STORIES

WOMAN

By Bobby Tiwana, curator of WOMAN at GemArts Masala Festival

WAR-IASTILL FROM ‘WAR-IA’

This year’s shorts programme is inspired by the political act of being a woman. Yes, something as simple and ordinary as that is a type of activism, seen as a provocation or license to oppress in many contexts, ages, social class, across cultures and geographies. In so many parts of the world, including very close to home, girls and women have to try every day not to be coerced, exploited, abused, raped or murdered. Why is that so? And aren’t we all complicit in the silence, therefore sustaining the status quo? I don’t understand why there is such little enthusiasm today to describe yourself as a feminist. I understand it to mean that all genders are equal and should be treated equally in law, life and love.

Growing up in a household of women, a mother and two older sisters, and a father mostly at work, women’s voices, presence and their value was something inherent in my upbringing. Women have always featured strongly in my life: at school, college and university. I became an uncle to my first niece when I was just 23 years old who’s just been helping me organise my wedding. And my mother’s now a large presence in my life as she ages.

As a gay Asian man, I’ve experienced homophobia and racism, nothing extraordinary, probably ordinarily average. However, not belonging to the straight club in a patriarchal world has also enabled me to enter spaces not ordinarily available to straight men. Perhaps due to a greater shared empathy with my sisters due to our respective fights to survive.

How can a cisgender man curate a programme about women: because I’m a feminist, because I think there are stories to be told and conversations to be had.

WOMAN comprises five film shorts including narrative fiction, documentary and artists film/video/spoken word.

THE FIELDSTILL FROM ‘THE FIELD’

See the trailer for ‘THE FIELD’

We open with THE FIELD, a multi-award nominee (BAFTA/BFI London Film Festival and British Independent Film Award 2018) and Shorts Cut Award Winner (Toronto International Film Festival) by writer-director Sandhya Suri. This is a beautifully crafted short set in rural Punjab in India. We follow the life of an agricultural worker who leads a double life.

CLENCHSTILL FROM ‘CLENCH’

See the trailer for ‘CLENCH’

CLENCH by award winning film director and visual artist Riffy Ahmed tells the story of Ash, a dual heritage girl from Old Trafford who ends up on the wrong side of the law, resulting in her boxing at Salford Lads’ Club. The film echoes the fractured nature of today’s identity politics among the young and old.

QANDEEL2                                        STILL FROM ‘QANDEEL’

Commissioned by the Guardian and Bertha Foundation, Saad Khan’s documentary QANDEEL examines the life, death and impact of Pakistan’s working-class icon Qandeel Baloch, killed in 2016 after becoming a social media celebrity. This compelling film analyses her life through the lens of class and power politics and connects it to women’s continuing struggle for self-expression and agency in Pakistan.

WE ARE FIRESTILL FROM ‘WE ARE FIRE’

WE ARE FIRE is a short film about Champa Pal’s resistance with the support of ‘The Gulabi Gang’ to an entrenched cultural system in Uttar Pradesh designed to give men the upper hand. The film is directed by Oscar and Emmy award-winning director Orlando von Einsiedel.

WAR-IA 2STILL FROM ‘WAR-IA’

WAR-IA embraces her true nature to draw upon the wisdom of all the mothers who came before, and those to come, unleashing her indomitable spirit. The video is inspired by the inner thoughts of Black and Asian women. It uses their voices and experiences, from the real to the imagined.  A range of states – innocence, objectification, self-doubt, rage, playfulness and survival – are depicted in the work. Written and directed by Bobby Tiwana.

The films will be followed by a post-screen discussion with filmmakers Sandhya Suri and Riffy Ahmed facilitated by me, Bobby Tiwana.

WOMANFRI 19 JUL, 7pm, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, South Shore Road, Gateshead NE8 3BA

Tickets £5 Buy here

Ticket includes welcome drink

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GemArts is strutting into Summer with Masala Festival 2019!

GemArts award winning Masala Festival is back, strutting into summer like a Bengal tiger from 15-21 July 2019, as we bring you another magnificent line up of classical, traditional and contemporary artists from the UK and Indian sub-continent, exploring themes of home, belonging, freedom, resistance, luck and hope. Download your Masala Festival 2019 brochure here.

Launching on 15th July, at Sage Gateshead, with an incredible collaboration and special evening of music composed and performed by the internationally renowned Sarod maestro Ustad Wajahat Khan with a String Quintet from our region’s fantastic chamber orchestra Royal Northern Sinfonia.

Followed by two of the most prominent women on the contemporary jazz scene, on 16th July Zoe Rahman and Laura Macdonald.

For spoken word and poetry, look no further than Luck and Hope: an evening of poetry  with two of the best poets writing today Mona Arshi and Imtiaz Dharkar at Culture Lab, and a stellar line up of regional spoken word talent in Strictly Spoken with our partners at Arch16.

We have a fantastic line up of films this year with: heartwarming, ‘feel good’ comedy of the year Eaten by Lions following half brothers Omar and Pete on a journey of discovery via Blackpool, featuring Jonny Vegas and Jack Carroll; stunning cinematography and subdued tension with The Sweet Requiem, showing an unforgettable reflection on an ongoing and forgotten Tibetan refugee crisis and contemporary film shorts about freedom, desire and resistance in Woman.

Writer, performer and professional wrestling manager, Pariah Khan brings his ‘shrewd and bitingly funny’ An Indian Abroad to Northern Stage on 20th July, where we follow the story of Krishnan, who is stifled by life in middle class India and decides to visit the exotic island of Great Britain. What will he learn about himself? And what happens when he falls in love with one of the natives?

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If you want to get yourself moving, why not try out Bollywood dance,  yoga on the beach or if you are if need of a little TLC before the summer try out an introdution to Meditation.

Not to mention the amazing menu being cooked up by Dabbawal throughout the week, watch here for their menu reveal soon!!

Masala  Festival ends on Sunday 21st July at Live Theatre’ Garden with a spectacular fun packed Mini Mela finale, with FREE South Asian arts, craft, music and dance workshops for all of the family to enjoy. This year enter a seafront arcade in a caravan with ….. Elvis’ Bingo Balls, neon, sounds of the slots and an Indian Elvis as your bingo caller! Not to mention Circus Raj, a circus troupe from India performing throughout the day, with stilt walkers, extreme juggling, sword swallowing and acrobatics, plus dancing marionettes and much, much more…..

There really is something for everyone. Visit www.gemarts.org to find out more and book tickets.

Look out for our beautiful brochure around Newcastle and Gateshead or download your full brochure here GemArts Masala Festival 2019 Brochure

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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.

 

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