Tag Archives: Southbank Centre

Love Works hard… Southbank Centre

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 Little Elephant and Chariot Riders, the Love Works pairing will be shown together as part of Southbank Centre‘s Alchemy festival 2016, from 18-30 May. They will play continuously looped one after the other on a monitor with headphones.

Alchemy festival is a collision of British Asian and South Asian arts, culture and ideas explored through music, dance, film, food, craft, talks and fashion.

Two, of the three-person core Love Works team live in London so friends, families, neighbours and all, do come down and take a look.

Other things which excite me at Alchemy: Gender Neutral Concubine Pirate by Mawaan Rizwan; Tongue, Tied and Twisted by Peter Chand and Black Country Touring; Desi Pubs by Creative Black Country and partners and Burka Avenger by Aaron Haroon Rashid and co.

See you there!

Making Progress or Losing Ground: LGBT Asia

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Sat 23 May, 6.00pm, Southbank Centre, London

Building on the success of last year’s panel discussion event at the Alchemy festival, The Love That Knows Much Shame, the Southbank Centre was keen to explore the subject again this year. We decided on a different type of event structure: a café style set-up bite size discussion event. I’ve identified distinctive speakers with a breadth of experience and perspectives. Each contributor will present for a few minutes followed by discussions on their topic.

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Dr Abhi Shetty

Consultant Psychiatrist and gender specialist Dr Abhi Shetty will cover Hinduism and LGBT. How does Hinduism understand sexuality and gender? What are the narratives of old? Abhi was born into a Hindu family in India. He received a Catholic and Hindu education and has retained an interest in religious studies as an adult. He has an academic and personal interest in diverse expressions of religion, gender and sexuality.

Rose Neelam will look at Sexuality and Gender Identity through a British Pakistani lens, with a focus on British Pakistani women.  Exploring how Pakistani Culture has informed a generation to express and accept themselves. Rose is director of Safra Project, working on issues around gender and sexuality in Islam, supporting LBTQ Muslim women and exploring the impact of Islamophobia in Queer communities.

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Anato Chowdhury

Anato Chowdhury will explore Being Bisexual: navigating invisibility and practicality. Anato was born in Bangladesh and grew up travelling between Dhaka and other cities across Europe and Asia. Over the last few years he has been documenting his experience of bisexuality, and blogging about people’s reactions to his identity. His work has a special focus on his Muslim Bangladeshi background. Anato works as an engineer in the energy industry and is currently based in Scotland.

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Raisa Kabir

Raisa Kabir will present In/Visible Space (Queer Brown Gendered Bodies): a series of visual essays that explore interwoven links between dress and space as components in the construction and visibility of South Asian LGBTQ identity. Raisa identifies as a South Asian queer femme and is a cultural activist, artist and writer. She has written about South Asian queer dress identity and culture, queer femme of colour invisibility, as well as cultural appropriation, ethnicity, diaspora and dress.

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Bobby Tiwana

And finally, I, Bobby Tiwana will talk about Mobilising Others: creating structures to enable greater Asian LGB/T engagement, participation, representation, consumption and understanding. This is as a producer of fringe narratives and LGBT broker with various cultural, educational and community agencies.

The event will offer rich provocations to stimulate discussion in groups, drawing together a diversity of perspectives, experiences, identities and understanding.

For bookings see Southbank Centre event page. The event finishes at 7.45pm.

Would be great to see you there!

Aashi Gahlot writes for Safar

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On the 23rd of May 2014, I was blessed with the opportunity to speak at Southbank Centre’s Alchemy Festival in London at, “The Love That Knows Much Shame” after being invited by Bobby Tiwana. Exploring South Asian LGBT lives and experiences, the event explored the issues and triumphs of being South Asian and LGBT in the UK today. Aashi Gahlot

I run SHOR, an online creative portal exploring the messages and experiences of South Asian LGBTQ persons and supporters across the globe.

We recently interviewed Devi, a mother whose daughter came out to her as lesbian 12 years ago. Initially, Devi felt angry and hated the thought of her daughter being a lesbian. But now, not only does Devi accept and embrace her daughter for who she is, but she also accepts and embraces her daughter’s partner.

One prominent thing that this interview brought home to me was the fact that it is not easy for a parent when their child comes out as gay, or LGBTQ.

In my own experience, I ended up becoming estranged from my family for 4 years. My sexuality was a huge problem. But now, I am completely accepted by my father.

The interview with Devi and the panel made me realise that actually, my father has always loved me. He has never hated me for being gay. It was society, the taboo, the stigma that surrounds homosexuality that contributed to the 4 year separation.

What happened was not easy for my family, nor was it easy for me. Krishna South Bank (2) I still have a very long way to go.

My work at Shor is a vision to get to that day where a LGBTQ South Asian person can come out completely to their loved ones without fear and without shame.

Sexuality is not a choice and neither is it shameful. What matters is that an individual can safely express their love for another.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you – a thank you that no matter how many times I say it, it just can never be enough.

This thank you is to Lord Krishna, the most beautiful and truest best friend who is always in the heart of every individual no matter what.

When I was away from my family, it was Lord Krishna who helped me through it all, the good and the bad. It was Lord Krishna who watched over my family and kept them strong, able to face all that came their way.

In fact, around a week before the event I was at Radha-Krishna temple in Central London. I was feeling a bit down. That’s when a fellow devotee approached me and we had a (very) quick talk about life. I did not mention anything about my work or the talk.

A few days later, that same devotee handed me a hand written note that read:

“Always remember KRSNA

Strength lies not in victory against the 10,000

But in facing the 10,000 before victory”

Thank you Krishna for always being there and being my best friend

Aashi Gahlot

Last Sunday’s radio interviews

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Please excuse the brevity of this post. I’m racing out as we speak to a silent retreat.

Following on from The Love That Knows Much Shame, Harjit Sarang, Fiyaz Mughal and I had some radio interviews with BBC Radio channels across England on Sunday 25 May 2014.

I was on BBC Radio Nottingham on the Dhamaka programme with presenter Kaval Vaseer.

Starts 40:55 – 46:55. Available here for another four days from today.

Harjit was on BBC Radio Sheffield on Eastern Air with presenter Waheed Akhtar.

Starts 02:06:05 – 02:10:40. Available here for another four days.

Fiyaz was on BBC Radio Derby with presenter Satvinder Rana.

Starts 01:11:55 – 01:21:10. Available here for another four days.

And another from me on BBC Radio Stoke with presenter Ajmal Hussain.

Starts 01:06:45 – 01:16:30. Available here for another four days from today.

Another from Harjit on BBC Radio Manchester Indus programme with Talat-Farooq Awan.

Starts 01:12:55 – 01:16:45.  Available here for another four days.

And another from Fiyaz on BBC Radio Gloucestershire with Many Masih.

Starts 01:24:15 – 01:29:00. Available here for another four days.

And I’m afraid it was another from me on BBC Radio Northampton with Jona Kotnis.

Starts 01:38:10 – 01:46:46. Available here for another four days.

For Bolly lovers this interview’s preceded by  from Kabhi Khushi Kabhei Gham 01:31:40 – 01:37:30.

Adios!

Panel members announced

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Well, I’m delighted to say that I managed to secure a high calibre panel of people working in and around the topic of being LGBT and South Asian for The Love That Knows Much Shame, on Friday 23 May, 6pm at Southbank Centre, London. Full press release here.

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Sorrel from Friends & Families of Lesbians and Gays, and Aashi.

I was researching South Asian parents and LGBT and came across this lovely image of these two women. That is when I learnt about Aashi Gahlot (on the right) who is truly inspirational. She is Founder and Editor-in-Chief at SHOR, a creative online portal reflecting South Asian LGBTQ lives worldwide; a creative writer, activist, journalist and freelance translator for film and TV.

I learnt about Harjit Sarang, in February last year. She started following me on Twitter after I tweeted a radio excerpt during LGBT History Month. We’ve been trying to meet for some time but it’s not yet happened. She’s a Lawyer specialising in parenting for infertile, gay, and lesbian couples; an LGBT activist and equality campaigner. Her Equal Marriage campaign on Twitter was innovative. It sought equal marriage endorsements from celebrities who have a  larger number of followers, therefore getting a positive message out to a larger pool of people.

A few weeks ago, when Same Sex Marriage became legal, I participated in a telephone radio interview. Fiyaz Mughal OBE FCMI, was on the same programme after me. I was quite impressed with his articulation and understanding of community development and evolution. He is Director of Faith Matters, working to reduce extremism, interfaith and intra-faith tensions. He has a background in community and voluntary sector social policy, lobbying and conflict resolution. He’s also a former Councillor for Haringey and Oxford.

And then there’s humble ol’ me, who got involved in all this through developing a new LGB theatre narrative, born out of research with South Asian communities across England. We’re still chugging and now have a finished script.

And finally, most recently I’ve secured Razia Aziz to facilitate the event, who’s Co-Founder of The Equality Academy. She’s a diversity and equality trainer, coach and consultant; as well as an interfaith minister offering a service to people of all faiths or none.

So at this point, if I might say, I think we have all the ingredients for a potentially high quality event.

Rob’s Beneath the Surface London blog

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Well readers, that’s it – the event is now up and running. The hard work that has gone into the rehearsal period has paid off and we have now performed to our first audience! It’s great to get people in to watch what we’ve created and to see how they react to it. I don’t mind telling you there were some parts that they reacted to quite differently to what we had anticipated and the whole thing was a real eye opener for us all…but more on that later.

So let’s start at the beginning. Driving down with the producer, Bobby Tiwana. I met him in Wolverhampton and together we made our way down to London. Generally a good ride…apart from at the end when my perhaps questionable navigational skills sent us over Waterloo Bridge an extra time (the other way) than was necessary…oops. Never mind, we made it to Southbank Centre in one piece and met up with the rest of the team who had arrived and were ready to go.

There’s something electric in the room before a show. The nerves and the anticipation of the performers and the production team. We knew that we’d put the work in but we all just hoped that it’d pay off; that the odd line still escaping the performers would be cemented; and that we’d get a good crowd in who would be up for discussion and giving feedback.

So at 5pm the doors opened and in they came. A real mix of men, women, couples and people on their own, black, white, and Asian. I counted seventeen people, which for the first event was a great number. It was also a friendly audience, made up of several project acquaintances and supporters. Some of our interviewees from the research phase were in; as well as a few participants from Bobby and Carl’s Alchemy workshop from earlier this year. My friend from uni (if your memory needs refreshing then please refer to my very first blog) was in the audience too. A good audience to start on, not that it did much to dispel the tension from the performers who were about to present their work to a paying public and to the directors who had invested so much time and effort in the piece.

From the very first moment there were surprises. The audience reacting to one of the characters whom they did not realise was part of the show was something we’d talked about but not really come up with a plan for. In this instance, the friendliness of the audience threw Dharmesh and for a second I thought he might trip up. However, he carried on masterfully and it was interesting to see how the ripple of understanding spread throughout the room.

Similarly, reactions to the seating changes were interesting. While we had expected people to turn around to face bits of performance that were taking place behind them, the general attitude of this audience was that these moments were to be listened to and not watched. Therefore, parts of the direction may need to be reworked in order to take this into account or not. Of course, we will have to see what other audiences in other cities do as well.

I hope all this description isn’t too mind boggling, readers. There was so much going on that evening and much of it needs to be recorded. You might like to view it as me trying to capture the essence of the evening; the magic that was happening and the chemistry in the room. If bits of it don’t make sense then I implore you to come to one of the events and experience the content for yourself, then you too, will have a view on what most worked for you and what might be re-worked.

The discussions that followed the presentation of the rehearsed extracts were fascinating. I guess one thing that I will try and do too is to assess how each city and the people from it are different. I think that London, being so metropolitan and open attracts people who are not afraid to speak their minds and discuss, certainly in a venue like this. While there was maybe an initial shyness, people were quickly volunteering information on what the concepts of family and community mean to them and how they reacted to the piece and what might be done differently. I took heart that many of the LGB Asians who had come along we’re happy to share their experiences – it was truly amazing to hear what they had to say. One lady hadn’t spoken to her father in seven years and had built her own family from friends who supported her and her lifestyle in a way her family couldn’t right now. Similarly, one gentleman revealed to us that once he would create different personas for different communities and that it was both tiring and frustrating having to be so different depending on who he was with. Stories like these make the whole project seem worthwhile and made me realise that what we’re doing is creating a platform for these ideas and experiences to be shared with the world.

Perhaps one of the the most touching stories was told by a woman of African descent. She drew comparisons between her community and the south Asian community; how both are still very traditional communities and that this can often lead to prejudice. Yet she told the story about how with every generation there comes a greater level of tolerance and that the younger generations can be instrumental in dispelling the prejudices of older ones. She gave the example of her five year-old son who, when taken to a wedding some months back, asked what kind of wedding it was -“…two daddies?  Or two mummies?” And when told that is was a wedding between and man and a woman replied “HOW STRANGE!” Touching and lighthearted yet, apparently, this child’s indiscriminate tolerance had affected the views of his grandmother who herself has become much more accepting of different lifestyles. It was a story that made us all smile but also affected many of us and made us think.

So that will probably do for now, readers. London has provided us with an excellent start to the run and has already given us loads to think about. I can’t wait for the next workshop performance event on Wednesday at Smethwick Library. Now if you’ll excuse me – as you can imagine, there was much celebrating after the success of the first show and I was somewhat delicate the following day… To catch an event near you. Until the next time, stay fabulous.

Rob Beck

Rob end week 1

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So it’ll just be a quick one right now. Yesterday I was able to see each section rehearsed in its entirety and it was fabulous. We have re-worked the structure of the final section into something that everyone in the team is happy with and, I must say, it seems to work really well in both a rhythmic sense and also aesthetically. I hope the performers and the directors find it as gratifying as I do to watch.

Today is the last day or rehearsals. We have the writer, Carl Miller in to see the work that the team have put into the project and to offer his suggestions before the first event ON SATURDAY AT THE SOUTHBANK CENTRE! We’re starting with a full run and then moving on from there.

I did say it’d be a quick one – I want to save the best for last… I’ve absolutely loads of interesting stuff for you to read. Until the next time – stay fabulous!

Rob Beck

Here’s another from guest blogger Rob…

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Welcome back readers! Here is the second instalment of my take on Beneath the Surface – where I shall be telling you about what’s been going on, the headway we’ve made with the project, our discoveries, and the general antics of the group as we march on towards our first show THIS SATURDAY at Southbank Centre in London.

Yesterday was the first time the whole team came together. I arrived at Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton with time to spare (despite my threats last time to complain about traffic, I have to concede that it was a fine drive in the morning). The fact it was raining did nothing to dampen my excitement about meeting the actors, the directors and the rest of the team – some of whom I had met already and some of whom were new to me. From just eight hours of working with them, I can already tell that this is a great group! There is great chemistry between our two actors, Dharmesh Patel and Rochi Rampal, and under the direction of Steve and Kate, our directors, we have made real progress already. IMG_5892

We began at the beginning with a read-through. I always feel this gives everyone a chance to hear the lines of the script out loud and to comprehend what they’re saying in a way that’s somehow so much clearer than just reading it in one’s head. Suddenly the characters in the piece are injected with a spark of life, a spark that it’s now up to the team to nurture and help grow until a set of fully formed characters stand before them. It also gives the actors, directors, and fascinated bloggers (such as the one writing now) a chance to raise questions and to discuss ideas in the piece and what they mean in a wider theatrical context. I must admit to you now that if there’s one thing this group seems very good at, it’s discussions! I do believe that reading through just under thirty pages of script took near enough two and a half hours. However, the insights that we were able to draw from these discussions were pure theatrical gold (pardon the cliché). I do not want to spoil the show for you (for of course, I expect you all to be rushing to see it at a venue near you soon) but I will tell you that a big focus of our discussions rests on how two different sets of characters identity as both LGB and South Asian – are the two concepts mutually exclusive or is there a way of navigating the line between being LGB and South Asian? For two of the younger characters it seems they are more confined by their identities, while for two of the more mature characters it seems they have found a way of establishing themselves in such a way that means being LGB isn’t outside their culture nor are they pandering to a view that they are marginal within the queer community. It was an amazing discussion and it got me thinking about how an LGB identity can sometimes absorb you to the point there is nothing else about you and where does this leave you in terms of forming an identity that is true to all parts of yourself if you come from a strong and proud cultural background – maybe you have your own views?

So after a long and in-depth read-through, we were off – beginning the process of rehearsing each section, in particular the parts of the script that make use of multi-media which are to be created tomorrow (full coverage will follow in later blogs). The energy of both performers and production team – even at  the end of the day – was impressive and reflected in the fact we were able to finish these sections with time at the end of the day for a de-brief and to plan out the rest of the week’s rehearsals. I did my bit by chipping in with my own ideas and experiences when appropriate and kept everyone’s spirits up by plying them with tea and coffee whenever there appeared to be a dip (and people say that working in theatre is glamorous!). I do not want to foreshadow future blogs too much but will implore you to stay tuned because (and here comes another cliché) … the best is yet to come! Until the next time – stay fabulous!

Robert Beck is a guest blogger for Bobby Tiwana’s project ‘Beneath the Surface’. As well as blogging he is an emerging theatre maker and director with a special interest in LGBT projects and queer narratives. Follow him on Twitter @Rhubarb1992 or read his own (brand new) blog.

Gay Star News feature!

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See feature by Gay Star News writer Liam Johnson on Beneath the SurfaceBeneath the Surface Two Men Kiss

This activity is supported by Arts Council England. GEM Arts has co-commissioned the script development.  It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of many arts and LGBT sector partners in each city area.

Cultural Icons

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James DeanWho were your cultural icons whilst growing up: who offered you hope, inspiration, enabled you to dream and to be? What was it about them?

This is one of the explorations in Saturday’s workshop at Alchemy. When I started thinking about mine there were many at different points in my life: one or two may have lasted a year or longer, some for the life-cycle of a pop song, most were seasonal. We change quite a lot in a season especially during our teenage years.

I discovered biographies at 15 and fell in love with James Dean. He appeared misunderstood, lost, introverted and melancholic – the Rebel Without a Cause. He was masculine in monochrome. There were also unconfirmed rumours about his sexuality. All of these things offered me a quiet comfort at this age. He had a motto: live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.  He died in a car crash in 1955 at the age of 24.

There is a romantic notion when making a connection with someone no more that you’ve never met. And I do think it profound that they or what they symbolise can still communicate and offer some comfort. Jimmy Dean was quite important to me during adolescence that year – 1990. What about you?

There are still a few remaining places for Saturday’s workshop. Come and take part.