Diversity

New Opera Development Opportunity

INTERESTED IN OPERA?

CurveGemArtsLyricOpera NorthRoyal Opera House

We are looking for music-makers, theatre-makers and writers from BAME backgrounds who are interested in exploring new possibilities in collaborative artistic creation.

This is an opportunity to;

  • be commissioned to develop an original idea
  • be mentored on the development of your project
  • work with singers and musicians to develop your idea
  • present work-in-progress and receive feedback
  • develop a project with GemArts, Lyric or Curve, supported by Opera North and Royal Opera

We believe opera is where music, theatre and movement meet.  It is the most vibrant and flexible of genres, and is the perfect platform for telling diverse stories in diverse ways.  Our definition of opera is broad –embracing music, theatre and movement from all cultural traditions – and we are seeking new stories and innovative approaches.

At this stage, the scale of your proposal does not matter.  But it must meet the following criteria:

  • your project must involve one or more collaborators
  • the lead artist for your project must be based in the UK.

We will select three projects for a development commission and fully support those artists as they develop their work.

If you’d like to know more please email or call Anwar Ibrahim at anwar.ibrahim@roh.org.uk or 020 7212 9387.
When:                 From December 2017 to July 2018

Who:                   Writers, Composers, Directors, Theatre-Makers

Cost:                   We will commission the artists selected to develop their work

How to Apply:   Click on the link below, or complete the expression of interest form and send to anwar.ibrahim@roh.org.uk by Monday 23rd October.

Expression of interest form – New Opera Development Opportunity Oct17-July18

Link to online version of form – https://www.surveycrest.com/s/5926e630efc34

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GEMARTS EAST BY NORTH EAST PT2

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 second blog post.

GemArts East by North East Blog by Izzy Finch, Music Leader 

In 2016 I became one of the musicians for the GemArts project East by North East (EbNE), working with young women aged 13-16 from the Czech and Roma communities in the West End of Newcastle. When we first began our weekly sessions at CHAT Trust, the group were shy and their conversational English was emerging. This meant that, without interpreters at the sessions, we initially found communication problematic with regard to expectations and outcomes for the project.

Over the course of the year, we began exploring different genres of music and the girls began singing. This developed into rapping and gradually evolved into writing their own material and performing locally in both their heritage language and in English. Some of the issues we encountered early on included communication barriers, low self-esteem, social and gender related tensions and even tensions between our project and the perceptions of the school the young women attended.

There was one session where one of the young women told me that she had fallen behind with homework and was struggling at school. Having recently discovered that she was unable to read or write I had wondered how she would be managing at school and if she was accessing support. We stayed behind and worked on some of her assignments and discussed things she could ask her teachers about. This was a significant moment for me, in helping me to appreciate how a safe, creative space enabled the development of BAMER women who joined our project completely unable or unwilling to engage with seemingly inaccessible tasks or assignments that demanded a grasp of English to writing and performing original material and developing their ability to articulate their hopes, fears and aspirations within the group. Without the support of interpreting staff, the two factors that played the most significant role in empowering the young women were trust and time. By the time the project drew to a close, all of the young people were demonstrating engagement and the ability to take creative risks.

17553924_10154549287012613_8637290395246012482_n[1]Young women take part in a session at CHAT Trust

Forming a band and attending regular rehearsal and workshops was challenging for the group at first as it required commitment, determination and practice. All the young women obtained their bronze Arts Award which was a huge achievement and for many, their first experience of achieving any form of accreditation.

17757355_10154549286992613_7043715450843202856_n[1]Young people at CHAT Trust achieve their Bronze Arts Awards

The final celebration event took place at Sage Gateshead, and was a vibrant celebration involving participants from a wide representation of heritage and culture across the EBNE projects in the city.

This project serves as a good example of how, as defined in The Creative Case for Diversity, “experimentation leads to changes.” In offering young people the chance to express themselves in an inclusive space, and by using this experience to initiate creativity and original compositions, we learned that all of the participants experienced feelings of enhanced self-esteem and of a future where they had skills and strengths they didn’t know existed. “ Now I know girls can rap just as good as the boys. I didn’t think I could write a song that would sound good. I’m always going to love performing now.” –  Vanessa

In 2005, I had been invited to join a refugee integration project based in Newcastle. Mongrel UK was issue-based music and theatre exploring concepts of identity, migration and social justice. I was a 13 year old participant, yet I felt was being nurtured and mentored by strong female role models. I feel I was one of the first people to experience the grassroots evolution from participant to practitioner. Many of my professional values were shaped at that time and I feel that I experienced first-hand what a positive impact involvement in projects like EBNE can have on a young person. I have this experience at the forefront of my practice with all of the groups I work with, particularly young BAMER women, with whom I have an affinity.

LTC Performance 1000px

Life Transformation Church band perform at EbNE celebration event at Sage Gateshead

It is clear that the experience of the young person is at the centre of the project when GemArts initiates a project like this one, but what isn’t that obvious on the surface is how the journey of arts practitioners is equally important. We are actively encouraged to reflect upon and document our own learning and journey. My learning and observations have been centred around the themes of culture, heritage, gender, perception and diversity. Although my musical knowledge and experience is clearly valued, there is a finer less tangible aspect to projects like EBNE that is centred around celebrating and promoting not only the diversity that exists within communities but also that within the practitioners who are matched to deliver the programmes.

Gem Arts partner musicians who have different but compatible strengths. Working relationships must evolve to make the most of competencies and skills we have between us and what this ultimately brings to the workforce is adaptive resilience. There have been occasions where I have felt that my co-workers have had a stronger skill set for a specific young person or circumstance, but there is always the opportunity for me to support and restore the balance within another situation.

I am so proud of the individual journeys of self-expression as well as the incredible creative outcomes that demonstrate how valuable projects like East by North East are. Beyond the creative and musical end products, we have opportunities to develop self-belief, affirmation of cultural identity and values and on a very basic level… happiness!

Gem Arts develop and build pride in identity in often marginalised groups within the North East. On a personal level, my involvement in this project has made me realise how passionate I feel about working with young women; confronting and challenging negative cultural stereotypes.

If you are interested in the project please contact GemArts – info@gemarts.org

Izzy Finch, EBNE Music Leader

Watch our East by North East 2017 film here

GemArts East by North East 2017 from GemArts on Vimeo.

 

GEMARTS EAST BY NORTH EAST PT 1

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 info@gemarts.org

Autumn Winter 2017 season

gembro-aw2017-banner-v05

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 www.gemarts.org 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 .

 

HARAMBEE PASADIA FESTIVAL 201

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 (http://www.harambeepasadia.com/tickets.html) 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%

Award win for GemArts Masala Festival

Masala Logo (Pink) Resized 600 px

Last night GemArts Masala Festival was named the winner of the Arts Council Award at The Journal Culture Awards. The full team (Vic, Alex, Jade and Sinead) attended the ceremony and were there to collect the beautiful award when Masala Festival was named winner at this year’s spectacular Journal Culture Awards inside Hexham Abbey.

GemArts Masala Festival Mini Mela Magic Fish crowd photo Anna Miller  Journal Culture Awards winner GemArts Masala Festival Monks of Majuli and students photo Anna Miller

This festival compliments and builds upon GemArts yearlong programme, to present a mix and blend of the finest South Asian Arts and Culture across the region over seven days. Speaking of the award Vikas Kumar, GemArts Director 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 between the 17th and 23rd July. We want to thank the Journal Culture Awards and Arts Council North for choosing us for this award, but also for their continued support and commitment to our work, and that of the other great nominees. 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, including award winning poets, a curated evening of film shinning a light on South Asian LGBT lives, rare Sattriya dance by Monks from Majuli; Indian epics retold for children, Indian classical and Brass Band collaborations, World music jazz fusion bands, exhibitions exploring Turban culture, incredible workshops, talks and demonstrations, culminating with a spectacular family fun day on NewcastleGateshead Quayside.

GemArts is really excited for 2017 as this year’s Masala Festival (17th-23rd July) will be even more ambitious, and building on our award success we’re looking forward to collaborating with venue partners, places and spaces, commissioning new work and presenting internationally significant South Asian artists and art forms. The programme is packed with critically acclaimed award winning poets (Daljit Nagra), specially curated short film programmes (Changes), celebrations of Sikh music tradition and contributions to the First World War (Sacred Sounds), leading choirs from India (Gandharva Choir), innovative new theatre (No Dogs No Indians), Masala Festival takeovers (at Q Fest), Mini Mela family fun days, Indian storytelling for all ages (Henna), extremely talented musicians (Sarathy Korwar), South Asian film screenings, exhibitions, food events, fantastic workshops, talks, demos and lots more. Masala Festival offers a truly eclectic line up, spanning traditional, and contemporary South Asian arts forms from the regiona, across the UK and South Asia!

Sarathy Korway by Fabrice Bourgelle4 BANNER   Peter Chand image of storybooks BANNER IMG_0986 BANNER

GemArts’ year round programme offers audiences something truly unique, and in the 70th Year of India and Pakistan’s Independence, GemArts Masala Festival brings to the North East the spirit, spice and vibrancy synonymous with the Indian subcontinent, and now an important part of British culture.

Details of events and full programme coming soon, to find out more and keep up to date visit www.gemarts.org.

 

Finalist in The Journal Culture Awards

GemArts is a finalist in not one, but two categories of The Journal Culture Awards 2017. This year’s awards received a whopping 1400 nominations, and GemArts Masala Festival has made the final cut for the Arts Council Award, supported by Arts Council England: North, while the organisation is also shortlisted for their work in Trimfest 2016 for Best Event Durham.

    GemArts Masala Festival  600px GemArts Masala Festival Mini Mela Bollywood Dance procession photo Anna Miller

Both Masala Festival and Trimfest launched their inaugural festivals in 2016, so making the final three in the respective categories of these awards is a fantastic affirmation of the quality and success for everyone who contributed. A common theme for both was the celebration and profiling of diverse arts, something which GemArts and our parent charity have vast experience championing across the North East, and nationally. Our parent charity Gateshead Visible Ethnic Minorities Support Group also celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017, and two potential awards would be a great way to mark this milestone.

Masala Festival, is a weeklong celebration of the very finest mix and blend of South Asian arts. It compliments and builds upon GemArts exemplar year round work, providing an exciting new arts festival for audiences in the north east, bringing South Asian arts to their doorstep. The long term vision of GemArts Director, Vikas Kumar, we were all blown away by the public reaction to the first Masala Festival in July 2016.  “We’re thrilled to be nominated by the Journal Culture Awards as this year we also celebrate the 25th anniversary of our charity, a major milestone.  GemArts has continuously championed the vibrant diverse arts scene, artists and communities within the North East, while bringing the very best national and international artists to the region. The success of Masala Festival, and making the final 3 in the Arts Council Award, is fantastic acknowledgment of the quality and breadth of South Asian arts and culture GemArts has produced and presented over the years, and we are hugely thankful to all our artists, partners, audiences, participants and volunteers for their exceptional support!”

Little Elephant GemArts Masala Festival launch photo Anna Miller GemArts Masala Festival Monks of Majuli and students photo Anna Miller

The 2016 Masala Festival programme included films screenings which explored South Asian LGBT lives, world music jazz fusion bands, big brass band and Indian music collaborations, award winning poets, photography exhibitions exploring Turban culture, rare and sacred Sattriya dance performances, workshops and masterclasses, the very popular GemArts Mini Mela family fun day and lots more, presenting traditional and contemporary South Asian identities. Working with a number of partners GemArts brought the Masala Festival programme to venues and spaces in Newcastle, Gateshead and out to the coast, and the plans for 2017 look even bigger and better.

Trimdon Parish Council wanted to present multicultural events and activities for the local community during October half-term, to bring people together to experience and learn about art and culture across the world, while celebrating Trimdon and the local area too.  GemArts was invited to help programme Trimfest 2016, sharing expertise working with communities and presenting the best diverse arts to North East audiences.

Trimfest Booklet Front Cover - with text IMG_6330

Catering for all ages, Trimfest featured an eclectic mix of music from Brass Bands to The Baghdaddies and Hannabiell&Midnight Blue, a diverse art family fun day, Indian storytelling, Bavarian beer night, the brilliant Home Fires production community and school workshops and lots more. Creating a brand new festival to celebrate art, music and culture from across the world, in a rural area of East Durham, was an ambitious and exciting undertaking for the Trimdon Parish Council. Everyone involved is thrilled that the efforts and high quality of the programme, both events and workshops, delivered over the 10 day festival, have been recognised in this prestigious nomination for Best Event Durham.

“Trimdon Parish Council is very pleased to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award, especially as this was the first time the Parish Council has been involved in such an ambitious festival. It is a great achievement to be finalists for Best Event Durham, and is wonderful recognition of the hard work undertaken by all of the partners, volunteers, residents and artists who made Trimfest 2016 such a memorable event, not to mention a great celebration of our collaboration with GemArts. This nomination will give everyone involved tremendous encouragement as we start our preparations to host Trimfest 2017 later this year”. Anne Delandre, Trimdon Parish Council Clerk.

GemArts is finalising plans for Masala Festival 2017, and in discussions with Trimdon Parish Council to continue work on Trimfest 2017. To keep up to date and find out more visit www.gemarts.org , if you can help support this years festival please consider making a donation here.

Merry Christmas and a look back at a great 2016

Merry Christmas

One of the things I enjoy most in December is looking back over the previous 12 months, being reminded of the wonderful artists, communities, volunteers and organisations GemArts has worked with, and the generous donors and funders who supported our work in so many ways this year.

In 2016 we continued to showcase the best and brightest talent across the arts, while championing creativity and diversity, and always ensuring our artists received the support and profile they deserved. GemArts’ audiences were given access to unique cultural experiences, with people of all ages and backgrounds given opportunities to enjoy and make exceptional music, dance and art, while developing new skills and building confidence along the way. In a year that made many people feel disconnected and alone, we brought people together, and showed what a fantastic and diverse community of people live in the North East.

This year we strengthened relationships and developed new partnerships, allowing GemArts’ performance programme and participatory projects to have further impact across the region and beyond, and our hate crime awareness raising work won us a national award. We’ve picked just a few of our highlights from 2016, and I’m sure you will have your own favourites.
 
On behalf of the GemArts team and GVEMSG, I would like to  thank you for your continued support, and wish you a very merry Christmas, and all the best for a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Best wishes and see you in 2017.
 
Vikas Kumar

Director, GemArts

GemArts Masala Festival Mini Mela Magic Fish banners crowd photo Anna Miller Thank you Feel Good Group glass work  Image by Anna Miller.jpg

Masala Festival – Our brand new week-long festival launched in July, with a mix and blend of the very finest South Asian arts and culture. We couldn’t have done it without the fantastic artists, audiences, participants, volunteers, donors, funders and partners who helped ensure Masala Festival was a huge success. The festival returns on the 17th July 2017, more information coming soon!

Catalyst Evolve – A successful application to Arts Council England’s Catalyst Evolve fund saw us continue to lead a consortium with two Gateshead Arts charities (Equal Arts and The Lawnmowers). This also means we can match your generous donations £1 for £1! Help GemArts deliver life enhancing projects for disadvantaged communities by donating what you can here.

Health and Wellbeing: Feel Good Group – Our Women’s Group brings together women from diverse communities, and this year they have worked with glass artist Effie Burns. They have been busy developing new creative skills to create unique, high quality glass artworks, whilst sharing experiences and developing support networks to tackle isolation and improve health and wellbeing. The women raised a whopping £130 for their project at their first craft fair in December!  

East by North East – Throughout the year our Youth Music funded project offered music making opportunities to more than 130 young people each week. Young participants have really wowed us with their talent and dedication to the project. With new artists also joining the cohort, the last 12 months have truly strengthened the rich offer for music leaders and those they work with in Newcastle. 

Arun Ghosh workshops and performance – In April pupils from Roman Road Primary school were given the chance of a lifetime when they spent three days with international Jazz clarinettist Arun Ghosh, creating three new pieces which they performed at the opening of Sage Gateshead’s International Jazz Festival 2016. Mini Melas – Between February and October we packed in not one, not two but THREE Mini Melas, bringing free family arts activity to Gateshead, Newcastle and Durham. In total over 900 children and their families visited us at a Mini Mela in 2016, taking part in arts activity from all around the world.

WILD WOOL at The Late Shows – We were delighted to present a fantastic new co-commission with Apple Yang’s Appetite Dance Productions at the 10th Anniversary of The Late Shows in May. You can catch Apple Yang: WILD WOOL in all its glory at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in 2017.

Trimfest – Not content introducing one new festival last year, GemArts also helped bring a brand new festival offering to East Durham in October. Working with Trimdon Parish Council we brought exciting, culturally diverse performances and workshops to audiences in Trimdon. 

Khyal: Music and Imagination – We took our work with Durham University to a new level with this fantastic project, building on academic research into the ways in how we experience and imagine classical Indian performance, using insights to generate new kinds of engagement and creativity. A beautiful exhibition, on display in November, showcased the stunning new work created by artists and local school pupils, as well as an innovative new iPad app.

 

Sign up to GemArts’ monthly e-newsletter here to be the first to find out about our fantastic new Spring Summer 2017 season.

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