Artistic Highlight of the Week
I had the wonderful pleasure of seeing Mustafa at mac Birmingham this week brought to us by the lovely people at Kali Theatre and the Birmingham Rep. I also have Sampad to thank for finding me a ticket at incredibly short notice thanks to the power of Twitter. Social networking works!
The play was absolutely brilliant, all credit to the team at Kali and the wonderful writing of Naila Ahmed. The play explores the highly sensitive issue of Jinn and Exorcism within the Muslim Community. The script is an absolute gem with an all round excellent performance from the cast. Its always a pleasure to observe a beautifully scripted piece of theatre that connects with you as an audience member on a number of different levels. It appealed to the Muslim in me for tackling the issue of Jinn and Exorcism and the tried and tested partnership of Kali and the Rep has never failed to disappoint at an artistic level. Great to see a packed house at mac too! A wonderful experience all round.
Bumpy Road ahead for new arts organisations
There is no shortage of artistic excellence or appetite for risk taking amongst emerging new arts organisations in England. The challenges facing them lie not within their ability to articulate an artistic vision but in their ability to access funding, the human resources, physical space and partnerships that can breathe life into that vision. Human resource is absolutely critical, new organisations need access to a diverse range of skills, experiences and networks. For every great artist, producer and artistic director we need a supporting cast of talented administrators, technicians, project managers and enthusiastic champions at a board level. The success of an arts organisation is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
What support is available for new arts starts ups to be fit for purpose so they can hit the ground running and not get lost in the resource grab maze?
Animating the Olympic Torch Relay
I will not forget my first community consultation meeting in relation to animating the route for the Torch Relay across inner city Birmingham. At times it descended into comical farce as motion after motion to set up a steering group was ignored from the floor. It doesn’t help that many local neighbourhood forums have no access to funds and that bouncy castles are more of a priority than programming arts activity but I digress!
Credit where it’s due, the Community Games concept and the Inspire Mark have made a real impact. People love the concept of the games and feel empowered by the Inspire Mark. Having worked with our Cultural Olympiad team in the West Midlands they have done an excellent job. One of the biggest successes of the Cultural Olympiad has been the level of engagement amongst culturally diverse communities. The level of engagement through arts activity promoted through the Cultural Olympiad has outstripped the success of many any other arts funded initiatives.
Local Authority Funding
Local Authority arts funding is fast becoming a scarce resource and where it is available many new organisations are ineligible by default due to the plethora of policies required before an application can be considered let alone be submitted.
Surely there is way to cut through the red tape to see excellent art flourish in local communities that have for so long been deprived of high quality arts interventions outside of our large scale arts infrastructure.
The week that was drew to a close with me attending a documentary screening of a film following an Arab/American/Muslim American football team from Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan as they prepared for a big game against a local rival whilst observing the month of Ramadhan. The film dealt with some interesting narratives from the perspective of the young players, their teachers as well as their families and shed light into life for the largest Arab community outside of the Middle East post 9/11.
The Q and A with secondary and sixth form students at Small Heath School was equally compelling as students and staff from both Small Heath and Fordson High tackled issues of identity, nationality, faith and some of the challenges facing Muslim communities on both sides of the Atlantic. Our American Muslim counterparts have a stronger sense of patriotism and there is a lesser sense of the debate and controversy around multi culturalism that we have here in the UK and wider Europe. America seems much more at ease with the concept of being a nation of immigrants despite the many racial and religious tensions that no doubt exist in the USA.
I often find myself grappling with the am I British, Pakistani or Muslim debate, I feel I owe a little part of me to all three but with each being more or less important depending on the day and circumstances I find myself in, what can I say I am a complex personality!
Britain is undoubtedly home for me and I couldn’t see myself being more content anywhere else in the world. I guess if push came to shove it is easier for me to relate to the very clear and distinct set of values associated with my faith that are a more visible part of my DNA and day to day routine than finding the answer to the Holy Grail that is what does it mean to be British!
A love for cricket, football, fish and chips and a bygone age of classic ITV wrestling and British Sitcoms is the closest I get to being able to define my sense of all things British or is that just the Pakistani in me!
Until the next time enjoy your week ahead!