#events

Merry Christmas from GemArts

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The end of the year is always a time for reflection, and across GemArts performance and participation programme, we are reminded of all of the wonderful artists, communities, audiences, volunteers, partners and funders we have worked with in 2018.  We would like to thank every one of them for continuing to support our work in so many ways.
 
Although each and every performance and project has their highlights, we have picked a few below to show some of the work we have done this year. I hope you enjoy looking back at GemArts 2018 year, where we have supported the best and brightest artistic talent, both emerging and established artists from the UK and abroad; continued to champion creativity and diversity; and have offered unique cultural experiences, to people of all ages and backgrounds, enabling exceptional opportunities to participate in diverse music, dance, literature and visual arts.
 

Masala Festival – following last year’s Journal Culture Arts Council Award win, we were proud to be a finalist this year for the Best Event Tyneside for Masala Festival, which returned for the third time in 2018 and celebrated an outstanding selection of artists and producers from the North of England, a fantastic range of South Asian art forms from poetry, dance and film to jazz and classical music, family fun days to amazing new visual arts commissions, including a new sculpture created by robotic arm! Keep an eye out for Masala Festival 2019!

 

GemArts Riverside Ragas continues to present the very best of raag based music concerts alongside informative pre-concert talks, masterclasses and demonstrations. 2018 featured some of the finest musicians from the UK and India: Shreya Devnath, Arnab Chakrabarty with Talvin Singh, Shashank Subramanyam, ONE (ensemble of Vainikas), Purbayan Chaterjee with Gurdain Rayatt, Jasdeep Singh Degun and ended with an incredible premier of Simon Thacker’s Svara Kanti’s new album Trikala. We have an incredible line up for you in Spring Summer 2019 check out our website for our programme announcement early January.

Every year we work with thousands of people on participatory projects, making diverse arts opportunities accessible to all. In April this year, we worked alongside  Durham County Council and schools across Durham, Stockton and Hartlepool, to mark the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, delivering cultural arts activities that celebrated the 53 nations, including Steel Pans, Indian Dance, Sri Lankan, Indian and Malaysian visual arts, African Drumming and Storytelling. On the 25th April, 1000 young people processed through Durham city centre to the cathedral to take part in a special service to mark the event.

In the centenary year of the Representation of the People Act, GemArts were invited to be part of PROCESSIONS, a UK-wide mass participation artwork to mark 100 years of women’s suffrage, produced by Artichoke and commissioned by 14-18 NOW, based on an idea by Darrell Vydelingum.

Our Feel Good group created a banner that represented what the vote means to them, what it is like being a women in the UK today, highlighting their past, present and their hopes for the future. On 10th of June, the group processed through Edinburgh, proudly showcasing their banner, with thousands of other women and girls across the UK. Wearing either green, white or violet, the colours of the suffragette movement, the PROCESSIONS appeared as a flowing river of colour through the city streets.

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October saw the launch of our new film #endmatecrime for National Hate Crime week. The film was made by participants from The Gateshead Housing Company’s customer led Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group and charity Changing Lives. Through creative arts sessions, working with our artist Tommy Anderson, participants created a series of hard hitting artwork, that have been designed into postcards, a poster and an animation film featuring real-life personal stories of victims of mate crime in Gateshead. You can watch the film here.


Our Arts, Health and Wellbeing strand continues to work with communities across Gateshead and Newcastle using creative engagement to address isolation and loneliness. This year we have worked alongside Gateshead Council to embed the Making Every Contact Count (MECC) approach, offering training to artists, staff and volunteers to support our creative practise.

Our flagship East by North East youth music project, now in it’s 5th year, engages with 177 young people on a weekly basis. Young people from diverse communities, living in challenging circumstances, take part in a wide range of musical genres. The project is committed to supporting a diverse music workforce ensuring gender equality across the programme.

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You can find out more about our work on our website www.gemarts.org

On behalf of everyone at GemArts and GVEMSG, we 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.

 

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GemArts East by North East – Blog by music leader Izzy Finch (Nov 2018)

Here is a blog by Izzy Finch, who is one of our music leaders on GemArts’ Youth Music funded East by North East music project.  Izzy gives fantastic insight into working with young people from Syrian communities living in Gateshead to develop their musical and life skills, whilst providing a safe space for young people’s voices to be heard, develop leadership skills and for them to be empowered.   

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As project musicians, Pav and I first developed a relationship with members of this group when they had been in Gateshead less than one year whilst working on GemArts’ Dispersed Belongings project in collaboration with Durham University. Our initial sessions were based around the concept of belonging, identity and feelings of home. The participants had no previous experience of music making and we were working with an interpreter. During those early sessions we talked a lot about identity and I realised that there is a complexity of emotions surrounding belonging for most of the participants as there have been interim homes between Syria and Gateshead. Working on this project has changed my perception of not only belonging, home, identity but the value of music as a tool for discussion.

I am comfortable knowing that over time we created an environment where the participants developed trust and were invested enough to talk in depth about their aspirations for the project and were given a platform to write songs about things that were important to them. I think sometimes there is a fear when working as a music practitioner with marginalised communities that our own agenda/ expectations will interfere with the creative hopes and dreams of young people. We were careful to navigate a balance between guiding and leading, making sure participants were not exploited with the content of what they write about.

One of the first songs the group wrote is titled Syria. The lyrics to the song describe the country as their mother and Aleppo as their blood. It is a love letter to Syria. In the very beginning when we first started working together I facilitated an exercise where participants would describe colours, sounds, sights and smells of home or a significant memory. The group seemed unsure at first but soon everyone was writing in Arabic and absorbed in the task. I hadn’t prepared myself for how emotionally raw the content would be having elicited those feelings. I realised afterwards that I had expected the content to be about dislocated items or events but instead we uncovered that there is still a strong and prevalent sense of belonging to Syria and that this is something that the young people want to share and write about. One member said “I want to deliver a message to the people here about the situation in Syria” and continues to bring new lyrics in each week exploring this.

Sometimes a song idea will begin with a young person showing the group a song they like and we will begin talking about what aspects of that we like and what we will use as inspiration to create an original piece. For one song, we used Eminem- Stan as inspiration, and sampled the sound of rain to evoke emotion and used the structure of Eminem’s hit as a template with Arabic verses poetically describing a lost love and a chorus in English featuring female vocals working as a call and response.

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Our session structure changes depending on the ideas of the young people. Sometimes we all have an instrument and work as a band collectively, and other times we will use a MIDI controller and laptop to make electronic beats that vocalists want to put lyrics and a melody to. Within the current group, there are multiple song writers and the participants are self-motivated when it comes to organising their time within the session. For example, if we worked on one member’s song the previous week, they will talk amongst themselves and decide fairly that it is someone else’s turn to have their song rehearsed. New members are always welcomed and encouraged by the group to suggest ideas or lead a rehearsal. Lyrics are often in Arabic and sometimes have an English chorus with themes around the war in Syria, politics, nostalgia, love, lost love and friendship.

This year the core group are brimming with confidence and creativity. The sessions are very much participant led and we are preparing for a performance in a few months and introducing Arts Award. The group enjoy sharing and communicating their ideas in English, we rarely use the interpreter although sometimes we need one to translate lyrics and help with meaning but I l love that Arabic lyrics are a constant thread in everything we create. If new members come along and are struggling to speak English or understand what we are doing, the group enjoy interpreting and helping each other articulate their ideas.

It is a pleasure to be able to work with these young people and help them achieve self-belief and provide a creative outlet. I feel that this project has demonstrated the capacity Gem Arts have to meet the growing needs of marginalised groups within the North East.

East by North East is a Youth Music funded project led by GemArts. Building on the success of previous projects, during this third phase, we have expanded the prorgramme to provide more opportunities for professional musicians and young people living in challenging circumstances from BAMER and wider communities across Newcastle and Gateshead to work with one another, sustaining high quality music making regionally, and addressing community needs and issues.  A key element of the programme is to further diversify the music skills and workforce of music practitioners in the North East through offering CPD, training, peer to peer development and mentoring.

https://gemarts.org/projects/116/east-by-north-east

GemArts Autumn Winter Season 2018

As the lovely warm weather continues our Autumn Winter Season brochure has arrived and brings an eclectic mix of new commissions, exhibitions, workshops and events to the region for that Indian Summer glow. Download your full brochure here GemArts Autumn Winter 2018 Brochure

Thank you to everyone who came to our Masala Festival in July and made it such a huge success! You still have time to see Sumit Sarkar’s fantastic Everything Nothing Exhibition at Gateshead Central Library on until 2 October, featuring new commissioned work by GemArts, including a new marble sculpture created by a robotic arm!

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Launching our exceptional Riverside Ragas programme this Autumn we have spectacular Sitar players, Purbayan Chatterjee , accompanied by Gurdain Rayatt on Tabla, and rising star Jasdeep Singh Degun presenting groundbreaking sounds from the traditional to the contemporary.

Setting a new benchmark for Indo-Western collaboration, later in the season we are excited to present the official launch performance of GemArts supported, Trilaka epic double album of Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti.

 

With something for all the family, you can delight the kids in October half term, with Jungle Book, where you can follow fearless Mowgli’s wild adventures through the jungle with inventive shadow theatre, powerful music and colourful digital projections.

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Marking the festive season, November brings our annual Diwali festival of lights with delicious Indian food and a night of Bollywood and Bhangra Beats, bring your dancing shoes!  Outstanding vocalist Swati Natekar will take you on a musical journey in December with an evening of Ghazals, Thumris and old Bollywood Songs and we have a fantastic opportunity to hear novelist, Preti Taneja, reading from her debut novel We that are Young, a powerful retelling of King Lear set in contemporary New Delhi and winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018.

Celebrating the New Year we welcome star of the future Kaviraj Singh on santoor in January, as part of the exciting New Year, New Artists Festival at Sage Gateshead. Visit our website for more information on this soon.


As always we will be delivering workshops and projects for schools and with community groups over the coming months and launching our new animation to raise awareness of Mate Crime. Projects aim to support equality, promote diversity and tackle inequality. For more information about projects please visit GemArts Projects.

We look forward to seeing you over the coming months. Keep up to date on our news by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

VAISAKHI

This year Vaisahki falls on Tuesday 14th April, and later this month GemArts and GVEMSG host their annual celebrations at Gateshead Civic Centre, which will mark this special date in the Sikh calendar. Here we share information on Vaisahki and its importance within Sikhism.

Vaisakhi is a long established harvest festival in Punjab.  It falls on 13th April every year, except every thirty-sixth year where it falls on the 14th April.

Vaisakhi is one of the holiest days in Sikhism, commemorating Khalsa, i.e. the establishment of the religion in 1699, as it also marks the Sikh New Year.  It is also observed with different significance attached to it in different parts of India.

Vaisakhi in Sikhism

Vaisakhi is one of the biggest celebrations of the year for the Sikh community.  It is one of the holiest days in Sikhism, commemorating KHALSA, the establishment of the Sikh religion. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikh founded the Khalsa at the Vaisakhi gathering is 1699 at Anandpur. Guru Gobind Singh had arranged for followers from all over India to meet him at the Vaisahki fair in Anandpur.  He asked for five people to come forward who were willing to die for their religion. After the prayers he sprinkled AMRIT – water with sugar (strength must always be balanced by sweetness of temperament) and stirred with a steel sword (symbolising the need for strength). He declared them to be the first members of a new community of equals, to be called Khalsa, meaning pure. They will dedicate their lives to the service of others and the pursuit of justice for people of all faiths.  These five people were called the PANJ PYARE, and were asked to wear five distinctive symbols of their new identity, the five ‘k’s and a turban.

  1.  Kesh (long uncut hair) – The long uncut hair symbolises chivalry, saintness and courage.
  2.  Khanga (comb)- It is needed to keep the long hair set and tidy, symbolises cleanliness.
  3.  Kirpan (sword)-A sword is a symbol for royalty and knighthood
  4.  Kara (iron bracelet)-Symbol of everlasting love for God. It is round like a ring and therefore no beginning or end.
  5.  Kachera (underwear)-Specially tailored shorts and symbolises purity and restraint.

TURBAN: The turban has great significance in Sikhism. Apart from looking smart and handsome, it is considered the CROWN of a Sikh. It is true to say that without a turban there is no Kaur or Singh just as without a crown there is no king or queen.

To end social divisions, the Panj Pyara’s surnames were removed by the Guru, mainly because surnames were associated with ones cast – the Guru gave them (and all Sikh men) the name SINGH, meaning the “lion”, a reminder of the need for courage.  At the same time, the Guru gave all Sikh women the name or title Kaur, meaning “princess” to emphasise dignity and complete equality. The Guru then knelt below the five and asked them to initiate him. Hence, the Khalsa became a community in which master and disciple were equal.

Vaisakhi brings a unique message of tolerance, harmony and equality amongst Sikh communities. In a modern day society, it is clear to observe the equality amongst all citizens, regardless of their class, colour and gender through Sikhism. By working together communities can strengthen themselves with a wide understanding of the rich diversity they are surrounded by.

Celebration by Farmers

As far as farmers are concerned, Vaisakhi is not a religious occasion for them. India is a farming country. Vaisakhi is the time to harvest the crops especially wheat. On Vaisakhi farmers thank God for the beautiful crop and pray for good times ahead. People buy new clothes, sing, dance and enjoy the best of festival food.

For more information on our Vaisahki Celebrations event taking place on Saturday 25th April visit here.