon as possible.

Prospective ‘Applicant-led route’ applicants must e-mail the relevant lead academic contact with an expression of interest by Wednesday 7 June at 5pm.

Before they begin to complete the Application Form, potential applicants must have made contact with a member of academic staff at one of the five universities.

For full information visit


Our good friend Harambee Pasadia Festival returns this Bank Holiday weekend with an extraordinary festival of music, dance, workshops, well-being and loads more. Dont miss your chance to be a part of it!



Harambee Pasadia: Afro Fusion Music, Dance, & Camping Festival

May 26-29 Gates open 5pm

Venue: The Hub, Shaw Bank, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8TD

Harambee (Swahili) ‘let’s get together’
Pasadia (Spanish) ‘to spend the day’

Harambee Pasadia is the first Afro Fusion Music and Dance festival in the North East of England and aims to celebrate the diverse music, cultures and fusions of the African and Latin Diaspora; to get folks out of the city and into the country; to create a space where musicians, visual artists, dancers, and theatre makers who specialize or have an interest in African, Caribbean, and Latin cultures can network and collaborate; to expose audiences to new music, art and culture; to increase artists outreach and fan base; to create an affordable space that attracts  audiences from marginalised communities; and to create a community and network of artists, thinkers, activists, community leaders, and volunteers that support and inspire one another.

Our friends are offering GemArts blog readers a 20% discount on weekend and day tickets ( use the following passwords to access this discount.

Adult Weekend Password: HP17AdltWk20%

Adult Friday Password: HP17AdltFri20%

Adult Saturday Password: HP17AdltSat20%

Adult Sunday Password: HP17AdltSun20%

Under 18 Weekend Password: HP17Und18WK20%


An opportunity from our friends at Opera North


Where: Lyric Hammersmith, London
When: Monday 3 July – Friday 7 July
Who: Writers, Composers, Directors, Theatre-Makers
Cost: Free
Expenses: Travel & Accommodation for participants from outside

Opera is a place where music, theatre and dance meet. The perfect platform for telling diverse stories in diverse ways. We are looking for music-makers, theatre-makers and writers from a BAME background who are interested in exploring new possibilities in this most vibrant and flexible genre.

This is an opportunity to;
 explore how your practice could relate to opera’s history and its potential
 work with singers and musicians to explore the possibilities of the voice
 meet potential collaborators and share experience
 develop your ideas and receive feedback on them
We want to bring together both established and emerging artists to sow seeds for future collaborations.
Join us at the Lyric Hammersmith for a week-long exploration of how you could make the opera that you would want to see.

How to apply:
You can either complete the on-line application form via the following link:
Or send a scanned copy of the attached short expression of interest form (along with a short CV) to by Friday 26th May. Lyric Workshop Week

If you’d like to know more please contact Rachel Lerman at 020 3772 6443 or