This year is a double landmark year for South Asian diaspora communities in Bradford and across the UK, as it marks 75 years since the partition of India and 50 years since thousands of Ugandan South Asians were expelled by dictator Idi Amin.
The creation of Pakistan and the end of British colonial rule in India, as well as the expulsion of Ugandan Asians, led to many of them eventually coming to the UK to build new lives.
From 12 till 14 August, organisers of the Bradford South Asian Heritage Forum will host a packed programme including musical performances, comedy, art workshops, puppetry, readings from new South Asian writers, and a series of powerful talks.
Bradford South Asian Festival, a three-day celebration of arts, culture, heritage and learning with a ‘desi’ twist, comes to the Kala Sangam centre from Friday, 12 August to Sunday, 14 August.
A plethora of performances, the events will involve expression through artform, including poetry readings, writing workshops, visual art, musical, theatre, puppetry and crafts across the whole weekend.
Although the name of the event has changed and being rebranded as Bradford South Asian Festival, condensed in to a three-day weekender at the Kala Sangam centre, the overarching theme of the month still stands, as organisers suggest.
Topping the bill which will be the highlights of this year’s event, the award-winning stand-up comedian, actor, writer, presenter and cricket commentator Aatif Nawaz, who will headline the Gigglewalas comedy night on Friday.
Hosting the night will be Keighley’s own Nick Ahad, a comedian, writer and radio presenter with BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Leeds and there’ll be sets from local up and coming comics.
Young rappers and musicians will showcase their talents on Saturday night at Bradford, Beats and Bars, followed by a celebration of the golden age of Bollywood disco ‘Disco Deewane’, dubbed as a must for fans of all things kitschy and retro.
The festival winds down on Sunday afternoon with a tribute concert to Lata Mangeshkar, the legendary Bollywood playback singer adored by millions, who passed away earlier this year, with West Yorkshire singer Shabnam Khan and her band interpreting some of Lata’s biggest hits.
Festival organisers Uzma Kazi and Rahila Hussain, issued a joint statement saying:
“This is an important double landmark year for so many people who have made Bradford their home over many decades, and who have brought with them the wonderful gifts of a multi-layered and rich culture and heritage.
“Their story is part of Bradford’s bigger story, and we want to honour, celebrate and commemorate every aspect of it”.
They further state “We’ve worked hard to put together a programme of activities and performances that celebrate, educate, innovate and co-create – and we can’t wait for launch night”.
The idea behind Bradford South Asian Festival is to promote the rich and vibrant contribution of South Asian diaspora communities to the life and identity of Bradford.
The festival grew out of the 2020 and 2021 Bradford South Asian Heritage Month events and follows the successful Bradford Curry Mela which kicked off the month.
Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Healthy People and Places Portfolio Holder for Bradford Council said:
“We are delighted to be supporting the Bradford South Asian Festival this year.
“The district is blessed with incredible artistic talent and rich cultural heritage, and we do everything we can to foster and support local arts.
“The programme looks wonderful, and I encourage everyone to make the most of this fantastic opportunity.”
This year’s BSAF will mark the important landmark dates with a mix of commemorative talks and workshops around the broader theme of Freedom, including a round-table, featuring the real-life partition and immigration experiences of Bradford and West Yorkshire residents, as well as an interactive Migration Map, where people will be able to chart their own and others’ immigrant journeys.
A Pitch and Pair project will partner artists and producers with community groups to help them interpret their own lived experiences through storytelling and creativity, whether that be through a piece of art or writing, or a performance.
There will also be discussion panels themed around mental health awareness, dementia and menopause, all designed to encourage dialogue on challenging and often taboo subjects.
BSAF is supported by Bradford Council, The Leap and Kala Sangam and will be taking place from 12 till 14 August 2022.