Khyal Music and Imagination exhibition

Visit our stunning new Khyal Music and Imagination exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery, on display until the 16th November 2016. Part of an exciting project we collaborated with Durham University on, you can also try an innovative new iPad app which was developed as part of the project. Find out more here.


Choreography commission applications open

Akademi Choreography Commissions


Closing date: 18 November 2016, 12:00pm

We’re delighted to bring news of a choreographic development opportunity that will support four South Asian dance projects created by professional artists, from our partners Akademi. The applications will be divided as follows:

  • Two projects will be awarded with £5,000 to present a group choreography.
  • Two projects will be awarded with £2,000 to present a solo.

The choreography commissions are open to artists with a professional background in any Indian dance style.  Akademi will accept applications from the entire Indian dance canon; including all varieties of Indian dance from classical to contemporary, and everything in between.  These commissions will not support commercial work created specifically for an entertainment context.  The choreographer must be able to clearly articulate the project and the creative process that will be taken with this commission.

For more information on the commission visit

‘The Art of Giving’ exhibition and fundraiser

AOG 2016 Signature painting.jpg

GemArts is delighted to be working with North East based artist Dhananjay Kelkar to promote his art exhibition ‘The Art of Giving’ which goes on display in Darlington this November in aid of St Teresa’s Hospice, Darlington and two charities in India.

Darlington resident and artist Dhananjay Kelkar (Danny), a naval architect by profession, inherited his love and talent for painting from his late father, the renowned artist Madhusudan Kelkar. While studying at IIT Kharagpur for his degree in Naval architecture, Dhananjay pursued his passion in art slowly and steadily, moving around the world with a curious eye for local characteristics of nature and human life.

After leaving India 35 years ago, Dhananjay and his wife Mohini lived in the Middle East, Singapore, London and now Darlington. The two have created ‘The Art of Giving’ to combine their love for Art and commitment to humanitarian work .  30 paintings in water colour and oil by Dhananjay feature in the exhibition at Crown Street Art Gallery, Darlington. The delicate water colour paintings present vivid variety in nature ranging from ‘The river Ganges’ to a ‘sunny morning in Preston Park’.  The use of pallet knife techniques in oil painting give distinct effect to his work, including ‘Wet Sydney Harbour’,  ‘The Dancing Shiva’ in Ajantha caves. Over the years Dhananjay has developed his own unique recognisable style, and has exhibited his work in India, Singapore and the UK.

The paintings will be available for sale and proceeds will go to local charity St Teresa’s Hospice, as well as Indian charities Quest and Lok Biradari Prakalpa which provide free healthcare and education in rural areas.

Dhananjay, who works as a senior project manager for Darlington-based Deep Ocean Ltd., said: “I have spent a long time in the corporate world in different countries. However, an insight into the world of voluntary work across the world is simply a humbling experience. ‘Art of Giving’ is a gesture of appreciation of the selfless dedication of many.”

The exhibition has been organised by Dhananjay, his wife Mohini and their friends, with the support of Creative Darlington and GemArts, and will be launched on Saturday 5 November at an invitation-only unveiling at Crown Street Art Gallery.

The paintings will then be on display at Crown Street Art Gallery from Saturday 5th November until Saturday 19 November. All of Dhananjay’s paintings will also be available for viewing and purchase online at from 1 October.

Presented with Creative Darlington and GemArts.

Image: Touch of Waves,  Dhananjay Kelkar

My week with GemArts Masala Festival

GemArts recently hosted a student placement, Liam Scarth, who helped during the planning, delivery and evaluation of GemArts Masala Festival in July 2016. Liam, a 2nd year BA Acting Community Theatre student at East 15 Drama School in Southend, identified GemArts as an organisation he would like to work with as part of a placement module within his degree course. Listing his main passions as teaching, working with younger people and bringing communities together, Liam was the perfect fit for a placement with GemArts, and he contributed a great deal to the team during an exciting and busy 3 weeks with us. Before completing his placement Liam wrote this great review of GemArts Masala Festival which we’re delighted to share with you.

Masala Logo (Pink) Resized 600 px

For one week Gateshead and Newcastle became a melting pot of cultural activity, as GemArts served up a delectable dish which they had been cooking up for some time. The festival recipe started with a good dollop of inspiring short film, next they poured in a hearty helping of musical artistry, a dash of perfectly palatable poetry, a sprinkle of elating exhibitions, a good handful of performance art, seasoned with wonderful workshops and topped off with a sensational finale. The temperature was set to that of an Indian summer, and then GemArts served up the mouth-watering Masala Festival to a culture-hungry public.

Masala Festival launched on the 11th July with ALIVE! a ground-breaking evening of short films curated by independent producer Bobby Tiwana. ALIVE! celebrated being South Asian and lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The beautifully selected, and composed films touched on universal themes such as that awkward first kiss, or the loss of childhood innocence, along with more individual experiences such as dealing with certain stigmas, and stories of hope. It had such a profound effect on people it raised heated debates in the Q and A. What is my identity? How do we find a place of belonging? Rousing speeches from the panel provided new ideas and thoughts for the audience to take home.

GemArts Masala Festival ALIVE post show ID BT photo Anna Miller Little Elephant GemArts Masala Festival launch photo Anna Miller

The festival barrelled on with two mind blowing musical performances; Manjula, a Leeds-based band mixing sounds from across the globe, and Shri Sriram with new project Just a Vibration, where Indian Ragas met British Brass Band. On subsequent nights these two groups had the power to transport you to new continents. One moment I was in a Newcastle or Gateshead venue, the next I was bathing in the heat of the sun, in a South Indian garden. Audiences sat humbled, soaking in the rich melodies.

Masala Festival also introduced us to the varied work of three prolific poets. Identity, politics and mythology; were our themes for the evening. Moniza Alvi, Amali Rodrigo and Arundhathi Subramaniam, although under the same publisher; BloodAxe Books, all had their own take on the themes. The audience came together to listen to poets describing vast journeys, spiritual awakenings, and cultural norms. With every word I understood a little more of countries over the water, and with every hour during the festival I grew fonder of our varied world.

There were also plenty of chances to get your hands into the mixing bowl and take part in Masala Festival yourself. Poet Arundhathi gave an enlightening workshop at Culture Lab before her reading. Artist Emma Sheridan worked with primary schools in the local area, introducing them to beautiful Indian visual arts. Emma inspired children in one school to create bright, colourful silk paintings based on the tale of The Magic Fish. These then filled the sky, on flags and banners, for the Mini Mela finale. Yoga sessions were available to those who wanted to embody the true spirit of South Asia, and DOGA (Yoga for you and wor pooch!) added a quirky extra. For the more energetic few, Bollywood Dance offered people the opportunity to get their booty on the dance floor, or Trinity Square floor!

GemArts Masala Festival silk painting in school photo Anna Miller GemArts Masala Festival Monks of Majuli and students photo Anna Miller

For a real taste of South Asia, Ury Restaurant’s cooking demonstrations shared Keralan cuisine secrets. For those who prefer to skip the cooking but enjoy the eating, Ury Restaurant also provided delicious food at the Mini Mela finale on the Sunday. No one missed out at this festival, all were catered for!

GemArts had yet more treats up their sleeve, as Turbanism a photography exhibition opened in Gateshead Central Library. Photographer Rehmat Rayatt travelled to Rajasthan to document the world of the Turban, and the unfortunate demise of the turban culture. The exhibition didn’t create a feeling of demise, as vibrant colours sprang from the frames, filling the gallery with majestic shades of orange, red, purple and yellow. Alongside the photographs, a selection of turbans sat patiently on display. Upstairs continued on a more personal storyline with images documenting her grandfathers’ love for photography and their family’s migration.

On Saturday Sage Gateshead became the host to India’s sacred arts as The Monks of Majuli, gave audience members a once in a life time opportunity. This was the Monks first visit to Britain, and Gateshead was their final stop on a month long tour. In the pre-show discussion, we were enlightened to Georgie Pope’s PhD work and the pilgrimage of the Monks to see their sacred Assamese tapestry in the British Museum. Drumming, dancing, singing, acting, costume were all elements of the performance offering. All audience members were truly awe stricken by the event. After giving a standing ovation, and wiping some joyful tears from their eyes, audience members left in bright chatter and all in agreement they had witnessed something truly special.

GemArts managed to top off this jam packed week very successfully. The Mini Mela brought the new Live Garden to life on the final Sunday of the festival. With the Newcastle Quayside Market bustling not far away it felt like the perfect day for Sunday celebrations with people from all backgrounds gathered in the sunshine. GemArts filled the garden with free arts activity for all ages, punters could choose from: face painting, henna art, Rangoli art, kite making, elephant model making, sculpture painting or to browse the wares of local jewellery makers. Indoor workshops offered a chance to find your rhythm with Dhol drumming, Bollywood Dance and mini movers classes. At 11am and 2:30pm the square exploded into bright colours and sound as the Dhol drum dropped a beat for local dancers to throw some Bollywood shapes. They were followed by a procession of banners, flags and sculptures held by the eager, paint covered hands of local bairns, all on their way to watch the performance of The Magic Fish. ATMA Dance Company adapted the story of Vishnu, where he comes to save the Earth from the demon No-Knowledge. With a powerful, invigorating and uplifting message, young and old alike went away with a spring in their step.

GemArts Masala Festival Mini Mela Bollywood Dance procession photo Anna Miller GemArts Masala Festival Mini Mela Magic Fish banners crowd photo Anna Miller

So there you have it, a mix and blend of the finest South Asian arts and culture squeezed into this review. GemArts Masala Festival served up a vision of South Asian culture today, and with plans for an even bigger and tastier celebration next year, to mark the 70th Anniversary of India’s Independence, I think we all better settle down, tuck in our napkins and get ready to chow down on some more wholesome worldly experiences.

Written by Liam Scarth, student Placement with GemArts between 4th July and 22nd July 2016

Images: GemArts Masala Festival credit Anna Miller


GemArts Masala Festival

What is Masala Festival?
A weeklong festival celebrating a mix and blend of the finest South Asian Arts and Culture 11th – 17th July 2016. Packed full of events, workshops, classes, pop ups and demonstrations. For more information visit

Who can volunteer?
You don’t need any specialist art skills, we are looking for volunteers who are enthusiastic about the arts, who can help make this year’s GemArts Masala Festival a huge success and will be free to dedicate a day to helping us with an event.
Volunteers need to be over 18 years old, and comfortable with being outdoors for a full day.
We expect the event to be busy so volunteers also need to be comfortable with crowds.

What sort of tasks will volunteers be asked to do?
We are looking for people interested in helping with the following areas;
 Artist Liaison
 Workshop / Performance Stewards
 Indoor / Outdoor Activity Stewards
 Video Assistants / Photography

When do we need volunteers?
We need a large number of volunteers to help on Sunday 17th July at our finale Mini Mela family event and The Magic Fish performances on Newcastle Quayside.
The event starts at 11am but we need volunteers on site from 9am for briefing and to help set up.

Any other information;
Volunteers will not be paid but GemArts will reimburse public transport travel (receipts/tickets required) and provide a light lunch.
Volunteers will be based at Live Theatre on Newcastle Quayside, NE1 3DQ and at the Swirle Pavilion Newcastle Quayside (along from Pitcher and Piano).

If interested and you want to find out more please contact Sinéad or Alex at 0191 440 4125 or email and we will share more information.

For more information on the festival visit

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Fri 20 – Sun 22 May 2016

mac Birmingham

GemArts is delighted to share information on one of the largest gatherings of artists, organisations, pundits, policymakers, funders and fans of dance under one roof.

A trailblazing conference that seeks to stimulate, steer and secure the future of South Asian Dance as part of the UK’s ever growing dance landscape.

Produced by New Dimensions Arts Management in partnership with Sampad Arts, Navadisha 2016 will pose questions that are crucial for South Asian dance today. It also celebrates breakthrough achievements and exciting developments in and around the sector during the fifteen years since Navadisha 2000, which launched a whole new chapter in the history of South Asian dance in the UK. Navadisha 2016 (meaning ‘new directions’ in Sanskrit) will undoubtedly re-affirm South Asian dance, which so many of us encounter, work with or simply enjoy as a vital part of British dance.

The three day programme will cover a range of topics from artist and audience development, to advocacy and functioning in a competitive environment. The programme aims to provoke dialogue on contemporary issues impacting South Asian dance creation and distribution, and demonstrate models of multifaceted, innovative excellence.

Navadisha 2016 will include keynote address by Akram Khan MBE, Shobana Jeyasingh MBE and Mavin Khoo – Britain’s internationally acclaimed performer and choreographers, and instigator of new dynamics in British dance.

Alongside the stellar list of industry leaders who will share their knowledge and wisdom, there will be exemplary showcases, performances, films and exhibitions, a vibrant market place for ‘pitching’ opportunities to potential promoters and investors, as well as networking opportunities.

The event will be an exciting, rare and invaluable opportunity for dance practitioners | teachers | students | academics | agencies | programmers | venues | promoters | investors | policy-makers & South Asian dance enthusiasts.

On the 40th anniversary of Naseem Khan’s ground-breaking report ‘The Arts Britain Ignores’, Navadisha 2016 will fire up debate about the state and status of South Asian dance in Britain’s cultural cosmos, and the changing nature of its dance audiences. It will uncover new talent, new models of excellence and new ways of working with dance in all its many avatars.
Navadisha 2016 will proudly felicitate Naseem Khan and her historic contribution to the diverse arts & cultural agenda and policy in the country, and honour senior dance gurus Pratap Pawar, Nahid Siddiqui, and Pushkala Gopal, who have, in turn, inspired and imprinted upon generations of students, dancers, teachers, and the very story of South Asian dance in the UK.

Full details of the conference programme, speakers, panellists is available at

To book a place, simply e-mail
**Subsidised fees/financial support available to freelance dance artists, teachers, students**

Twitter: @Navadisha16 #Navadisha16
Facebook: Navadisha2016

As part of Navadisha’s partnership with International Dance Festival Birmingham (IDFB 2016), the Festival has specially programmed a weekend of South Asian dance by international artists. For full details visit