GemArts Masala Festival 2017; a South Asian cultural infusion of a festival……

Working in Culture within the North East is possibly the best sector in the entire world to work in; it’s just mint! The ideas, the events, the projects, the people and beyond. As a none people loving people person, I really finding my little space in the world, with such brilliant people.

The Cultural sector in our region is just so diverse – I’ve never experienced anything like it. The cross fertilisation of ideas, partnerships and collaborations and the ever emerging willingness to work together culminates to ensure an exciting bubbling richness of lush things and people.

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GemArts and Sunderland Stages present Gods & Mortals at Sunderland Minster

The sector is also very close knit – you can attend any event really and see a smattering of friendly creative faces smiling, championing you and your projects and attending the things you do. It’s a like a secret club of lushness…… the people you work alongside or attend their things and champion, very easily move from project partner or such and such from that organisation….and become friends. Real friends and people who you celebrate every cultural moment with.

Sinead from Gem Arts is one of those people (and in fact really the whole Gem Arts team….but Sinead really likes cats and is quite ridiculous like me, so she’s my favourite). I’ve known of Gem Arts for some time and championed them for as long as I have worked in the cultural sector….. their Mini Mela was my induction into working with a large scale cultural children’s event.

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GemArts is a dynamic arts development organisation presenting South Asian arts. They produce and programme new and exciting culturally diverse arts, by creating and developing high quality concerts, events, festivals, workshops and commissions with regional, national and international artists. Every event I’ve attended has been a cultural hot pot and celebration of South Asian diversity and learning about respective cultures.

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Last year they launched Masala Festival and I had the pleasure of championing it as part of Gateshead Arts Team and of course, as Sinead’s mate Horts. So as we are literally about to jump into the second Malasa Festival (deep breaths Sinead and team – it’s going to be mint!), I thought I’d take the opportunity to catch up with her and find out what this year has in store for the region alongside digitally championing to my fellow Culture Vultures what a cracking week this is going to be…..

Well hello Sinead, so first up; what is Masala Festival?

Masala Festival is the North East’s very own, award winning, South Asian Arts Festival, bringing a mix and blend of the finest art and artists to the region for 7 days in July starting on 17th July.

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How many years has it been running and what kicked it all off?

GemArts launched Masala Festival in July 2016, offering a truly eclectic programme, spanning traditional and contemporary arts. After 16+ years presenting diverse arts in the North East, we decided it was time to put our expertise to good use, and create a brand new Summer Festival, showcasing artists from the UK, South Asia and beyond.

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This year the Masala Festival programme explores partition, migration, globalisation, identity, heritage, tradition and modernity, and marks the 70th anniversary of Independence for both India and Pakistan, something we were already starting to think about in 2016.

You won a Culture award for last year- tell me what that was like?

Recognition is the icing on the cake, alongside the incredible support we continue to receive from participants, audiences, trustees, volunteers, sponsors, partners and local communities, to whom we are hugely grateful and celebrates the creative talents of artists from the region, across the UK, South Asia and beyond.

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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.

Receiving an award for something your team is truly passionate about is a dream come true, and has given everyone an even stronger drive to continue championing creativity and diversity at every level, supporting young and emerging artists, and offering people from all backgrounds and ages, community groups and schools, engaging opportunities to take part in our culturally rich and diverse arts offer.

So… now 2017; what’s coming up for Masala?

This year’s Festival (17th-23rd July) will ramp things up, building on our award success we’ve been even more ambitious, and added exciting collaborations and takeovers to last years list.

GemArts has commissioned work from celebrated companies and artists  and the programme is packed; award winning poetry readings (Daljit Nagra: Heritage and Identity), specially curated short film programmes (Changes), celebrations of Sikh soldier’s music tradition and contributions to the First World War (Sacred Sounds), leading choirs from India (Gandharva Choir), two nights of powerful theatre (No Dogs, No Indians), Masala Festival takeovers and collaborations (Q Festival, Trinity Square and Dabbawal), Mini Mela family fun days, Indian storytelling shows (Henna),  talented musicians fusing jazz, electronic and Indian classical music (Sarathy Korwar), folk music and dance (Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band),  film screenings (The Jungle Book, Ghandi), exhibitions (AURORA by Jayamini de Silva), food events (Biryani Club), fantastic workshops (Bollywood dance, Meditation and Yoga), talks and demos (including GBBO contestant Chetna Makan) and lots more……

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What should I not miss out on?

We think you should attend everything, but there probably aren’t enough hours in one person’s day. Three events we know the Culture Vulture will really enjoy would be;

SACRED SOUNDS – A national project called Sacred Sounds, which tells some of the largely forgotten stories of British India’s role in the First World War. Using archive footage, letters, photos, music and poetry, SACRED SOUNDS is a multi-art form performance which explores Sikh musical heritage and traditions, which soldiers took with them to the battlefield.

HENNA INDIAN STORYTELLING SHOW – As part of our Q Festival takeover we’ve invited international storytellers Peter and Gorg Chand to tell a very special story. On the eve of a wedding a young bride-to-be is having henna applied to her hands. As the patterns emerge, the stories begin to unfold… love, loss, betrayal and Bollywood! Plus GemArts Henna artists will be on hand to create beautiful designs for any of our audience who want them.

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NO DOGS NO INDIANS – A powerful new play from Siddhartha Bose. Three intertwining stories, spanning decades, explore the effects and legacy of the British in India in a powerful new play to mark the 70th anniversary of independence.

I’m always up for trying something new and out my comfort zone- do you have any recommendations?

CHANGES: stories on the edge will certainly make audiences ask some serious questions, and think long and hard about the world they live in and the resilience of people. Following last year’s successful ALIVE film programme, we’ve teamed up with creative producer Bobby Tiwana again, who has curated a stunning line up of short films for CHANGES; a programme of lives on the edge – personal and political conflicts test human resolve.

My little mini Culture Vulture Beck (one of my best pals little boys) – he’s really into trains, stamping his feet, stairs and exploring- anything for him and his lush fam?

There is plenty for mini Culture Vultures and their adults to get involved in during Masala Festival. We’re starting our Q Festival takeover with Bollywood dance classes for ages 2+ from 9am, and then from 11am we’ve Stories from the Punjab and Beyond for ages 5+ , a fun, interactive, and lively session of Indian tales.

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Part of our Movies at Masala programme with the Jam Jar Cinema, shows The Jungle Book at 11am on Saturday morning.

Sunday sees the return of our popular Masala Festival Mini Mela, which last year welcomed more than 500 people throughout the day. Like all GemArts Mini Melas the day includes a range of drop in arts workshops, from Rangoli, Kite making and Silk painting to Bollywood Dance and Dhol drumming, plus we’ve invited an amazing group of musicians to really bring the space to life, as the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band will perform throughout the day.

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Heard about the curry night at Arch 16 which obvs I’m all over that…..I like my curry to be an experience…..

BIRIYANI CLUB AT ARCH 16 – We love working with our friends and neighbours, and when we read about Arch 16’s curry clubs with Ashiyana Café we knew we had to chat Masala Festival with them. A tasty curry for less than £10, and GemArts DJs spinning the best bhangra hits, what’s not to like?!

CHETNA MAKAN CHAI, CHAAT AND CHUTNEY – As big fans of food shows, food cooking and food in general, we were over the moon when former Great British Bake Off contestant Chetna Makan was available to deliver a cooking demonstration during Masala Festival. Chetna will share stories from her travels around India for new cookbook, Chai Chaat and Chutney, and attendees will get to taste a selection of delicious street food recipes created before their very eyes!

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Well that’s all a little bit amazing isn’t it – so make sure you check out GemArts Masala Festival next week…..you’ll see instantly why  it won a Culture Award and how fantastic it is – every night a brand new experience of diverse lushness – so much to see, do and of course Culture Vultures, EAT!

So bye for now Culture Vultures and Sinead, well I’ll see you on the other side of Masala Festival…..

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The Culture Vulture xx

The Q Festival Low down – top 10

Right, so going out and seeing and doing things is my jam…… I’m at that age where gone is my capacity to go out endlessly, I work extremely hard and don’t really take time off so if I go to an event or thing, so when I’m going somewhere I want to know it’s going to blow my socks off or be something a bit special and different. So instead I’m all about cherry picking the very best stuff in the region and we are extremely lucky to have some much going on in region at the moment, overwhelmingly so.

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So in this blog post, I’m chatting about Q Festival and giving you the low down – so you know what are the hidden gems and the unmissables…..

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Q Festival in a nutshell, is an urban festival lasting 24days in the heart of NewcastleGateshead – smack bang on Gateshead Quays (Yep….this Gateshead lass, told you guys first 18months ago how much Gateshead has really got it going on at the moment). For 24days and nights, Baltic Square will come alive by day and by night with a huge Spiegeltent. Anyone who has been inside a Spiegeltent will know how beautiful they are as venues and anyone who hasn’t been inside well you haven’t lived yet!……

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The full programme is available at www.QFestival.co.uk with tickets on sale now; but the festival site itself is open every day from 14th July for all to come on down and have a drink….boom!

Here’s some of the inside craic for anyone wanting to drop by the festival site or attending events:

Q Festival has had some of the region’s in the know mixologists and bartenders assembling the bar stock and designing drinks for specific events…… as a gin gal and new red wine lover, having a decent drink in my hand at all times at an event is of the upmost priority! I don’t want a drink that’s a science experiment and I don’t want a £2 pint of wine circa Leeds festival 2002…..

The festival site is worth visiting on its own….from 14th July, you will be able to come on down to Baltic Square, grab a drink or tea/coffee (or something much stronger) in the outdoor beer garden, eat some yummy street food and of course whilst flicking through the brochure chose your events and book in person at the box office open 12.30pm-9.30pm daily.

Q Festival programme and site supports and champions our region’s independents, creative businesses, artists, performers and so much more……. The people working on this festival from the marketing, to the site build, to the bar, to the programme contributors, to the food are all from the region, living, making, creating, playing, surviving and thriving right here…..and a festival that sounds pretty special to me.

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So I’ve pulled together my top ten on what you need to attend……..

Jesterval Comedy Festival Opening Weekender….14th July

If like me you have a deep desire, to see everything and do everything first – let’s start with the beginning; Q Festival’s opening weekender – it all kicks off with Jesterval Comedy Festival back with a bang for 2017…. You need to make sure you check out Hal Cruttenden who is one of my all-time favourites (he’s bliddy funny) and of course, the big Jesterval Comedy Gala, which is your opportunity to see four comedy acts including Sara Pascoe. Sara’s individual show has now sold out so, this is your opportunity to see her if you didn’t manage to get the tickets.

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Why is the Comedy Gala unmissable? Well you, have the chance to see 4 acts – us lot, well we love a bargain and here you get 4 for price of 1 technically……..all for £15 mint! And of course, it’s an amazing show…… I will be there on the night (so will Mama Horts actually) so it’s also an opportunity for you to hear my infamous giggle/cackle and Mama Horts laughter snorting away.

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The Steampunk Gin Festival….21st and 22nd July

Gin Festivals and gin anything is really on trend and in vogue at the moment and I’d just like to point out, when I used to drink ginny years and years ago telling everyone how lush it was, everyone thought I was crackers….it was still Mother’s Ruin back then and responsible for tears at the end of the night. Well I’ve never been like that with gin – it’s always been lovely and yes I’m one of those annoying people that ponders lovingly over which gin to drink, what mixer, what additional lushness will be make this even lusher……..basically, I drank gin before it was cool…….

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I am thrilled that Gateshead gin company – Steampunk Gin are hosting a massive gin weekender with Q Fest – so they will have lots of lovely gins to taste, music, entertainment and a whole lot more all within a Spiegeltent….sounds mint innit!? Gin, Gin, Gin for the win!

Glitz and Glamour: getting ready for a party!….25th July

Meridith Towne is one of my favourite people of all time and I’ve seen her shows and talks (each one is amazing and I find them so empowering and bliddy entertaining!)……. Part performance, part costume show, part fashion history lesson – Merry knows where it’s at when it comes to having a passion for historical fashion and sharing that with an audience.

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As a fantastic storyteller, this evening invites you into her wardrobe as she takes you on her journey getting ready for a glitzy party and choosing those glad rags from 1920s towards more modern times. This evening will be full of vintage real pieces, fashion adverts and snippets from various time periods and recreations made by her own talented hands.

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As always Merry puts on a lively show; tickets are flying for this and this new talk has partly been written just for Q Festival….. so you really are in for a treat. Attendees will also receive a craft bag on the night from creative crafty business The Crafthood and there will be a pop up from fashion start-ups Trendlistr and Ebb & Sew with an opportunity for you have a deeks at their fashion pieces and purchase.

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MA Takeover featuring Drag Me to Love…..26th July

Following on from my love of the new and undiscovered, I’ve had the absolutely pleasure of working with and seeing some snippets (at GIFT Festival) of some different theatre shows and scratches. So this night is all about the new and emerging……

For one night only Northumbria’s M.A. Theatre and Performance students take over the Spiegeltent at Q Festival for an evening full of performances showcasing up and coming talent from the region. The evening consists of multiple scratches of work that they have been working on during the course of their degree. The night will also include a performance of Drag Me to Love by Bonnie and The Bonnettes.

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Scratch: Rooted by Becky Glendenning-Laycock and Fleur Rozan

In a battle between who we wanted to be when we were little girls Vs who we’ve turned out to be, we will come to realise that life doesn’t always hand you the story you wanted to tell when you were 9 years old. And that’s ok we guess. Isn’t it?

Scratch: Don’t Shoot the Messenger by Ashley Fraser and Becky Morris

This is about me, you, us, and everything that is going on around us. These are things that you may be aware of, or these may be things have you’ve ignored.

Scratch: Untitled by Jake Jarratt and Andrea Scrimshaw

From using two viewpoints, one male, one female, we challenge why sports are different for either gender. We take hold of our space and explore clichéd situations; replaying them in ways which challenge how society expects genders to behave within and around sport.

Drag Me to Love by Bonnie and Bonnettes

So imagine this. You are 14 years old and you are a drag queen. Its golden stilettos, ripped fishnets, shoulder pads, and neon bobs. It’s expression. It’s glamour. It’s power. It’s Doncaster, 2009.

It’s about being young, having that fire in your belly and seeing no limitations or rules. It’s the uncertainty of your own identity and the creation of a new one. It’s about finding a safe place between the two. It’s a reflection. An exorcism. A scrapbook.

We will laugh. We will cry. We will sing and we will dance.

You are bound to fall, as we drag you into love.

Jumpin’ Hot Club Presents: Q Festival – 1st August

Award winning Jumpin’ Hot Club are hosting an evening of unmissable toe tapping blues, folk, country and live roots music……..I’ve championed and worked alongside the Jumpin’ Hot Club gang for years so I know you’re in for a real festival treat with these guys.  And what’s a festival without the musicccccccc!

The line-up includes the amazing and hilarious Martin Stephenson & The Toe Rags….. I’ve heard a sneaky rumour that the king of Jumpin’ Hot Club himself Graham may be getting up on stage with Martin so obviously, I’ll be cheering like a crowd cracker.

With plenty of space to dance and lush local booze on offer, you can enjoy this one of a kind night with Jumpin’ Hot Club and also get to see admired Austin Texas singer songerwriters Brennen Leigh & Noel MacKay, a country blues and desert rock band born on Route 66, Hymn for Her and local folk legends George Welch & Christine Jeans……..

 

 

 

martinS2The Big 90s Pop Culture Quiz – 2nd August

Right, I’m stuck in a time warp. I love the 90s; maybe it’s partly not wanting to grow up and maybe it’s just being in love with this era. Everything about the 90s makes me smile…..

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Ross and Rachel, Umbongo, Marky Mark, CK, hair mascara, Kickers as school shoes, Pogs, TLC chasing Waterfalls, Wayne’s World, Ravey davey dance….come down to Q Festival for a 90s Pop Culture Quiz with quiz mistress Cheish Merryweather (the only person I’ve ever met who is more ridiculous than I) testing your knowledge and love for the 90s.

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Tables are really flying for this – teams can be any size from 2-8 and are £10 a table….so come mmmbop with me down memory lane even if you’re totes clueless…..

Disposable Treasures; Paper Crafting – 3rd August

So you guys know I’m allllllllll about championing local artists and stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something creatively challenging. And that’s what this evening is all about whilst enjoying a few glasses of vino and enjoying four different activities with professional artists.

So first up we’ve got Fiona Jamieson; you can have a go at paper cutting- designing, cutting and opening up a paper treasure……you’ll be surprised at how beautiful and intricate the designs can be with this Snowflake technique.

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We’ve also got Culture Vulture fave and all round brilliant egg Sheryl Jenkins – you’ll have the opportunity to experience and create some paper crafty animations using stop-motion….. I’ve had a go at this many times now….you guys will not be shocked to hear that mine was cat related….

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Late Shows fave and 36 Lime Street legend Effie Burns will be facilitating a session to create a paper crafted miniature magical world; we could all do with a little escapism so get lost in a match box world!

Finally, Yvette Hawkins, will be showing you have to create sculptural wearables – fit for a cat walk – think big, think bold colours and just go with it…..

So come as you as, come as a group, this evening is most certainly for those crafty crafters!

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80s Social Club – 4th August

Going back to the time warp thing…I’m obsessed with 80s music. Not the cheesy kind (although after a couple of gin & tons singing them loud and proud, most certainly has their place) – the electro kind. I also have crazy large hair and “interesting” fashion choices – I look like someone who digs the 80s and stomp about to Stevie Nicks, Edge of 17 far more than I’d care to admit….

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Following on from the mega success of my 90s Social Club party a few years ago at World Head Quarters – those that follow me on social know I’ve been ITCHING to do an 80s version…..so when a prime slot at Q Festival came up – it was fate. I assembled the Social Club team – we’ve got Tim McVicar (Dat Bar, Bierrex, MSA and ex Smoove & Turrell bassist) playing 80s electro funk and boogie and we’ve got Patterns Collective to play some 80s dance floor pleasers.

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As per any Culture Vulture party, I’m pulling out some corkers – we’ve got glitter bar and neon facepainting, 80s decorative lushness and all sorts of things…..fancy dress is not enforced – but I will glittered up and back combed so why not so feel free!

“The question isn’t “what are we going to do,” the question is “what aren’t we going to do?” – Ferris Bueller’s Day off

The Candy Vortex Q Festival Closing Party – 5th August

Basically just don’t go to sleep between Friday and Saturday because this is the ultimate party weekend………when it comes to closing a big urban lush festival, is there ANYONE ELSE? If you haven’t heard of the Candy Vortex yet – well you’re going to, they run some fresh immersive parties, filled with revelry and you know an all lasses collective is going to get my vote.

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So what to expect – well I don’t know…….expect the unexpected and see you on the dance floor….

Carruthers & Kent Summer Wine Fair – 6th August

Something happens when you turn 30 – things you wouldn’t have dreamed of doing or liking suddenly seem lush and acceptable. I’m like that with red wine…….my friends have tried for years to get me to like wine and to taste different things and really appreciate it. A year a go something magical happened – people had told me it would happen but I just didn’t believe them….. I took a sip of red vino, the skies parted, the birds sang, my taste buds cheered and the world suddenly made sense………

So how excited am I that Carruthers & Kent are running this….. me with my new found wine loving status is alllllll over this. The opportunity to taste and find out about different wines….heaven. I know you’re supposed to spit and only “taste” – but my sips are unfortunately gulp like so I’m sure I’ll be dancing my merry way out of the Spiegeltent at Q Festival – which let’s be honest, is a fitting way to end the fest……

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So that’s my tip top ten of Q Festival picks; so I really hope to see you along and get booking: http://www.QFestival.co.uk

That’s all for now Culture Vultures!

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