Mini Mela

Merry Christmas

Roopa Panesar

Each year when I look back at the previous 12 months, I get a sense of awe at the achievements of our small (but mighty) team, and the wonderful artists, communities, volunteers and organisations GemArts has worked with. It’s also a time for me to consider how generous our donors, funders and audiences are, so thank you for supporting our work in so many ways.

Throughout 2017 we continued to do what we do best, showcasing the best and brightest artistic talent from the UK and abroad, championing creativity and diversity, and always ensuring artists received the support and profile they deserve. GemArts’ audiences were given access to unique cultural experiences, with people of all ages and backgrounds joining us in making exceptional music, dance and art, while developing new skills and building confidence along the way. Communities continue to face inequalities and challenges, but through our arts projects we have seen the people of the North East come together, to inspire and support each other, and celebrate diversity.

This year we strengthened relationships and developed new partnerships, increasing the reach and impact of GemArts work, for which we were recognised with awards and accolades. We’ve picked a few of our highlights from 2017, click on the red text to find out more about each, and I’m sure you will have your own favourites.

In February I will travel to London to collect my MBE for services to Arts and Culture – a huge honour and privilege! I personally feel this achievement recognises the collective efforts of everyone who has supported GemArts over the years. I am eternally grateful to you all.

On behalf of everyone at GemArts 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 2018.

Vikas Kumar, MBE
Director, GemArts

Gandharva_Choir 2

Masala Festival – Following a Journal Culture Arts Council Award win, our week-long festival returned in July. Thousands of people joined us for a mix and blend of the very finest South Asian arts and culture, enjoying live musicexhibitionscooking demosspecial festival menusfamily fun daysworkshopspoetry readingstheatrefilm screenings and lots more. The festival returns on the 16th July 2018 packed with even more exceptional art!

GemArts Riverside Ragas – Presented the best of raag based music, accompanying concerts with informative pre concert talks, masterclasses and demonstrations. 2017’s Riverside Ragas featured; Guiliano Modarelli (Routes), Kobini Ananth and Yarlinie Thanabalasingham (An Inner Voice)Baluji ShrivastavRoopa Panesar and Bhupinder ChaggarDebasmita Bhattacharya and Gurdain Rayatt, and we’ve an incredible line up for Spring Summer 2018.

God and Mortals – Our first collaboration with Sunderland Stages was a stunning performance by an ensemble of the country’s finest Odissi dancers and musicians, staged within the breath-taking setting of Sunderland Minster.

Health and Wellbeing – To help tackle social isolation we worked with Gateshead Carers BME groups to create “arrival and survival” a showcase of art work representing Identity and Isolation. Members of GVEMSG’s Feel Good Group were also extremely busy creating unique glass, sharing skills, developing support networks and using new creative and enterprise skills to raise more than £358 for their project, meaning more women will benefit from the support and activities on offer. Read the Feel Good Group’s blog here.

East by North East – Our Youth Music funded project offered music making opportunities to over 190 young people each week throughout 2017. Watching young participants grow in their musical skills and confidence has been a real highlight of this project, and this would not have been possible without the strong team of committed, talented and awe inspiring music leaders and partners we have on board. Here’s to another two years!

Dispersed Belongings – From Syria to Gateshead explored belonging among refugee-background Syrian young people living in Gateshead, in partnership with Durham University and Gateshead Council. Young people participated in workshops with professional visual artists and musicians, and produced works that reflected their ideas and experiences. The project culminated in an event at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, and a week-long exhibition in the Shipley Lounge as part of the national Platforma Festival.

GemArts Mini Melas – Between February and October we packed in a whopping FOUR Mini Melas, bringing free family arts activity to GatesheadNewcastleSouth Shields and Durham. In total over 1500 children and their families visited us at a Mini Mela in 2017, joining in arts activity from around the world, and some even completed Arts Award in a day (an incredible 101 young people achieved Arts Award through GemArts in 2017). Thanks to all the partners who provided a venue for or supported one of our Mini Melas this year.

 

Kathakali schools performance – 200 local primary school students had the unique opportunity to take part in workshops and watch the world renowned Kala Chethena Kathakali Company, perform in Gateshead. Pupils experienced the entrancing world of ancient Hindu storytelling through this sacred theatre art form with its striking visual imagery, ancient sign language, superb singing and movement.

Anti Hate Crime work – Continuing this award winning work with young people, pupils from Brandling Primary School, Gateshead worked on a creative writing project exploring the theme of “respect”, with artist Laura Degnan. Pupils developed reading and writing skills using creative storytelling techniques and film making. Members of Gateshead Muslim Centre young people’s group (age 6-15), used animation as a creative tool with artist Lesley anne Rose, discussing Hate Crime and how to report it. Learning story boarding and animation techniques, the young people created their very own animation which you can watch here.

Great North Run- Thanks to a grant we were able to purchase places in the GNR 2017. Not only did our runners (Anj, David, Jamie, Stuart and Tom) complete the worlds largest half marathon, they also totally smashed their fundraising targets, donating an impressive £2200 to our charity! All donations help GemArts deliver life enhancing arts projects, you can sign up to Run and Raise or simply contribute to GemArts here.
GemArts Spring Summer 2018 programme launches on Friday 19th January.
Follow this link www.gemarts.org to find out more. 

Images from top: Riverside Ragas Roopa Panesar by Anna Miller, The Gandharva Choir Masala Festival by Anna Miller, Mini Movers Masala Festival  by Anna Miller, Riverside Ragas Debasmita Bhattacharya by Anna Miller, Feel Good Group jewellery stall by Anna Miller,Gods and Mortals Sunderland Stages by Richard Kenworthy, From Syria to Gateshead My country is unforgettable by Mohamad, The Kala Chethena Kathakali CompanyRajasthan Heritage Brass Band Masala Festival by Anna Miller

 

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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

MINI MELA

Image James Sebright The Late Shows by James Sebright

Images:  James Sebright

This Saturday (21st Feb) GemArts and GVEMSG welcome back the Mini Mela at Caedmon Hall, Gateshead Central Library. The mini mela has always been a very popular event, celebrating diversity and offering families the opportunity to join in with a range of arts activity. GemArts have managed to pack a lot into this 4 hour event, with Aboriginal dot painting, Indian rangoli making, Chinese dragon making and origami sessions running 10am – 2pm in the main hall, and African drumming and Mini Movers dance classes taking place in side rooms throughout the event. All sessions are free, and most are drop in so there is no need to book, the only exception is African drumming and Mini Movers where we need to keep an eye on numbers. Visitors wanting to book onto the mini movers or drumming workshops can see a member of GemArts staff at the event who will book you onto the next available session.

GemArts and GVEMSG’s work across Gateshead and the wider north east brings us into contact with lots of great organisations offering specialist services, advice and support. We’re delighted to be working with Gateshead Council on this event, and we have also invited some of our other good friends along. Visitors can take advantage of information and advice from Citizen Advice Bureau, the Gateshead Housing Company, and the Police.  We have also invited our friends at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art along, Artists and Crew from the gallery will be offering visitors to the Mini Mela the chance to help create a huge mixed media spice installation.

The Mini Mela will end with a huge energetic finale when Arts Isiziba bring an African Drumming performance into the main hall.

For more information on the Mini Mela visit www.gemarts.org

Post by Sinead