Aarohan Thoughts, Explorations and Case Studies on Cultural Leadership in Changing Times
Edited by Kulbir Natt
The Aarohan leadership programme is produced by Sampad in association with the Cultural Leadership Programme
›› The future depends on what we do in the present ››
Aarohan Thoughts, Explorations and Case Studies on Cultural Leadership in Changing Times Edited by Kulbir Natt
Published by Sampad South Asian Arts c/o mac, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, B12 9QH, UK www.sampad.org.uk Sampad is a registered charity no. 1088995 ÂŠ Copyright Sampad South Asian Arts 2010 ÂŠ Copyright of articles retained by the authors All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Design by davewalshcreative.co.uk Printed by Beamreach Printing
Contents 06 Preface 09 Arahoan Ahead by Hilary Carty 10 Aarohan: Developing a path for
leadership by Piali Ray OBE Aarohan: A continuing journey of discovery by Ranjit Sondhi CBE Improving Our Ability to be Leaders in the Cultural Sphere by Prabhu Guptara Leadership in a fast-changing world by Oliver Nyumbu Are we losing confidence in the intrinsic value of the arts? by Clayton Shaw Water from an ancient well by Sanjeevini Dutta The internationalism of class culture by Ni Singh
Aarohan Ahead participants and tutors at the second of three leadership retreats at Studley Castle in Warwickshire, 2009: Rajiv Anand, Tasawar Bashir, Mukhtar Dar, Dilbagh Dhami, Sanjeevini Dutta, Ranjana Ghatak, Skinder Hundal, Indy Hunjan, Urmala Jassal, Munmun KC, Alnoor Mitha, Supriya Nagarajan, Kulbir Natt, Shipra Ogra, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, Padma Rao, Piali Ray OBE, Clayton Shaw, Nigel Singh, Ranjit Sondhi CBE Photo, Ian Reynolds, i4images
35 ‘Mixed Race’ – the Potential of the
UK’s Largest Growing Ethnic Minority by Mark Gifford 38 Indiaahna Singh and the Temples of Bloom by Dilbagh Dhami 42 Creativity versus Profitability by Supriya Nagarajan 45 Building support for South Asian classical arts by Kulbir Natt 49 Asia Triennial Manchester by Alnoor Mitha 54 Three-dimensional movement in a ‘new’ game by Skinder Hundal 58 Beyond the Boxes – Working Inclusively with Diversity by Naz Koser 61 Ghulam of all trades – raja of some’ Savita Vij 65 Biographies
For those involved in the Aarohan cultural leadership programme it has been a journey of professional discovery. Together the original Aarohan programme (2007) and the Aarohan Ahead (2009), both organised by sampad with the support of the Cultural Leadership Programme, have brought together more than twenty five individuals working in the various fields of South Asian arts and culture, including music, theatre, literature, dance and visual arts. They include leading cultural innovators, directors of significant art galleries and venues, creative producers of cuttingedge arts projects, social activists-turned-artists and publishers all doing their bit to reshape Britainâ€™s cultural landscape. The programmes offered participants an opportunity to engage with leading thinkers, academics, high profile media writers and visionaries on issues of cultural leadership at the beginning of the 21st century. Over time, Aarohan has developed into a supportive professional network that the participants use in their day-to-day practice. This publication gives a small insight into the diversity of areas that individuals from the Aarohan programme come from and brings together essays, case studies and thoughts of the Aarohan participants. It also has writings by the organisers, sampad, the Cultural Leadership Programme and the established leaders who led the discussions and workshops. The publication brings together the work of several key people who deserve a mention. They include Piali Ray OBE, the Director of sampad and Ranjit Sondhi CBE, the Chair of sampad who chaired both the Aarohan programmes; Hilary Carty, the Director of the Cultural Leadership Programme and the rest of the team for backing the programmes; Skinder Hundal, who did much of the groundwork to set up the first Aarohan Programme and Clayton Shaw who did the same for the Aarohan Ahead Programme. For me itâ€™s been a pleasure bringing together this diverse set of writings that gives a small indication of Britainâ€™s vibrant cultural and artistic landscape. Kulbir Natt
Part of the visual minutes of an Aarohan Ahead seminar at South Bank Centre, London Image, Tim Casswell, Creative Connections
Aarohan Ahead by Hilary Carty, Director, Cultural Leadership Programme
In times of uncertainty the need for confident and creative leadership is greater than ever. The Cultural Leadership Programme ensures that leaders in the cultural and creative industries have the support and development opportunities to enable them to create great art and a dynamic cultural sector. This in turn creates dynamism in the UK, contributing to the quality of life and the economy. The recession of the 1990s led to a leadership gap and a cultural and creative sector that placed little value on leadership development and was spending a mere 0.3 per cent of its turnover on supporting its leaders, compared to 3 per cent in other sectors. The Cultural Leadership Programme (CLP) was launched in 2006 to help address that deficit. Over the past three years, the Programme has led a transformational change in the attitude of the cultural sector to leadership development. Some 20,000 professionals have participated in its programmes (one in eight sector leaders); it has established more than 900 coaching and mentoring relationships; run 45,000 training days; and arranged over fifty leadership placements for emerging and mid-career leaders. Action research from the first phase of the CLP highlighted the importance of work-based learning, entrepreneurial approaches and international engagement, as well as the value of embracing and delivering diversity. CLP’s success in the
area of diversity has been due to its holistic approach, targeting the discrete challenges of diverse leaders and supporting emerging, mid-career and established leaders to demonstrate the experience, knowledge and industry context for a viable and sustainable role in leading culture. Simultaneously, the CLP has encouraged and supported institutions to adapt their infrastructure to the exigencies and flexibilities necessary for successful diversity management. It requires ‘the long view’ of structural change and Aarohan Ahead is one of the CLP’s priority investments to strengthen diversity across the sector. With an ambitious range of targeted and tailored interventions, the CLP is seeking to secure its investment in leadership through the values, perspectives and aspirations of sector leaders as much as through the development of their skills and experience. The next paradigm in leadership demands a philosophical as well as a systems-based shift in the manifestation of leadership practice. In today’s environment leadership is negotiated, earned, tested and assigned in a dynamic interchange of ‘authority’ between leaders and ‘followers’ – sector providers and audiences. It is a time of challenge, and the Cultural Leadership Programme is working to ensure that sector leaders can and do meet the challenge, and succeed. 09
Aarohan: Developing a path for leadership by Piali Ray, OBE Director, sampad
The Aarohan Cultural Leadership Programme was set up to establish a network of young South Asian professionals who are working in the arts and are keen to establish themselves in positions where they can influence and shape its development in the future. This network would provide appropriate support and nurture UK professionals who understand the environment where they work, and provide space to attain an understanding of the key issues, characteristics, skills and knowledge required to develop a lead in a diverse cultural sector. sampad is keenly aware that historically there has been a shortage of leaders from the South Asian communities within the arts and cultural sectors of the UK. Indeed there has been little scope employed towards recognising the skills, knowledge and aptitude that could be developed and applied to mutual benefit of the individual and the cultural sector of diverse Britain today. 10
Current leadership from the South Asian sector for culturally specific or other arts organisations is mostly reflective of a senior generation of South Asians who received their formative training and skills in another country and have been able to successfully apply those in the UK context. Beyond this generation of leaders there is, without doubt, a layer of burgeoning talent, interest and ambition for leadership. Certainly a number of younger artists, entrepreneurs and media personalities have made their mark in society. However, targeted investment is needed in the subsidised sector, particularly where organisations are committed to serving the diverse communities with a strategic and cohesive development programme. Over the past two decades sampad has developed extensive links with arts practitioners and organisations nationally and internationally. This enabled us to develop a comprehensive overview of how and where South Asian arts can contribute most effectively to balance the art ecology
of the UK and beyond, and particularly in the evolving ‘British Asian’ vocabulary. The notion of ‘interculturality’ was essential towards developing a balanced and harmonious environment to position South Asian arts in the most relevant way in the UK’s increasingly diverse society. As South Asian art forms become more widely known and appreciated, the demand for South Asian arts practitioners as performers, producers, promoters and teachers will continue to increase. It was vital to ensure that there were individuals coming through into the next generation who would be able to provide the benchmark for a rapidly growing and developing South Asian arts and media sector. The Aarohan Cultural Leadership Programme enabled us to recognise and nurture new artistic and creative talent through business support, advice and guidance. There have been two parts to this programme. Aarohan provided
support to a group of young, dynamic leaders and began establishing a supportive network. Aarohan Ahead brought in more established leaders to provide them with the skills, knowledge and networks to further their careers. Both programmes have been aimed at addressing the needs of a new generation of emerging arts professionals at a pivotal point in their careers. The publication which brings together essays, case studies and thought pieces, mostly from the Aarohan Ahead participants, is testament to the fertile creativity in the South Asian arts sector. It shows that South Asian arts practitioners are continuing to be at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of contemporary practice and influencing Britain’s flourishing arts scene.
Aarohan leadership retreat participants Photo, sampad
Aarohan: A continuing journey of discovery by Ranjit Sondhi, CBE Chair, sampad
I realise now, at the end of my increasingly intimate association with sampad’s cultural leadership programme, Aarohan, over the last three years, that the experience has primarily been, at a personal level, about a deep, relentless self-interrogation of my own sense of being ‘South Asian’. But it has also been a journey closely shared with others, of discovery and re-discovery, of trying to deal with the chaotic construction of the self through the disciplines of a more refined study of both history and the arts, and of political context that leads from the absolutist notion of art-in-itself to the more relativist construction of art-asinterpretation. We have all had to deal with the necessity of addressing the dialectics between tradition and modernity, between preservation and change and between the real and the imagined, while being placed impossibly both inside and outside the frame of our (re)defined identities. 12
It has also been an essentially revelatory experience – unsettling and enlightening in the same instant. For those involved in the programme, expanding the cultural universe through the inexorable process of cultural democracy – regaining the right to tell one’s own story – has given rise to a vastly increased number of art forms, each claiming its own cultural space with force and conviction. There is now a greater depth and breadth of understanding and appreciation of the great complexity of South Asian artforms – some hitherto unknown even to the most well-informed among us. There is a breathtaking diversity and richness in the heritage to which we lay claim. There are now many more boundaries for cultural actors to cross and re-cross, even as there are potentially many more to preserve. Aarohan was always about giving legitimacy to cultural entrepreneurs of South Asian origin as they take their rightful positions alongside representatives of the dominant culture. They have become
increasingly comfortable in their role both as creators and critics. They are no longer confined to any pre-determined cultural space, they can choose to hold and express critical views on both their own specific cultural productions as well as those of others. Their agenda is not one simply of inclusion but of cultural liberation. Their voices contribute to the conceptual shift in the global intellectual culture. It seems to me that there is a tremendous gain when ‘South Asian’ cultural leaders can no longer be wholly contained by their specific national and ethnic status and the projects they lead are not constructed simply for the gratification of narrowly defined audiences. Such individuals are engaged not just in representing ‘us’ but also how the ‘others’ world has implicated ‘us’ through different periods of world history. They are also aware of the immense influence and power that the universal syntax, grammar and vocabulary of artforms possess in bursting through institutional boundaries to subvert the mainstream versions of Britain’s cultural heritage. No one doubts that these are contested issues. Sceptics will warn that crosscultural exchange between ‘South Asian’ and ‘British’ artists will weaken the heritage of both, instead of enriching them. They ignore two important observations. The first is that such exchanges give rise to hybrid artforms of great appeal to mixed audiences. Secondly, and perhaps more tellingly, they fail to acknowledge that cultural entrepreneurs, like the Aarohan participants, are invariably exceptionally well versed in the long-standing traditions of dance, music, theatre and literature from the Indian subcontinent. They maintain a deep respect for tradition but do not wallow in it. They know that traditions come from somewhere, from someone in particular –
but also that they are the result of endless, silent, inexorable transformations in our understanding of ourselves and the world we inhabit. Elsewhere in this publication, Aarohan participants bear witness to their resolve to go beyond the ‘diversity’ agenda that has largely been about the jealous, aggressive, triumphal preservation of cultural difference. They have addressed a number of issues that arise out of the way the world really is, the way people really are. There are views here on subtle leadership responses to culturally complex settings, gender asymmetry in the leadership of the cultural sector, the emergence of transnational identities, artists and their productions, the tension between religious sentiments and cultural expression, the challenge of people of mixed heritage, the future of funding for the arts, including the fraught question of philanthropic patronage, the unveiling of a complex internal diversity in a single tradition, the functional and ideological necessity of the classical art form – on the meaning and value of art itself. Skinder Hundal, identifying the knowledge, skills and wisdom required by a leader in the arts sector, likens the intricacies of that role to a game of threedimensional chess. Alnoor Mitha invokes the image of a digitally adept South Asian artist, with bases in multiple locations, now undertaking a ‘trans-local negotiation’ with the wider world with concepts of age, lineage and cultural legacy being rethought in the nexus of divisions among arts, crafts and technology. Dilbagh Dhami, acknowledging the immensely rich inheritance promulgated by religious institutions, gently urges us to move from a retro-active to a ‘future-active’ ethnic culture. Mark Gifford reminds us of fundamental questions posed by the rising populations of ‘mixed race’ communities 13
about the legitimacy of perpetual ethnic groupings. Kulbir Natt and Supriya Nagarajan wrestle with the vexed question of funding for the arts from the public and private sector and whether this affects artistic integrity and independence. Using the different traditions within Islam as an example, Naz Koser is emphatic about how the arts ignore a deep and complex internal diversity at their peril. Sanjeevini Dutta writes with conviction about how disciplined study and intensive practice lays the foundations of classical art forms that bind the performer and the audience in a special and mutually enriching relationship. Savita Vij warns about the limiting forces of ‘professionalism’ and exhorts future practitioners to explore new fields. Clayton Shaw reflects, with insight, on the need to emphasise the transformational power of art that derives from its ‘intrinsic value’ even as funding regimes are beginning to make their decisions more narrowly on its ‘functional value’.
Taken together, these writings amount to a serious ‘South Asian’ contribution to the current debate about re-imagining the national culture, and to modern notions of ‘Britishness’, that serves to rebalance the impact of ethnicity, language and religion against the equally powerful determinants of economic and social status in a rapidly changing landscape. The fact that they are based, in virtually every instance, on personal engagement in pioneering arts projects that have engaged increasingly diverse audiences, is a measure of the leadership potential that lies part hidden, part exposed in the Aarohan group. It will not be long before it is fully recognised.
Ranjit Sondhi chairing an Aarohan Ahead meeting at the Nehru Centre, London Photo, sampad
Improving our ability to be Leaders in the Cultural Sphere Celebrated thinker, academic and advisor to the corporate and public world, Professor Prabhu Guptara examines the idealism and high motivations of leaders of the UK’s cultural organisations, and how by paying attention to this and other factors, we can raise performance levels. Between the idealism and motivation there are gaps. Some of these gaps are what might be called internal, while others are external. The internal dimension relates to personal qualities of leadership. One must have an honest understanding of oneself in terms of what one knows and does not know, and what one can do and what one cannot do. That is not easy or simple. There are many things that ‘one does not know that one does not know’, and there are things that we think we know adequately till bitter experience reveals the contrary to us. In fact, which of us can say that he or she really understands, for example, even what drives us to be leaders? For nonleaders the question of what motivates them may be important in an exclusively psychological or spiritual sense. For us leaders the question of motivation is important also in a practical sense: the clearer one is about one’s motivations
(what the motivations are, versus what they should be!), the better it is for the leader. Exercising one’s ability to look into oneself honestly is important. Individuals who become great leaders make it a regular practice to spend time examining themselves before whatever God they believe in, whether that be money, pleasure, power, popularity, or (more desirably) some ideal, principle or person. Self-examination of our motivations and abilities, our knowledge and ignorance takes a degree of honesty with oneself that can be painful but is always worthwhile. Another point is about leaders as energetic people. It is easy for us to ignore, or perhaps never realise, that it is our followers who determine if we are successful as leaders. Obviously, followers will be uninspired if they do not trust, or otherwise lack confidence in us as leaders. To be successful we have to somehow 15
‘convince without trying to convince’ our followers that we are worthy of being followed. Too often, too many of us are trying to impress ourselves, our peers or our superiors! Moreover, even if we are actually worthy of being followed, we have to have the technical ability to hold and to guide our followers. Followers are of different sorts, and therefore require different styles of leadership. For example, a new follower requires more supervision than an experienced follower. Moreover, followers can be poorly motivated or easily discouraged, and these require a different approach compared to those who are selfstarters or those who are naturally persistent, optimistic or have greater stamina. Hershey & Blanchard’s suggested the following guide to interactions with followers:
also the leadership style needed for each situation. For example, you may need to confront an employee for inappropriate behaviour, but if the confrontation is too late or too early, too harsh or too weak, then the results may prove ineffective or even counter-productive. So how could one define leadership? One reasonably good definition of leadership is that it is the ability to exercise influence for the purpose of achieving one or more goals by applying one’s beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge and skills. People exercise leadership in two principal ways:
• • • •
Most of us may be focusing on the second area, and not enough on the first area. It is linked with a deeper point. Are we actually managers or are we leaders? MANAGERS assess tasks and develop strategies to accomplish those tasks, focusing on day-to-day operations and issues, while LEADERS look more to the future (are ‘visionary’); they interpret the environment and shape the organisation in order to try to secure a more successful future for the organisation. Look at it this way: if you are appointed to a leadership position, you are clearly a ‘designated leader’. But that does not by itself make you a real leader. The question is: have you won, or are you winning or earning recognition from your juniors as a leader on the basis of your ability and/or other characteristics? Although your position as a manager, supervisor, et. al., gives you the authority to accomplish certain tasks and objectives in the organisation, such power does not make you a leader...it simply makes you the boss.
Highly immature?: Tell Moderately immature?: Sell Moderately mature?: Discuss Highly mature?: Delegate.
So a second point is that to be a good leader, you need to deal with people according to their own personalities – and to do that, you need to have a good understanding of your people, their needs, emotions and motivation. Another technical ability is communication, and that is not simply the messages you send out but also the messages which others in your leadership team send out. Much of this is non-verbal: how you behave is as much part of communication as what you say. What you do ‘sets the example’. Your behaviour and actions either build up or weaken the relationship between you and your subordinates. Another matter is the overall situation in which communication is taking place and to choose not only the best course of action but 16
By shaping their organisation to make it more cohesive and coherent By influencing individuals to accomplish a mission, task or objective.
Leadership makes people want to achieve high goals and objectives, while bosses tell people to accomplish a task or objective. A good phrase to keep in mind is that ‘leaders unleash the optional energy of their followers’. What is ‘optional energy’? That energy which followers do not need to spend in order to retain their jobs. That energy which takes them beyond their job descriptions, beyond the call of duty. And this is the difference between an organisation that is merely managing to exist versus an organisation that is making real impact. Some of us become leaders because of our personality traits; others may find that a crisis or important event has caused us to rise to the occasion, which has brought out previously unknown or even extraordinary qualities in what was, earlier, an apparently ordinary person. But some people choose to become leaders by learning leadership skills. And the truth is that, if you have the desire and willpower, you can become an effective leader at your own highest level. You can rise to your full potential through a continuous process of self-study and training – but most importantly, experience and mentoring. Back to the followers. They observe what you do and deduce from that some ideas of who you really are. For example, they decide whether you are competent or incompetent, and whether you are honourable and trustworthy, or only a self-serving person who uses authority to look good and get promoted. Self-serving leaders may well be effective in the short run, because their employees have to obey them. Self-serving leaders succeed in many areas, at least for some time, because they present a good image to their superiors at the expense of their colleagues. But self-serving leaders are not successful in the long term, because they have merely employees, not true followers.
In your subordinate’s eyes, your leadership consists of everything you do that affects the organisation’s objectives and their wellbeing. That includes: competence, ability, character and dedication to your organisation’s goals. Respected leaders not only have clear beliefs and character, but also an understanding of their people and of the tasks that need to be done; on that basis, they implement, provide direction and motivate. It is probably time now to turn the hourglass around and look at the entire subject from the bottom up by asking the question: What makes us follow leaders? If we analyse why we have ourselves followed leaders, we will probably conclude that it is our perception of three things: 1. Their level of competence and ability, 2. Their values-in-action, and 3. Their sense of direction. And ‘sense of direction’ also consists of three things: 1. 2. 3.
The ability to convey A believable vision of the future, as well as A convincing view of how to get there.
Leaders are in fact social architects. It is their job to analyse the environment, and then design strategy and structure, so that things can actually take place and make an impact, while maintaining room for experimentation and adaptation. By contrast, if leaders drop their vision too much to detail, they end up becoming petty tyrants and de-motivating followers. The challenge is that some attention to detail is always needed – because the devil is always in the detail. Effective leaders are neither pushovers nor abdicators; 17
they are catalysts and servants who support, advocate and empower. In practice, this means not merely believing in your people, but communicating that belief effectively; further, being a catalyst and servant means visibility and accessibility; it means finding ways of increasing participation by everyone, sharing information, and moving decision-making down to lower levels in your organisation. Effective leaders build coalitions by clarifying what they want and what they can get; by assessing the distribution of power and interests; by building linkages to other stakeholders; by using persuasion first, and using negotiation and coercion only if necessary. Regretfully, applying pressure and attempting manipulation are common tactics, but lead in the long term to ineffectiveness. Effective leaders are prophetic, inspirational. They understand that an organisation is a stage to play certain roles and give impressions; that they have to use symbols to capture attention; and they have to try to frame experience by providing plausible interpretations of experiences. Ineffective leaders either do not understand the partially-theatrical nature of organisations, or come across as fanatics or fools, or people merely using smoke and mirrors. Fred Fiedler proposed three areas to think about: • • •
Leader-Member Relations (Good/Poor) Task Structure (Structured/Unstructured) Leader Position Power (Strong/Weak)
This is somewhat similar to, but also dissimilar from, the three overlapping circles proposed by Professor John Adair, the world’s first Professor of Leadership, 18
who describes leadership as a functional relationship between the three basic variables: task, individual and team. In brief, his point is that if the task needs a team to accomplish it, then building and maintaining the team is an essential component of accomplishing the goal. If the team needs are not met the task will suffer and the individuals will not be satisfied. But a team, in turn, cannot be maintained or built up if the needs of the individuals in the team are not met. We can learn a lot about improving our effectiveness if we look at how we do our job as leaders by viewing it in turn from the perspective of the task, the team and the individual. Another part of the jigsaw is that, too often, we tend to choose people with the same type of personality as ourselves, or to go for our favourite person, but this weakens a team’s ability to approach problems and implementation-questions holistically. The question of organisational and national cultures is also important. There are differences in culture (or in ‘how things are done around here’) in ethics and religion, but also in work-related matters. One way of classifying the world cultures is into Green, Black, Red, White. Green cultures are oriented to ‘pie in the sky when you die’ and tend to make no substantial ‘material progress’ (examples are India and Indian-influenced civilisations, such as Bali, through many, though not all, phases of history). Black cultures can be thought of as traditional cultures round the world which lived so much in fear of the unknown and/or awe of nature and/or awe of the supernatural that they also tended to live in a highly sustainable mode but without making what we today call material progress. By contrast, Red cultures have an almost pathological lack of fear of the unknown
and make - untrammelled ‘progress’– e.g. Western/global society since about 1900. White cultures were or are marked by love of humans, God and nature, and drive towards balanced progress even if they never achieve it of course (examples are Reformation societies, the Methodist movement, the Clapham Group/Victorian England). A quicker way of classifying societies is in terms of Task Cultures versus Relationship Cultures. Some cultures are relatively taskfocused (e.g. northern Europe and North America) while others, basically the rest of the world, is relationship-focused. The point here is a difference of emphasis. In one case, for example, you can easily do business with people you do not know or may not even like (‘business is business’); in the other case, you only do business with people you like and trust (‘how can you dream of doing business with someone you don’t know?’). Another way of distinguishing between cultures is on the basis of the degree to which they are guilt-oriented versus the degree to which they are shame-oriented. This influences the degree to which the culture is committed to penalties that are perceived to be proportionate to an offence, in contrast to the degree to which the culture is committed to penalties are tokenistic or disproportionately huge. This is really the difference between cultures that believe, when you do something wrong, that you should ‘pay and go free’ versus those that believe that, if you do something wrong, it can basically never be paid off because you have what is sometimes described as ‘a black face’. It is also interesting that there is an emerging international acceptance of Biblical ethics. Something in the human heart recognises what is right, regardless of the system of belief in which one is brought up. As India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru put it: “I am a Hindu by
birth, a Buddhist by philosophy, a Muslim by culture, and a Christian in ethics.” Yet another way to think about these matters is to think of the degree to which cultures are built on absolutes versus relativism. In some the absolute tends to dominate (think of Iran today), while in others the relativistic or pragmatic tends to dominate (e.g. in the USA). I am not saying that no one in Iran is pragmatic, nor am I saying that no one in the USA believes in absolute standards for example of morality! Still less am I recommending either alternative! I am simply trying to draw your attention to ways in which we can think of cultural differences. By the way, it is interesting that, as cultures lose belief in their Absolute (whatever that is), they also lose cultural cohesion, producing subcultures that are mutually uncomprehending and opposed to each other – as is happening in the USA today. These insights, and many others that have not been touched upon, are all part of what needs to be considered as we try to improve our performance as leaders.
Leadership in a fast-changing world Words by Oliver Nyumbu, CEO Caret
It can be tempting to believe leaders are paid to be busy – very busy, even. Nonetheless, a core purpose of leadership is actually that of ensuring their organisation achieves its purpose and priorities in the most effective and efficient way possible. This also assumes consistently operating according to an organisation’s espoused values. Great in theory perhaps, but, as many organisational leaders know... Change Von Moltke, Bismarck’s commander-inchief, has been called one of the greatest military strategists there has ever been. He is credited with saying no plan survives contact with the enemy. For organisational leaders this underlines the paradox of becoming better at planning and being 20
›› In times of change, the learners will inherit the earth while the knowers will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. ›› Eric Hoffer (1902–1983) prepared for change. And, any plan worth its salt should be centrally concerned with achieving excellence. By extension, change is about pursuing that excellence despite unanticipated shifts in either the external environment or organisational circumstances or both. “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change,” said the naturalist Charles Darwin. Skilfully responsive to change could be considered an essential part of any leader’s Job Description. Values Values can be very powerful in helping an organisation pursue its dreams and avoid or minimise predictable surprises. Consider, for example, the use of values at
the McLaren Group (it owns McLaren Racing, the company behind the Formula One racing team) to strengthen competitive advantage. The McLaren Group has crystallised its values into five action statements: • We win • We make things happen • We take it personally • We work together • We enjoy what we do How about your organisation: does its list of values have such a strong bias for action? For many organisations this is a challenge yelling out for urgent attention. McLaren Group’s Head of HR puts it thus: “The concept of winning is palpable. You can almost touch it. If McLaren wins, people are joyous. If there is a bad race, they are desolate and self-critical, but even more determined to win next time.” This daily translation of values into business outcomes is crucial.
Engagement – leading to inspire In a tongue-in-cheek way, one senior manager told me some of the employees in his organisation were retired but could not afford to not keep turning up for work. Instead, they became retired on the job – disengaged employees. Imagine that in the morning, every person you manage wears an invisible T-shirt bearing the words ‘Make me feel special today’. Practical actions a line manager can take include: letting those you manage know what progress they are making in their work; making expectations as clear as it is possible to get; providing feedback regarding unacceptable performance and behaviour; giving focused positive feedback. These are part of what a manager is paid to do.
Oliver Nyumbu leads an Aarohan Ahead retreat session at the Nehru Centre, London Photo, sampad
Clearly, leadership is not everything. It never is. Equally clear though is the idea that leadership affects everything. Indeed, as Goran Ekvall reports, 67 per cent of the creative environment in any organisation is directly attributable to the attitude and behaviour of the leader. At a time when organisations need to achieve more (far more) with a reducing recourse base it is critical that leaders create a climate which energises and engages employees. To inspire is to motivate, stir, encourage, enthuse or move others. In these times when fear and holding back are dominant emotions, it is important that leaders learn to behave in ways which enable employees to be fully engaged at work. Focusing on the behaviour of leaders, a study investigated the likelihood of active disengagement if a leader primarily focused on: employees’ strengths; employees’ weaknesses; or simply ignored the employees. Likelihood of Leader’s becoming actively behaviour disengaged Focus on strengths 1% Focus on weaknesses 22 % Ignore 40 % As this Gallup study shows, the impact of leaders’ attitude and behaviour can be truly amazing – destructive, even. Small wonder that other research has found that around 70 per cent of people voluntarily leaving their employer are leaving their line manager rather than the employing organisation. ‘Know Thyself ’ It is not clear whether it was Socrates or someone else who first popularised ‘Know Thyself ’. Nevertheless, what is evidently clear is the fact that both the leader and those they lead can benefit from the leader’s increased self-knowledge. I recently had the 22
‘good fortune’ of sitting in on a conversation between three senior leaders from the arts sector. Throughout a twohour train journey, the leader that dominated the discussion never once asked a single question – of anybody!! So, as a leader, how strong is your selfawareness or self-knowledge? In his book Element, Sir Ken Robinson suggests four characteristics of someone who is truly in their ‘element’: The Features: Aptitude – “I get it” Passion – “I love it” The Conditions: Attitude – “I want it” Opportunity – “Where is it?” Without ever developing selfknowledge, it can be difficult to be effective in managing oneself. In self-management, the leader takes responsibility for how they impact other people and how they manage responsibilities in general. And finally... A soldier being entitled to competent command was already an established maxim by the time of Julius Caesar. What might you do to deliver on this entitlement your people have?
Are we losing confidence in the intrinsic value of the arts? In today’s climate of economic stringency, Clayton Shaw explores the challenges that creative people face in using the intrinsic value of justifying the worth of the arts and a way forward from this. Sooner or later the arguments about the intrinsic value of arts steer a path towards the ‘art for art’s sake’ cul-de-sac. Disagreements surface as to who art is for and whether it is solely the preserve of the middle classes, and questioning the notion of high and low arts. Arts policy-makers often fall into what are becoming more conventional forms of value-based (economic, workforce development, crime-fighting, or health benefits) criteria to support artistic activity. Intrinsic artistic benefits seem to be sidelined. Equally, within some quarters of the arts sector there is nervousness about the idea of introducing more targets. However, if intrinsic values were understood on their own merits it would not always be necessary to prioritise measuring other more instrumental targets. That is not to say that supporting instrumental benefits is a bad thing: in many cases, the arts can and 23
Tabla, an Indian instrument now widely used in numerous cross-cultural musical collaborations Photo, Richard Battye c/o sampad
do provide a perfectly legitimate role in addressing non-arts related issues. For example, there are reciprocal benefits for both culture and the economy in creating vibrant places to live and work and creating a greater sense of wellbeing. The question is whether there should be a wider understanding in how arts spending is valued and measured. The problem is that as we become more settled into a world of measurements and targets, the ‘un-measurable’ value-based factors such as intrinsic value may lose voice and potency. Moreover, as we enter a period of national financial constraints and increased pressure on the public purse, intrinsic value-based arguments are likely to be drowned out. Perhaps more than ever, there is a greater need for us to support the arts to build confidence and speak up for themselves; for us to define powerful arguments that are easily understood alongside the more widely understood instrumental arguments. How did we get here? The arts sector has quite rightly spent a lot of time finding out what it is that people value about the arts. For example, Arts Council England ran a campaign called the Arts Debate to unpick exactly what it was that the public wanted and the ways in which it benefited from the arts. However, there are few, if any, methodologies to measure such values. Meanwhile, models measuring instrumental benefits are being utilised across a spectrum of policy areas. The arts must play ‘catch-up’, to prevent arts policy measurements simply incorporating other measurement tools as standard practice. This is likely to mean that artistic products are viewed as less of a priority. What is the solution and how can the arts sector become a leading voice? Since the romantic period, it is claimed that the arts have transformational powers;
a statement used to this day by arts policymakers. Such a statement suggests that the arts can, and do, have an influential and leading role to play in society. However, in order to maintain the powers of transformation, the sector needs to ensure an ever-developing and broadening pool of artistic references, symbols, languages and voices. A problem for John Holden from Demos in examining the extent to which cultural organisations use instrumental arguments to justify their public funding is that the funding system is not confident enough to take risks. Result: a widespread support of safe bets and mediocre work. During the Aarohan Ahead Cultural Leadership Programme course we were warned about the ease with which collectively as individuals within groups, the mix of under-performers, high achievers, and those that are somewhere in between can mean that it is all too easy to fall into the trap of mediocrity. Through a transformational leadership approach, where artists and arts leaders effect change by empowering others to lead and inspire, and ultimately exceed performance, there may be a way to bring to the fore the importance of the intrinsic in a more measured way. It is all well and good to repeatedly utilise the often said notion of the transformational power of the arts as a way to justify why we do what we do, but finding the language to convince the world and quantifying this intrinsic value is not so easy.
We could look at how the arts often communicate and inspire people. I believe good artistic communication arises out of the developed technical expertise of the artist – whatever the art form, the ability to clearly convey a message via the art form, and the ability to convey his or her message in a way that resonates emotionally, intellectually, or provokes thinking in the individual that is experiencing it. Known in Sanskrit as a rasa, the emotional ‘essence’ or ‘juice’ of a work of art is communicated to evoke an emotion in the receiver of the work. These ideas seem plausible given that we are, after all, emotional beings. Adding to this some of the ideas discussed by Professor Prabhu Guptara during the Aarohan Ahead programme, humans inherently long for relationships; for example, with other people, with ideas, with religious beliefs and gods. Therefore, it could be said that there is an inherent relationship between the audience and the artist, bound together by the language and expression of the artist’s work. Such a relationship can help to define who we are as individuals, and ultimately as a society. Combined with the effective transmission of artistic expression this can develop new languages to affect the depth of the relationship between audience and artist, and affect the way we interact and build relationships with others. All beneficial and rewarding consequences of engaging with the arts; the challenge is to make such ideas more clearly understood. The strange thing is many of us already know that the arts have something valuable to give, other than economic benefits alone. Politicians talk about how the arts enrich life. Research shows that people value the arts. Holden poses a framework to maximise cultural value by according it status through taking into account professional expertise to 26
justify public spending to funders, and providing legitimacy of public support. This idea was further developed through key reports by Brian McMaster and Baroness Ginesta McIntosh. Both recommended the need for judgements on quality to be made through peer review and strengthening the confidence in the arts funding system. While this may indeed be a way forward, one cannot rule out the transformational cultural shifts afforded by artists. Inspirational yet controversial works are not always met with public and professional approval; they can challenge the status quo (or mediocrity) and demonstrate the place of the artist in moving and transforming language, ideas and culture. Finding a way to measure the importance of this could legitimise the intrinsic ‘voice’ of the artist as an equally valuable asset, and support the claim made about the arts as a vehicle for transformation. The public, artists, producers, curators, arts organisations, policy-makers and government need to understand the lines of communication to effectively reveal the merits of artistic intrinsic value. We know intrinsic benefits exist and the impact that the arts can have upon us as individuals; we just need to take collective responsibility in leading the way in asserting a valid rationale. We need to be able to put aside age-old arguments that only serve to muddy the waters and talk about intrinsic values as confidently as we talk about instrumental values. The landscape is shifting and there is a greater need for us all to lead in telling our own stories that can make evident the transformational power of art in order for the arts to sustain a strong and relevant position in society.
Classical Indian instruments, now woven into the fabric of Britainâ€™s musical landscape Photo, Richard Battye c/o sampad
Water from an ancient well Classical art forms – why sustain and grow? In an era of globalised markets and increasing choice for people on how to use their leisure time, Sanjeevini Dutta looks at the flattening of difference and the need to maintain classical art forms. Regard these two, perhaps related, statistics: talent show X Factor was regularly watched by almost ten million television viewers in the UK and Manchester United Football Club is as popular in many parts of Asia as it is in Britain; sitting in a Mumbai suburban train, the youth opposite debate the relative merits of Owen and Ronaldo. Premier League football, Bollywood/Hollywood et al films and reality television programmes are the stock fodder of millions of earth dwellers. Why then do we need to exert so much energy and effort in keeping South Asian classical art forms? Should we not just lie down in front of the Colossus and give in to the force of the ‘mainstream’? Clearly, many of us working in this field have resisted this temptation. One reason may be because we feel that these classical cultural forms uphold the wisdom of the ancestors. Raga music has history of hundreds of years. Classical dance forms have been described in great detail in the 28
Natya Shastra (fourth century AD). These forms of music and dance, as they have rolled down the years have both absorbed and reflected the thoughts, beliefs and practices of the peoples of the sub-continent. They contain the landscape and seasons, the religion and mythology. In a term borrowed from South African jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, the traditional forms represent ‘water from an ancient well’. Generations have contributed to enriching and refining the classical arts. The music and dance are reflective of a communal spirit. The art is passed down from teacher to student directly, in an unbroken but evolving condition. Authorship is less important than a seasoned rendition of vocal or instrumental music, the interpretation of a lyric in dance or the mathematical genius of a jati, a rhythmic composition. The skill of interpretation is recognised and lauded but the creations do not carry the signature
London Sitar Ensemble Photo, Simon Richardson
Student Natalia Hildner receiving guidance from Pandit Birju Maharaj at the Kadam International Summer School Photo, Simon Richardson
of their originators. Indian music does not have a Bach or a Beethoven. There is a less individualistic spirit to Indian arts where a natural growth to the form is more usual than dramatic breaks. The writer Amit Chaudhuri, in his novel The Immortals, addresses this issue of art whose author is unknown. Through the protagonist Nirmalya, he muses upon the origin of raga music and comes to the conclusion that it is self-born, “it refers to those immemorial residues of culture that could not be explained or circumscribed by authorship.” This often pits the Eastern and Western aesthetic principles against each other. Classical forms adhere to values that are antidotes to capitalist consumer cultures. Art is not consumed; it’s worked on both by the artist and the receiver. They are like ‘slow food’ releasing energy gradually, which satisfies a deeper hunger. The instant gratification of a burger it is not. Neither is it built on fashion, hype and celebrity. Aside from the very few exceptions, great musicians and dancers are not media figures. They are mostly fairly down-toearth people known and respected for their dedication to art and for their wisdom acquired from the sadhana, or the steadfast practice of their art. Birju Maharaj, the great kathak maestro, can keep audiences enthralled by his sharing of stories and observations touching on human and spiritual. Referring to the idea of God within all, he told a group of students recently “when you dance, Krishna is dancing with you; only the mad man dances alone.” The role of the receiver or audience member is crucial in the experience of the art. S/he partners the artist in the journey from the self to the universal. To hear the pathos and compassion of a Charueski raga takes the listener from petty worries and reminds them of their place as part of
humanity and the cosmos. Both maker and receiver have shared rasa, literally tasted the juice or the essence, which opens the door to moksha, or freedom from the mortal world of ordinary experience, to lose all ego and become one with the universe. Even though artists and their audiences may fall well short of the goal of moksha, at least the aspiration exists towards a non-materialistic end. The highest state that a human being can achieve has nothing to do with wealth and fame. South Asian arts cherish tradition and continuity over revolutionary breaks and innovation. This divergence becomes a source of friction between the cultures of East and West. Whereas originality and the individual voice are hugely revered in the West, South Asian systems applaud the virtuosity of the singer or dancer. It is not uncommon to hear some artists boasting about their ten or twelve-hour practice regimes. Asian artists in the UK who have broken through to the mainstream are a handful like Akram Khan and Nitin Sawhney who extended their techniques to embrace Western forms and create new structures. Classical artists who have stayed within their traditions such as Dharambir Singh, the sitarist, or Nahid Siddiqui, the kathak dancer, could never command the same audience. However, the existence of traditional arts within the UK is a constant reminder and challenger to the existing Western canon. The great African trumpeter, Hugh Maskela, put the same point across to John Humphrys in BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We want to retain our traditional forms, it’s who we are.” Practising South Asian forms and living in the West offers us the most wonderful opportunities to innovate, as it is a truism to say that great art happens at the edges. Yet we need the traditional forms to be able to break away from them.
‘The internationalism of class culture’ Black, Asian or Western European, the class divide is alive and kicking in culture! From Mumbai to Burma, London to Shanghai, Kingston to Cairo there are patterns that have emerged regarding audiences for the arts. The patterns are not hard to spot – no elaborate Dan Brown plot here. It is simple. It’s a perception that certain art forms are enjoyed by certain classes. Nigel Singh takes a closer look.
Politicians and commentators among many tend to approach the issue of class with a certain trepidation. Nevertheless, without delving into the semantic discussion, why is it perceived that some art forms are the preserve of particular classes? Are these arts the bastion of the bourgeoisie? Has class continued to define what is ‘high art’ and the global audiences for these art forms? Even certain working-class art forms such as flamenco or textile crafts have been elevated from their humble beginnings to ‘high art’ status. Why with differing cultures, language and philosophies has this occurred? To quote one unnamed Indo classical musician: “The audiences I play to nowadays are 80% over 45 years old, with a high level of education if they are Indian they tend to be doctors.” Another, again unnamed, experienced tabla player speaks of his experience: “Ten years ago, literally 2% of the audience was Indian, it seemed Asian audiences were not appreciating their own traditions – today things have changed. However, I believe your background can determine whether you value and listen to the music.” Why has this occurred? Clearly there is an elaborate class conspiracy devised by purists and classicalists wishing to maintain the sanctity of certain art forms. Surely practitioners and promoters of Asian or Western classical art (in particular performance arts) have a monetary interest in ensuring this elite audience for their art is maintained? Is this a Marxist inevitability
Western classical music, at the Birmingham Symphony Hall, remains largely the preserve of the white middle classes
or are the issues deeper and more complex? This has much to do with classicalism versus modernity and access, education and upbringing. Classicalism is keen to maintain the formal value and aesthetic of the form – this is what many ‘classicalists’ are predominantly interested in. Therefore, whether it be a traditional sitar composition or Western orchestral movement, maintaining purity and tradition is of the utmost importance. Keep it pure: don’t be mixing dub with orchestral, or flamenco with hip-hop, and as for that Vanessa May, well… This is something that transcends all international boundaries and generations. It is something that is passed down through generations and (as a value) is packed as carefully as Dutch pot or wok when communities migrate across our evershrinking globe. It also has a lot to do with understanding and being comfortable with the work, an issue that many cultural behemoths continue to address through educational and outreach provision with varying commitment, and results can be very tokenistic. The introduction of several audience development initiatives by the Arts Council, the most recent – A Night Less Ordinary – responded to this critique and sought to offer subsidised theatre tickets to new audiences. However, the complexities related to barriers to entry for new audiences are great and we eagerly await evaluations of this initiative. There is no denying the price factor. The production costs associated with theatre, opera and classical music are great – just one of the arguments made for maintaining high state subsidies for these art forms. Tickets to the ballet or opera can set you back a good £120–150 for a pair and the value placed on these performances by loyal audiences means that, even in a time of recession, houses are still packed.
Photo, Mike Gutteridge
For me, the issue of class lies in the roots of patronage and particularly arts patronage. Arts patronage dates back to pre-modern, medieval and Renaissance Europe and feudal Asian societies where a monarchical system was strong and dominant. Historical fact – the ruling classes have used arts patronage to endorse and further their political ambitions, social standing and position. Kathak dance originates from Hindu temples, is associated with the Indian courts and palaces of Jaipur, Delhi and Agra and was re-invigorated by the tenth and last Nawab of Awadh (1847–56). The Medicis patronised art big-time! Mozart, Beethoven, Da Vinci all relied heavily on those ruling elites commissioning and championing their work – from monarchy to church. The resources required to support and maintain the arts, venues and players were such that only the privileged elite few could afford to invest in what were essentially viewed as luxurious frivolity. However, come industrialisation and the rise of the manufacturing middle classes, this pattern changed. The cotton kings, coffee barons and plantation owners now had more money than sensibility and the means to buy into this thing called art. If they could not get to the Royal Opera House, then they would damn well build their own facsimiles in Santiago, Georgetown or Delhi. The development of civic and democratic systems and structures meant that the patronage system was now replaced by a mixed economy; public systems and corporate giving collectively supporting museums, theatres and encouraging mass audiences and mass consumption of art. Let’s not forget the technological revolution which has had the effect of lowering the production and associated start-up costs of a variety of art forms and created new ones. True to Marxist ideology, 34
control of the means of production has certainly shifted. Artistic talent is, of course, classless. The route to excellence, however, is not. The fact is that many great artists have upbringings far from those afforded to the wealthy and landed patrons and audiences who support their practice. Look at the Chinese state system that encourages young classical music protégés from a phenomenally young age. How does this contradiction sit with those artists who strive to innovate and who play to audiences so far different from their family and community background? Both our musicians have had varying experiences in their development. The tabla player confirms that those who taught him were very supportive of his development and digression into ‘non classical’ art forms as long as practice and perfectionism were maintained. Says our Indo classical player: “Indian Classical music is a very specialised form of music and only through long-term education will that change.” To draw this discourse to an end, class remains a defining factor in many ways. As Marx stipulated, class is an international phenomenon and it is no surprise that art is shaped within this context. The links between class and education are well documented. Can this hinder the development of artists? I believe your upbringing and interaction with formal and informal learning affects openness to musical appreciation and career development, both positively and negatively. Finally, do I subscribe to Marxist ideology? Well, actually I prefer the sentiment of Lennon, although I am not really sure why we should be giving ‘peas’ a chance.
‘Mixed Race’ – the Potential of the UK’s Largest Growing Ethnic Minority The rise to political pre-eminence of President Barack Obama highlights one of the most significant features in the development of racial identity in the post-colonial Western world – the dramatic increase and success of those with ‘mixedrace’ heritage. He illustrates some of the interesting possibilities the presence of a large mixed-race population may offer society. Mark Gifford delves into the issues raised by growing numbers of people with ‘mixed-race’ heritage. In the UK the ‘mixed-race’ population represents the fastest growing ethnic minority group and is set to become the largest by 2020. If a survey commissioned by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is correct, currently one in ten British children live in a mixed-race family. The statistic is striking and includes the similarly remarkable claim that half of all children of Caribbean heritage have a white parent. This marks a rise of 10 per cent in just fourteen years. Similar levels of growth characterise other communities, even those traditionally more resistant to interracial relationships. The most dramatic shift has taken place in London, where in inner-city primary schools, more than a quarter of the children are mixed race.
Although these statistics are impressive, they obscure an otherwise obvious truth – that the so-called mixed-race ethnic ‘group’ is not a group at all – at least not in the same sense as others. These groups can each identify themselves, at least partially, as being a ‘community’, with some kind of common geographical or cultural origin. The mixed-race group on the other hand is not a community, shares no common culture and has no collective identity. Instead, and uniquely, those of mixed race inhabit many communities, experience multiple cultures, and are capable of possessing a fluid and broad identity. And it’s in this that the special significance of this ‘group’ lies.
Ever-increasing contact and relationships between different cultures, faiths and nations characterises the world’s recent history. It is happening on an unprecedented scale and will be one of the fundamental trends of the future. It gives rise to tremendous potential for development of all kinds: economic, intellectual, spiritual and artistic capital. However, it also gives rise to powerful tensions, exacerbated by inequality and injustice, which need to be successfully negotiated if that full potential is to be realised. What’s needed then are mediators between cultures; those who are able to bridge apparent division, understand one culture within the terms of another, and articulate the common human experience underlying them all. This is the challenge faced by all those who aspire to cultural and political leadership and it is where those of mixed heritage will be of special value. There are certainly challenges associated with the growth of the mixedrace group. Research shows that people of mixed race are more likely to be victims of crime than any other ethnic minority. There is concern in some communities at a growing perception that ‘success’ is illustrated by being in a relationship with a white person or a lighter-skinned, mixed-race person. There is also the challenge commonly faced by those of mixed race in integrating their diverse heritage. This challenge can be experienced as particularly difficult if the relationship between the parents was problematic. Yet while the challenges may be significant, the opportunity is at least as great. Barack Obama’s first book Dreams from my Father is a sensitive and emotionally resonant reflection upon this process, as he experienced it as a child and young man. Obama’s successful bid for the Presidency was in large part based upon 36
his perceived ability to heal rifts that had emerged within American society and in the USA’s relationship with the rest of the world. An ability to reconcile can be directly related, in Obama’s case, to his heterogeneous origins and experiences. His story illustrates, in a particularly striking way, the singular advantage of a diverse heritage. It shows how exposure to the different worlds that mixed-race people often experience can help encourage a broader ability to empathise, to identify a wider stock of common human experience, and from that to develop sympathy for communities one might otherwise have no experience of at all. This process is obviously not limited to people of mixed race, for anyone can experience the same, to a greater or lesser degree, as they encounter a new culture.
Barack Obama, change in politics and society and Bob Marley, music cutting across cultural boundaries
However, with people of mixed race, who are more likely to be completely immersed in different cultures, the process can often be fundamental. It can support (even compel) the development of a personal identity that transcends race, and is based upon something more fundamental and universal. Bob Marley, the son of a black Jamaican mother and white Jamaican/British father, articulated his relationship to his own racial identity and ultimate transcendence of it in this way: “I don’t have prejudice against myself. My father was a white and my mother was black. Them call me half-caste or whatever. Me don’t dip on nobody’s side. Me don’t dip on the black man’s side nor the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white.” Personal identity with something deeper than race supports the individual to bridge what is superficially separate and reconcile what is apparently different. Barack Obama, Bob Marley and others like them are pioneers of a future global civilisation, one less limited by divisions of caste and creed, but mindful of and bound by a sense of interconnection and common humanity. Bob Marley put it with beautiful simplicity: “Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together – black, white, Chinese, everyone – that’s all.” This vision is one that Bob Marley gave voice to through his music and Barack Obama articulates in his politics. The political and cultural leaders of the future, of whatever racial background, will be those who attend to and cultivate this vision. 37
Indiaahna Singh and the Temples of Bloom A strategy for British-Punjabi arts, culture and heritage As more and more people of South Asian descent begin to regard Britain, rather than the sub-continent, as their ‘home’, Dilbagh Dhami looks at how we should connect with our past. Taking the example of Punjab, he asks if the past should be seen as a refuge from the present, or a source of inspiration for the future. The past is powerful and very real; it can inspire future generations and emerging civilisations to be proud of their heritage and aspire to greatness. Punjabi heritage is a khazana – a treasury – of incredible diversity and splendour. Its riches include the Koh-iNoor diamond and the world heritage site of Taxila; the shabads of Guru Nanak and the poetry of Kabir; the art of yoga and the science of Vastu Shaster; the story of Heer Ranjha and the dance of bhangra and gidha; the martial art of Shaster Vidya and the spiritual music of Kirtan. These are but a glimpse of the jewels in our incredible inheritance. With each passing day, the gap in time between ourselves, living in a rapidly changing twenty-first-century Britain, and our roots (or more often our parents’ countries of origin) increases. And with it changes the nature of our connection with 38
our past. Paradoxically, technological advances in the Internet and in air travel also reduce the distance in time and space to open up new possibilities and opportunities for connection. In a complex world, and in some cases faced with hostile environments, some take the path of retro-active ethnicity and become Blacker than Black, more Indian than the Indians, more Punjabi than the Punjabis. For some, this path makes perfect sense: it provides a familiar, comfortable and known universe in a ‘world gone mad’ and a welcome refuge providing peace of mind, while outside of it lie stress, pain, dark forces and black magic. In recent times this process has taken a sinister twist, with some young Britishborn South Asians and Punjabis becoming harder than hard, purer than pure, more fundamental than the fundamentalists.
The memory of 9/11 and 7/7 are just two painful reminders of this phenomenon at work. Those following the path of retro-active ethnicity are small in number; the vast majority of British South Asians and Punjabis are more integrated, more culturally diverse, and more confident of their identities in the global economy. This majority may be in search of a different engagement with the past, one that draws on a future-active ethnicity; a perspective which looks to the past for inspiration and competitive/collaborate advantage in the present and in the future. Central to the future-active ethnicity concept is the idea of space, where arts, culture and heritage come to life and thrive. A planning framework for Brit-Punjabi arts, cultural and heritage reproduction and production might look something like this:
• Living spaces – here we could take inspiration from Vastu Shaster (the ancient tools for living), the Punjabi haveli and kohti style of building, the exciting architecture of Chandigarh, Hussainiwala/Wagah and Harimandir Sahib, and luscious living interiors decked out with phulkaris, dhuris, charkas, madhanis, figurines and artefacts. • Personal spaces – here we could look towards the Punjabi language and its literature and poetry presented through readings, oral recitations and kavi darbars; to art through Pahari (mountain) style paintings and sculptured rock gardens; to fashion through the turban, sherwanis and lenghas, and accessories (jewellery, etc); and to wellbeing through ayurveda, yoga and spirituality.
The arch at Hussainiwala in Indian Punjab, a state divided between Pakistan and India Photo, Dilbagh Dhami
• Community spaces – here we could look to our community institutions (museums, centres, places of worship and for rites of passage, etc); to film, music and dance (classical, folk, bhangra, gidha and fusion); to theatre and comedy (Mehar Mittal, Goodness Gracious Me); to displays, exhibitions and outdoor events (melas). • Infinite spaces – here we could look to religion, to martial arts (Shaster Vidya, Sanjam Kiria, Gathka) and to the opportunities created by the Internet to connect across borders and through time and space. There are certain places where only the brave, the naïve or fools dare to tread, where sensitivities run deep, and where a little salt can inflame old wounds; Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and Gurpreet Bhatti’s Behzti are just two very familiar and high profile examples. The biggest and most asset-rich Punjabi institutions in the UK today are without doubt the faith institutions: the Gurudwaras, Mandirs and Masjids. The most progressive of these will accommodate/tolerate secular themes but usually only where they are related to/enhance a spiritual, faith or religious perspective. Timeless, an Arts Council Englandfunded exhibition, which ran at Birmingham’s Nishkam Centre in 2008, primarily focused on celebrating 300 years of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. It was linked to a programme of events exploring spiritual and secular themes. A play entitled The Maharajah & the Kohinoor introduced a new audience, both young and old, to the life and times of the last Maharajah of Lahore, Duleep Singh. Seminars discussed a range of safe and edgy topics: Sikhs Now (Twenty-First40
Century Belief ), Faith and the Arts, Punjabi Arts (Does it exist?), What is the Living Guru?, What is Interfaith?, Sikh Women (Backroom or Backbone?). Workshops introduced a newer and wider audience to vichar (thought or philosophy) and musical instruments. A youth strand included interactive discussion, simran (prayer), kirtan recitals, story-telling and art. In the absence of Punjabi secular institutions (other than the mushrooming number of wedding and party halls, and the excellent work of organisations like the ASHT – Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail), secular themes have had to find space in the congested mainstream or in the ethnic South Asian spaces (e.g. sampad, Darbar Arts Culture Heritage) or in BME spaces (e.g. Drum). The irony is that while the majority of Punjabis will donate to
Nation dismantling, a story of Duleep Singh, the last Maharajah of Punjab Image, The Royal Collection, sampad and Nishkam Centre
THE MAHARAJAH & ~ THE KOHINOOR
religious institutions, few will donate to secular ones. Yet this same majority bemoans the absence of Punjabi arts, culture and heritage and entertains the forlorn and unrealistic aspiration and hope that religious institutions will somehow rise to the challenge. Given that this rarely happens, perhaps there is a need and a very real opportunity for the creation of Punjabi Cultural Centres to create the new spaces required for British Punjabi arts, culture and heritage to flourish and thrive. Bhangra, like reggae before it, is now a part of the British cultural landscape. Breakthroughs open the doors for others to follow, whether it is Tara Arts for drama, Darbar for Indian classical music, Gurcharan Mall for Dhol, Apna Sangeet and Malkit Singh for bhangra, Bally Sagoo for Punjabi DJ-mix, Navtej Sarna for The Exile and the Punjabi historical novel, Harbhajan Mann for Jee Aayan Nu and contemporary Punjabi film, Soho Road to the Punjab for exhibitions. These are just a few of the talents in the long list of creativity pushing forward the arts, cultural and heritage agenda. And then there are others who are building on this tradition to create new interpretation and entirely new cultural forms, discourses and narratives – the Goodness Gracious Me crew with contemporary comedy, Jay Sean and Nitin Sawhney’s breakthrough mainstream sound, Gurinder Chadda’s Holly/Bolly films, and Hardeep Singh Kohli’s pukka Punjabi Dastar and media wit. A Brit-Punjabi arts, culture and heritage strategy could include some really exciting near future projects, for example:
• Punjabi Vision Scapes – A photographic exhibition of the Punjab, Britain & the Diaspora through the eyes of Punjabi & British Punjabi photographers. • ‘Mithi Jail’ (Sweet Prison) – A digital Oral History Exhibition capturing and presenting the reminiscences of Punjabi migrants to Britain. • Sikh Heritage – Rolling exhibitions linked to Community festivals and events, bringing this rich heritage to life for our multi-faith and multicultural times. • Lenghas & Sherwanis – An exhibition of contemporary British Punjabi and ‘Desi’ fashion in Britain. Some of these arts, culture and heritage themes will sit well with our religious/faith institutions while others will need to find space in more secular, mainstream and ethnic institutions. It will be some time yet before existing sensitivities can be ignored, but then where would we be without dynamic tensions, progressive aspirations, and of course tradition and modernity?
• ‘Dastar’ (Sikh Turbans) – An exhibition of Sikh and Punjabi Turbans from 1469 to now, including turban-tying workshops and seminars on the turban art. 41
Creativity versus Profitability Like other sectors, the Arts are having to endure the pain of reduced funding in an economic climate of public stringency. Supriya Nagarajan looks at how, now more than ever, arts organisations need to steer a path between creativity and ensuring that the organisation remains a viable entity.
For many of us, the term creativity conjures images of something unique and experimental. Creative people wear quirky costumes, peer into space for inspiration and present art that is sometimes inspiring or sometimes only speaks to the â€˜culturedâ€™ minority. At the other end of the spectrum, the term profitability instantly catapults us into the boardroom language of audience-reach, value-for-money, pie-charts and statistics. Maybe we need to look at how these two seemingly different worlds can be made to fit comfortably together. This is even more relevant in the current economic climate. Successful business organisations have creativity at the heart of their work in all sectors and successful businesses are those that have a positive balance at the end of the financial year, even if they are not-for-profit businesses.
Supriya Nagarajan (second from left) and the Manasamitra team Photo, Manasamitra
As Artistic Director of Manasamitra, a fledgling creative arts organisation in Yorkshire, I have undertaken the journey between creativity and profitability and understand the difficulties one faces in making this journey painless. The one insight that I have gained in this journey is that all creative organisations must learn to have profitability at their core of operation. Market studies, identifying gaps in provision and packaging products to plug the gaps are part of the process. In those terms, I believe that art organisations are privileged to have support and assistance from the government in terms of grants and subsidies, something not all the other sectors enjoy. It then becomes crucial for the creative sector to work in tandem with income-generating ideas so as to maximise the impact of receiving such grants and planning long-term sustainability. The recent changes in funding policies for the cultural sector have left many organisations that are grant-reliant at a disadvantage. The key is effective utilisation of any grant to collaborate, expand and enhance a project by using it as a seed fund to germinate the idea and develop it into a sustainable long-term initiative. Recently, Manasamitra received funding for an arts and health-based project which we leveraged on to involve the local council, PCT, four community centres and five schools to promote mental health using colour and music. What could have been a self-sufficient threemonth project evolved into a funded yearlong project with a promise of further extension. From a personal point of view, Manasamitraâ€™s growth since it was established in 2005 has been steady and focused. Coming from a banking background, profitability was not a learning exercise for me, but the successful 43
merging of creativity with profitability was certainly no mean feat. Like every new business we had to study the market, prepare a business plan and understand the sector we were operating in. An example is the continuing partnership with Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I still remember my first visit to the park which is an awe-inspiring location and instantly forming a ‘want to work here’ fixation. Many meetings later, we had located the gap in provision and audience development and developed a proposal for the partnership. The idea was to utilise the conference venue as a ‘Baithak’ setting for Indian music concerts. The programme, which began with modest audiences in November 2006, has over the three years developed into a unique feature sitting alongside the parks’ sculpture exhibitions, attracting new audiences and acting as a fantastic publicity platform for Manasamitra nationally and internationally. This has been an instance of successfully merging creativity and profitability on a long-term basis. The other two core strengths for any organisation in the creative sector that we had to develop was our ability to network and collaborate, both of which we believe are key elements of success. From personal experience, being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right person has been one of the biggest factors in the success of Manasamitra so far. In today’s uncertain economic environment any enterprise that does not demonstrate value for money and/or fulfilling an existing need in the community will find it extremely hard to survive, hence the need for re-inventing the arts agenda into different facets of the social structure like health, regeneration and cohesion. ‘Art for art’s sake’ is a niche market that will need a strong backing from the target customers. 44
Reaching out to new audiences Photo, Manasamitra
At the outset, it is very important to question our motives for wanting to set up a creative business. This ‘why’ question will determine the life path an organisation will take. The second important element is the ‘why’ question being asked of the right people, which is the market research that decides whether the idea would work. Once the idea is converted into a creative business, marketing of the business which includes branding, advertising and publicity is vital. All publicity is good and opportunities to showcase work are invaluable. At any networking event I always make that one contact which I hope will be of use in the future, and walk away happy that the job is done. Manasamitra’s journey has been filled with ups and downs and all the opinions stated above form part of my personal experience. In conclusion, I would say that Vision, Values and Voice have been critical in Manasamitra’s journey and my advice is to ‘network, network, network’.
Building support for South Asian classical arts With state funding for the arts being pruned, Kulbir Natt, Director of Darbar Arts Culture Heritage Trust, says it’s high time that South Asian arts organisations stepped up a gear to explore other income streams to secure their futures. With the ‘Noughties’ over, the coming decade will clearly be a time of austerity. Funding cutbacks and in some cases loss of funding from the Arts Council has affected many organisations. Some will, no doubt, go under. Others will scale back and/or reshape their operations and funding streams. All will be anxious. Many have relied on this ‘gravy train’ for a while now, without really producing (how can I put this?) excellent, risk-taking and innovative art. Enlightened ones will face up to this ‘setback’ and use it as an opportunity to seriously explore engaging the corporate world. It’s an area where South Asian organisations have only just scratched the surface. One South Asian arts organisation has, under the section ‘Sponsors’ on its website, the words: ‘Coming soon…’ Sadly, the words are indicative of a situation where attendance at funding-raising courses, along with good intentions, is not followed up with action. Darbar is guilty of this as much as the next organisation.
Inactivity may stem from a mindset, prejudiced, I’m sure, which believes that little will be forthcoming from the corporate world. This attitude believes that the business elite do not really appreciate high quality arts: after all, they are more interested in making money than aesthetics, art and culture. An unwelcome finding by Arts and Business, a consultancy promoting links between the corporate world and arts, is that British private sector investment in culture is falling from a high of almost £687 million in 2007–08 to below £654 million in 2008–09. And, says the organisation: “the worst is yet to come.” This is gloomy news. However, I do believe that an inactive approach leads to idleness, missed opportunities and avoiding the graft needed to make inroads into this sector. Some anecdotes. Business support is there. The Asian Music Circuit, one of the larger organisations operating in this area, has a relationship with Cox’s and Kings. 45
Title sponsors for a photographic prize Photo, Arts and Business
Darbar Festival has developed mutually beneficial relationships with the Grange Group of hotels and has in the past received support from British Midland. Yorkshire-based Manasamitra actively works to develop new income streams and has had some success in developing innovative artistic work from this income. A little more research would provide more examples. More anecdotes. South Asians give vast amounts, I dare say millions of pounds, certainly millions of rupees, to faith-based organisations. Asian businesses (many of which have matured from ‘family-run’ businesses into diversified companies) and individuals (who made good) are readily giving to what might be termed the easily understood charitable causes: poverty, health, children in need and the like. A recent charity fund-raising dinner I attended, which included an auction for signed sports memorabilia, raised in excess of £100,000 from individuals who had 46
come from the corporate world, many of whom were from Asian backgrounds. A few time zones away, India is an emerging economic power. It is a country where the rest of the economic world will be doing more business. And alongside this economic growth is the rise of cultural influence. The Indian government, for example, is committed to increasing and enhancing its cultural presence abroad. Raising funds from individuals (wealthy or otherwise), or from the corporates, is challenging and not an area for the thinskinned. Rejections are common. Yet sponsorship, essentially a commercial deal between two parties where both the arts and the sponsor benefits, is one area that needs to be tackled much more seriously. Somewhere along the line sponsorship translates into the bottom-line profits for the company. It is essentially a ‘What’s in it for me?’ relationship. According to the publication Charity Trends and the Chartered Institute of Marketing, sponsorship came to some £750 million in 2005. According to Philip Spedding from Arts and Business: “too often arts organisations fail to do the necessary hard work in really asking themselves what they can really deliver for the sponsor. Too often they are too busy telling potential sponsors about themselves. What they need to understand is ‘it’s not about you, it’s about others and what you can do for them.’” He says arts organisations need to start off with some basic groundwork of understanding the demographics and make-up of their audiences. And it’s on the back of this research and their artistic product, as well as an understanding of the detailed motivations of the corporate world (reaching target customers, corporate entertainment, etc.) that any proposal needs to be built. Maybe it’s not acknowledged but it is a fact that individual giving is by far the
largest source of voluntary income available. The majority provide small donations and most go to ‘traditional’ charitable causes, but arts can be a recipient as well. SAA-uk, for example, has raised funds from people who put money into a ‘bucket’ for their summer school. Also in this category falls the large-scale philanthropy from wealthier individuals. President Obama was pretty successful with this type of strategy in his campaign for the US presidency. The UK government could do more here by simplifying the rules for tax-free giving. A more institutionalised version of this is the US model of philanthropic support for the arts from the corporate world. Corporate Social Responsibility falls into this category, though it could be argued that this, somewhere down the line, really translates into a looking after the bottom line. Putting aside these nuances, on the surface the motivation is ‘helping the arts’ in some way. And a way forward? Whichever way you look at it, it involves hard work. After the
basic groundwork (audience research, artistic product and information-gathering of targets), it could involve working individually and/or collectively with likeminded individuals or organisations. I would even go so far as to say that working together is essential if we want to make a real impact. A Chinese proverb comes to mind: “if you want to go fast, do it yourself; if you want to go further, work with others.” I paraphrase, but you get the message. Too often South Asian arts organisations give the appearance (to the establishment) that they are working together. It is a case of ‘the sublimation of loathing in the pursuit of funding’, and potentially sows the seeds of future distrust. Working individually could involve one or all of the following: cultivating the local or regional business elite; developing a supportive, giving relationship with individuals; networking and creative thinking in developing mutually beneficial relationships.
Hay Literary Festival attracts large numbers of media and corporate sponsors Photo, Arts and Business
Working together could involve some or all of the following: raising awareness about the story of South Asian arts so that people are more aware about the rich cultural heritage that has its origins in South Asia but is now part of the UK heritage; setting up a foundation like the Foundation for Jewish Culture which in our case would sit independently to support classical cultures from South Asia; working with political and business leaders to set up a high-profile event to kick-start a supportive network for classical arts. Putting across a story or several stories is a vital part of cultivating any relationship. That story could be about the high quality of South Asian arts in Britain, about bringing people together, about inter-faith understanding or about learning our heritage. It is a story that will sometimes need to be bespoke and which resonates with the target being cultivated. These suggestions may be a generation too early and it may take another few years for Britain’s South Asian community to appreciate our classical culture in the numbers needed for the sector to thrive and flourish. There are many obstacles in the way, the chief among them being a lack of will to get things started. Other obstacles to overcome are the egos of individuals currently running arts organisations, as well as the many ethnic, regional, cultural and religious differences among South Asians, divisions which often keep us apart. Hey, but life is full of problems, obstacles and difficult people. I’m an optimist and I do believe that what is needed are a few key individuals working in arts, politics and business spheres to, in Malcolm Gladwell’s words, achieve ‘a tipping point’ where things begin to move in the right direction and then develop a momentum which is self-sustaining and beneficial for South Asian arts, not just for today, but for many years to come. 48
Darbar Festival, beginning to attract attention from more sponsors Image, Darbar Arts Culture Heritage Trust
Asia Triennial Manchester After the successful city-wide Asian Art Triennial in 2008, Manchester’s art galleries and organisations are busy preparing for the next Triennial in 2011. Alnoor Mitha, the Director of Shisha, an agency for contemporary South Asian crafts and visual arts, looks forward to the pan-Asian programme.
In 2008 Shisha, in partnership with Castlefield Gallery, Chinese Arts Centre, Cornerhouse, The International 3, Manchester Art Gallery and Manchester Metropolitan University helped deliver the first Asian Art Triennial Manchester. The inaugural Asia Triennial Manchester programme echoed Manchester’s radical political and social history, reflected new artistic practice, and found resonances between Manchester and Asia by exploring the notion of ‘protest’ – in its widest sense. The 2008 events featured stunning venue-based exhibitions, site-specific new commissions, innovative residencies, surprising publicly-sited work by artists from across Asia and a varied education and community programme. Work is now under way for the next Asia Triennial Manchester (ATM11), planned for autumn 2011. Artists are being asked to explore the notion of Time and Generation. One aspect is migration where the movement of people has radically changed our demographics, giving rise to new politics of identity focused on place, territory, belonging and community, and
global networks of connection that present novel sorts of cultural geography. The digital age creates exciting new possibilities. Art is a globalised pattern of visual communication, and artists are able to generate and share ideas that are no longer necessarily understood as ‘Western’ concepts of art-making and display. Asia is a growth area for new intersections between artists and technologies, and for dynamic conditions of art reception. Art in and of Asia is a driver for environmental change, new models of creativity and innovation, sites of memory and the imagination, the redrawing of cultural boundaries, evolving beliefs and identities, and the development of novel ways of living and seeing in the current social, political and economic climate. Artists throughout history have explored the concept of time. The familiar shape of time – past, present and future – has often been made unfamiliar by artworks that turn the concept of succession on its head. Time-based media have been fruitfully complicated by contemporary artists in Asia who are 49
The Days, Chen Shaoxiong, 2008, Chinese Arts Centre exhibition as part of Asia Triennial Manchester 08 Photo, Tim McConville
asking alternative, more demanding questions of their media. Artists are showing the deep potential of art for reorienting and re-imagining the future, and for rerouting art’s relation to its past. More pressingly, the ‘time of the now’ for contemporary artists may look like a time of movement. Many artists, increasingly defined by having a base in multiple locations, operate as trans-local negotiators, communicating with a wider world while continuing their attachments to certain places and localities. The idea of generation can be interpreted in many different ways. One such example is the way emerging artists respond through their work to established artists, global cultures or art history. Artists are finding original modes of creativity and communication with new media. In the process, they innovate and generate new technologies, as well as creating new ways of displaying and distributing art to make it more accessible and apparently inclusive. Often this means stepping outside formal galleries or exhibition sites, and teasingly suggesting their obsolescence. Does this create divisions between the young and not-so-young? The issue of generation also raises questions like how might a productive contrast be drawn between generations of artists, with reference to the interests of socalled ‘artisans’ in an Asian setting? Is this category being instructively troubled or reinvigorated by technology? And how are concepts of age, lineage and cultural legacy being rethought in the nexus of divisions among art, craft and technology? What is Asia in the twenty-first century? Hong Kong’s Asian Art Archive says definitions of ‘Asia’ and ‘Asian art’ should not be confined to a geographical location and should include artists of Asian descent
living around the world, as well as artists of non-Asian descent living in Asia. This offers us an opportunity to work with Asian artists throughout the world. With this in mind, ATM aims to: • Create programming to establish Manchester and the UK in the growing world of Asian art. • Celebrate and explore Asia’s rich and diverse artistic practices with exhibitions and residencies presenting contemporary Asian crafts and visual arts in an international context. • Produce an original series of international exhibitions and projects, which includes the commissioning and displaying of new work by Asian contemporary artists. • Provide a framework that enables Manchester galleries to create their own international programme, develop their curatorial practice and engage new audiences. • Build networks and partnerships, and create opportunities for artistic exchange and communication with artists, curators and venues to support future ATMs. • Raise the awareness of Shisha’s work and the work of Asian contemporary visual arts and crafts. • Develop new site-specific work. • Support and promote Asian artists by providing opportunities for them to take part in an international project. • Create opportunities for audiences to view and engage in a range of new high-quality work by leading and emerging artists from Asia. • Deliver an educational and outreach programme that provides opportunities for people to learn, engage with and participate in creative activity.
Some of the ideas that will be included in the theme of Time and Generation include: • Showcasing work by craft-makers making objects at a much slower pace and providing a revealing comparison with the fine art. • Understanding and experiencing art through the concept of ‘the contemporary’. Whose time do we have in mind when we speak about ‘in our time’? • Supporting the new artistic production emerging from Asia, artists moving easily from one region/country to another, exchanging ideas, crossing borders, and making references to global events and making work that is politically challenging. • Supporting artists in exploring the relationship between text and image, the material and the virtual, the fluidity of visual culture, and time and space as coordinates of art-making and its audiences. • Supporting the work by Asian artists who live beyond ‘the West’, and who explore and exploit the dualisms of global and local, in search of new visual languages and frameworks. • How might an interpretative language of ‘generation’ help to understand art’s relation to time? In all the excitement over global change have we run the risk of overlooking the persistent continuities that art practice is attentive to? What continues from one creative ‘moment’ to the next in the unfolding of art’s stories? Why might it become important to critically unpack the notion of discontinuity proposed by the sense of the contemporary as a break from the past? How have assumptions about art as a story of development been challenged and rethought in the curating and making of art in Asia? It is a territory worth exploring. 52
Between Fire and Sky, Surekha, 2006, Cornerhouse exhibition as part of Asia Triennial Manchester 08 Photo, Tim McConville
Three-dimensional movement in a ‘new’ game Recently appointed CEO of Nottingham’s New Art Exchange, Skinder Hundal discusses the multiple skills, broad understanding of life and leadership skills needed to run a dynamic, cutting-edge arts venue in an inner-city location.
Running a medium-sized arts organisation in inner-city Nottingham is like operating in a complex environment of threedimensional international chess. One needs to be armed with a bagful of ideas and have an understanding of the intricacies of funding systems; broader political policy; human behaviours; cultural heritage; the history of community and much more. It is a complex environment that includes a playful ‘battle’ of ‘position’ and ‘profile’. Chess, the ancient game from the great cosmos of complexity and contradiction that is Bharat/Hindustan or India, is played today in both Western and Eastern cultures of the world. There are two teams: black or brown versus white or cream. On the surface, it may be advantageous to be the white team as they always make the first move. Winning the centre ground is important to gain positional advantage and with your sixteen pieces of eight specialists 54
and eight soldier-pawns you make your way forward to topple the opposing king. Simple, right? For me chess is an interesting metaphor for a shifting world, both at the macro level and at the organisational micro level. The macro and micro dimensions create levels of complexity all of their own. It is anything but simple. On a macro level, the playing field is no longer a black or brown versus white or cream scenario. And metaphorically speaking, no longer does the white team always make the first move, as Eastern economies are flexing their muscles through the rising presence of the G20, influencing our political and economic landscape. Change does, and always will, happen. Economic growth allied to shifting political power, influenced by migration,
technology, information exchange etc. is reshaping allegiances, groupings and choices. Mono-cultural societies are also being tested through dual and multiple heritages, more so today than ever before, it seems. Here in UK society there are now many shades of brown. Identity choices and loyalties have shifted and have become unclear at times and enriched by wider choices, perspectives and gene refreshment, of course. In my gallery the other day a little boy came in with his mother. His multiple-heritage was Japanese, Bangladeshi and Jamaican.
The New Art Exchange in Nottingham, a space for contemporary Black arts Photo, David Sillitoe
He shared his Japanese and English linguistic skills with a German delegation of officials from Karlsruhe, one of Nottingham’s twin cities. The Germans left, impressed with a glimpse of NAE’s culturally diverse audience, ambition and perspective. They also saw at first-hand a future generation in the guise of a young multi-lingual, culturally-confident boy who gave a clue to the changing shape of audiences and stakeholders. On a micro-organisational level it is still important, as a ‘cultural leader or CEO’, to consider the specialist skills of staff, whether it is a jumping flash ‘knight’ or the multiple skills of a queen who can take out the opposition from long range. The shades of brown and white are actually on the same side now, as we move into what we refer to these days as inter-cultural dialogue and working practices or even a ‘post-racial’ age. Therefore, the need for diversity of culture, heritage and expression is important in an organisation reflecting our audiences and our position internationally. The playing field has shifted from a structured eight-squared flat board to one of several planes – horizontal, vertical and diagonal. The game for the modern organisation is actually a series of multiple games that need to be played simultaneously in time and space. The game now takes place in a threedimensional ever-expanding cube with a team of partner allegiances sharing one’s resources, trying to win a wider game on
The main gallery at the New Art Exchange, a space to create for artists Photo, David Sillitoe
multiple fronts. The battle to position culture so that it receives its ‘fair’ share of resources is just one macro-economic battle alongside the many other ‘battles’ taking place. Recently I was in Philadelphia, where I witnessed such a collaboration beat a state tax rule being imposed on the sale of cultural tickets. It was unprecedented and a momentous victory for the arts sector, played out by a specialist team of cultural assassins! Often the modern and progressive organisation is no longer leading its own ‘pieces’ into a game of battle but, in fact, working in partnership with the other team’s ‘pieces’ and ‘players’ on a wider sphere of influence for a culturally enriched and enlightened world. Balancing macro- and micro-based influences and circumstances within a shrinking time and space continuum are the horizontal, vertical and diagonal planes of our three-dimensional game. Such contexts are important considerations when creating modern spaces and relevant arts organisations in terms of planning, programming activities for audiences, and choosing teams of professional staff and board members. Whether we are fiercely or quietly competitive or simply trying to play and create new games by new rules, we will need to modernise and refresh continuously in terms of how we engage with a world of multiple identity and myriad international choices. And leadership involves selecting the right partners, staff, board members, programmes and the fields within which we engage. It involves consideration of limited resources, shifting dynamics, constrained time, blurring borders and identities and keeping a watchful eye on the continually morphing threedimensional chessboard. 57
Beyond the Boxes – Working Inclusively with Diversity Diversity has been one of the issues at the forefront of Britain’s social agenda. Naz Koser, Director of Ulfah Arts, looks at some of the limitations of the term and how their organisation has used it to inform their work.
Few people would argue that Britain is a diverse and multi-cultural country. One only has to visit mainland Europe for a couple of days to understand the richness, diversity and breadth of British culture or cultures. Many other countries are catching up but this diverse concoction of arts, culture, food, clothing, language and religion is very much a British bastion. In the world of arts and culture, greater awareness of diversity has translated into increased sponsorships and funding of ethnic arts and minority cultural events like Diwali Melas and Eid festivals. As a creative arts practitioner working with ethnic communities and artists I am naturally pleased with this trend. However, I also believe that this funding has often been targeted at specific communities and very specific art forms that support a small segment of society, artists and arts organisations and limits the potential of ethnic arts to break into mainstream arts. 58
Islam, for example, has more than seventy sects cutting across cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Yet when it comes to Islamic art, for example, no consideration is shown towards these divisions. Result: a large amount of Islamic art never surfaces onto the British artistic scene. A major concern is that this generalisation of diversity has led to the involvement of religious leaders, certain sheikhs and imams in particular, who try to legitimise or delegitimise certain arts practices. At Ulfah, we keep religious ideologies and arts practices on different platforms. Religion is an inspiration, but our philosophy is not to dilute artistic expression with theology. We create projects that invite participation from the Muslim community and wider. It’s up to the participants to inform themselves of how they wish to practise their faith and it’s up to us to find a way to ensure their participation.
Mike Foster MP, Minister for International Development (2009) visiting Ulfah Arts Photo, Ulfah Arts
An example is the Ulfah Collective Choir, which incorporates Muslim women and non-Muslim women who have the choice of performing to women-only audiences or mixed audiences. Some Muslims believe it’s against their faith to listen to music, so we have to find ways for their engagement in the project and have voice-only (without instrumental) music. The women we have engaged are from different cultural backgrounds, bringing richness in stories, culture and traditions. Having had success at grass roots in diverse Muslim communities, the challenge moves to ensuring that audiences don’t perceive our work to be exclusive. This is a tough one, but one that we as an organisation need to have an answer for. The success in this is from the outset, how you think about the project and inform its processes. It requires thinking on different spectrums from the niche community perspective to the wider community. Ulfah Arts achieved this with Sacred Quran – Enjoy Wightwick Manor and Gardens through the verses of the Quran. In the project 60
The Ulfah Collective, a group of Muslim women from a variety of backgrounds across several continents Photo, Ulfah Arts
we worked with a group of Muslims who extracted Quranic verses to access parts of the history and heritage at Wightwick Manor. From the outset, the idea and process were designed so that any sacred text would be accessible to all faith communities. We also used text from Shakespeare’s plays and Harry Potter to relate to different parts of the property. Diversity should not be about categorising communities; it should be about cooperation between different social groups and understanding from each other’s culture. A Diwali Mela, for example, doesn’t cater to all Asians. The decision-makers need to understand this simple fact to achieve diversity in the true sense. The arts sector will also have to break from the mould of social-group specific art and move towards arts practices which bring together people from all walks of life, irrespective of cast, creed, religion or race.
‘Ghulam of all trades – raja of some’ (Servant of all trades, master of some) Words by Savita Vij
›› The idea that we have reached the end of history where each one of us has a profession, and are masters of its jargon is absurd... The more we see of the world, the broader is the range of our curiosity. ›› Theodore Zeldin
Being a Jack-of-all-trades in the field of South Asian arts and master of none need not be an insult if it is seen as a worthy pursuit to learn from across disciplines without losing mastery of another. It’s clear that a growing number of South Asian artists have risen to the top of their professions and become ‘raja of some’ fields after years of struggling for resources and recognition. However, the next era of leadership should be discovering a range of different art-worlds and cultivating shared spaces of curiosity. As Zeldin hints above, something seems to have been lost in the development of the human character through specialisation,
whether it is dentistry or writing, namely our interest in the diversity of the nature of people that surround us, their ideas, history and politics. Through CultivAsian, we’re attempting to explore issues around South Asian identities by inviting contributions from different disciplines; from architects in the UK to bloggers in the US or to local selfmade politicians in Punjab. The way in which we all reflect on issues generates questions and challenges writers or speakers to think about why they and others assert that particular aspect of themselves. The theme of a recent issue of CultivAsian was contemporary Punjabi 61
voices and the 25th anniversary of the riots targeting Sikhs in Delhi. The theme gave an opportunity to think again about the value of cultivating these crossdisciplinary spaces, getting the rich insights from the masters in their art-fields and the emergence of a new picture about South Asian arts. I came across the Singh Twins’ (Amrit and Rabindra) portrait ‘Nineteen EightyFour’, a miniature painting reflecting on Operation Blue Star (when India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered Army troops to storm the Golden Temple in Amritsar, claiming to target separatist militants and killing innocent civilians). Their exploration of the politics of faith through a miniature painting is a reminder that although there seems to have been a move away from engagement with political issues by many popular South Asian artists, South Asian art isn’t apolitical. It’s a tradition that we should continue to build on, especially given the move to narrow perspectives of faith and identity that are espoused by many young people today. Another contributor, Professor Rana Nayar, surveys the history of Punjabi writing from movements in spirituality and writings of the twelfth-century saint Baba Farid to the varaans [heroic legends] produced during long periods of war. Although a translator of Punjabi poetry and short fiction from Punjabi to English, his work raises interesting questions about the disappearance and value of regional art forms like Punjabi creative writing, not just in the diaspora but also the subcontinent. It’s not just about resources, Nayar argues, but a ‘disturbing’ idolisation of Western classics like Shakespeare, even by students of Punjabi literature. Nayar Nineteen Eighty-Four by the Singh Twins Image, The Singh Twins
isn’t saying that there shouldn’t be Much Ado About Nothing in Hindi, but that there are many more stories to be heard in regional writings across South Asia. Dr. Virinder Kalra, who looks critically at how the bhangra music scene transgresses continents and audiences, talks about those that are lyrically excluded. Speaking at the 2009 Vancouver International Bhangra Festival, Kalra said: “When you enter a dance space, you can leave behind your identity, caste, religion, where you come from. You’re just a brown body.” However, there is an extent to which identity stays. “The one identity that stays, of course, is gender, and maybe also caste. A lot of the lyrics exclude people of certain castes and present a hyper-masculinist discourse, mimicking much of the gangsta rappers.” It is this ability to look at how our many identities can be played out on the dance floor, including some and excluding others, whichever artistic discipline you come from. While these individual artists and their art forms may have struggled to be heard ten or twenty years ago, they now have a wider platform. Travelling to symposiums and exhibitions across national borders they are presenting their expertise to virtual as well as face-to-face audiences. Yet their story of success speaks for itself. In bringing these threads together there is another story about changing creative Punjabi voices; that there is greater confidence of mixing politics with paint, a battle for the revival of regional translations and a strong intellectual culture for critically exploring popular culture. Being a ghulam in the changing fields of South Asian arts gives practitioners the opportunities to immerse themselves in these kinds of art-worlds, without leaving the confines of their own. There’s nothing to lose, only cultural enrichment to gain. 63
Aarohan: Contributors, Organisers and Participants The Aarohan leadership programme began in 2007. The second programme, Aarohan Ahead, began in 2008, brought together some of the existing participants but also many new people working at the highest levels in their organisations. Here are brief biographical details of the participants of the Aarohan Ahead programme and some of the other contributors in this publication.
Alnoor Mitha Director of Shisha, the international agency for contemporary South Asian crafts and visual arts in Manchester, Alnoor Mitha is trained as a visual artist under the supervision of the internationally celebrated sculptor, Anish Kapoor. He has been a pioneering artist and entrepreneur for more than two decades. He founded ‘Black’ art studio, Zamana, in Salford, Manchester in 1988 and founded Shisha in 1999. In 2002, Mitha was included in the Who’s Who, Golden Jubilee Edition. In 2002, as part of the Commonwealth Games Cultural Programme in Manchester, he conceived and premiered the Awardnominated Art South Asia, an outstanding programme of collaborative exhibitions, artists’ residencies, publications and a major international conference of visual culture British galleries and organisations from South Asia. In 2008, Mitha initiated the Awardnominated inaugural Asian Art Triennial.
Clayton Shaw After a short career as a chef, Clayton Shaw studied fine art and then worked at various Midlands arts organisations to raise the profile of culturally diverse arts, as well as commissioning artists to develop talent and skills. Later as an Arts Council England officer
he supported a number of key organisations, and led on a number of professional development initiatives. He has an MA in European Cultural Policy and Management from the University of Warwick. Now, he is Operations Manager at sampad where he is responsible for professional development, policies, financial management, marketing, operations and staff management and works with other team members to develop leadership and audience development.
Dilbagh Dhami With a twenty year track record in local government development, consultancy, strategic and policy roles; ten years in Third Sector governance, strategic, coordination, and delivery roles and the founder and Managing Director of Positive Action Network Ltd (est. 1998), a progressive management consultancy, Dilbagh Dhami is an accomplished strategic thinker and entrepreneur, as well as a skilled presenter, advisor, consultant, trainer, coordinator and photographer. He developed the arts, culture and heritage strategy for the Nishkam Centre, managing a new CLG funded Community Cohesion grant in Handsworth, and developing virtual communities. Recent cultural collaborations at Nishkam include 65
the Timeless exhibition, The Maharajah & the Kohinoor play and a Punjabi Language Conference. Currently, he is the Vice Chair of the Handsworth Neighbourhood Management Board.
Honorary Doctorate of Arts from De Montfort University. A Trustee of the Arts Foundation, Hilary has recently completed the advanced certificate in coaching and mentoring at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Hilary Carty Hilary Carty is the Director of the Cultural Leadership Programme, a £22m government investment in excellence in leadership within the cultural and creative industries. The programme seeks to raise the sectors’ leadership capacity, facilitate more diverse leadership and build stronger links across the economy. Hilary was previously Director of Arts at the Arts Council England, overseeing the development of arts programmes and funded organisations, as well as leading the regional delivery plan for London and steering the Council’s work on the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. This followed her secondment to London 2012 as Director of Culture and Education in London’s successful Olympic bid team. As the Arts Council’s Director of Dance from 1994-2002 Hilary championed the development and promotion of all forms of dance nationally and internationally. Hilary holds an MBA from the University of Westminster, a BA (Hons) in Performing Arts and has been awarded an 66
Indy Hunjan Indy Hunjan is founder and director of Kala Phool, a groundbreaking arts development agency committed to developing and supporting creative innovation and culturally diverse arts and artists. She has emerged to become one of the UK’s most exciting arts producers, leading flagship projects such as Rising Styles, the UK’s only dedicated annual international festival of Hip Hop culture. Always willing to push the boundaries, Indy’s approach to a project is to think about how it will make a difference and genuinely excite. Recent highlights include producing the UK’s largest ever Graffiti Jam, with 300 graffitiwriters from twenty seven countries, the largest annual release of underground UK Hip Hop (30,000 CDs of new music) and creating the UK’s first ever exhibition of Graffiti Sculpture that included a unique commission by New York legend Mare 139. Her current project: the stunning live film
soundtrack performance Mother India 21st Century Remix (aka MI21). Going right to the core of her Asian heritage the project remixes, re-edits and re-imagines the iconic 1957 early Indian film, Mother India, producing an innovative and extremely moving performance that incorporates South Asian classical music, electronica, jazz and world music.
Kulbir Natt Kulbir Natt is a journalist and creative events producer who specialises in the arts. He also has experience of marketing, PR, fundraising. He is a co-founder of the Darbar Festival – Britain’s ‘premier festival of Indian classical music’ and the largest annual event of its kind in Europe. He has more than ten years experience working as a radio and television producer at BBC World Service, BBC Scotland, BBC Television and Financial Times Television. He produces the series of programmes from the Darbar Festival for SkyArts and has edited a book on Indian classical music. He is also an Arts Council Assessor.
Mark Gifford Mark gained a degree in Theology from Durham University, before going on to study and qualify as a solicitor. He is from a mixed Zoroastrian/Christian background and has been involved in interfaith work for many years. He is the trustee of two national interfaith charities. As Director of the ASHA Centre, in Gloucestershire, Mark seeks – to create opportunities for people of diverse faiths to enjoy and appreciate the benefits of a harmonious and spiritually diverse society.
Mukhtar Dar Mukhtar Dar is the Director of Arts at The Drum, the Birmingham based multi artform venue dedicated to developing, celebrating and promoting the artistic and cultural expressions of African, Asian and Caribbean peoples for the benefit of all. He has over twenty years experience of working in the arts and education establishments as a visual artist, an independent film-maker and lecturer in the sociology of Race and Black History at Wolverhampton University, Wulfrun College and Handsworth College. He is a cultural activist and holds an extensive photographic and video archive documenting the struggles of Britain’s Black communities during the 80s and 90s. He has worked voluntarily for 67
Sheffield Asian Youth Movement, Pakistani Workers Association, Black Peoples Alliance, and the Black Multi Media Arts Collective. He is a board member of Black Voices, West Midlands World Music Consortium and a founding member of the South Asian Alliance. He was also the chair of the Decibel National Black Arts Showcase Selection panel 2007 and on the selection committee for 2009.
Munmun kc Munmun KC is the Director of Pakistan Cultural Society, a multicultural arts organisation based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Having gained an MBA in Human Resource Management and MSc in Disaster Management and Sustainable Development and working in International Development, she has excelled in arts management since 2004 as well as working as an advisor, consultant and mentor to individuals and organisations in the field of arts and culture.
Naz Koser Naz Koser is the Founding Director of Ulfah Arts, a social enterprise developing artists and arts practices by engaging different communities. Ulfah Arts have developed a niche in engaging Muslim communities, in particular Muslim women as artists, locally, 68
nationally and internationally. Using the work of Ulfah Arts with Muslim communities as examples this article examines approaches on how to work inclusively with diversity.
Nigel Singh Nigel Singh is Chief Executive of Audiences Central, a West Midlands based audience development agency. Nigelâ€™s background is in local authority arts development, political consultancy and PR. He has run arts venues including Newhampton Art Centre and Bilston Art Gallery. He was Head of Arts and Museums for Staffordshire with overall responsibility for the strategic planning and management of financial, capital and human resources across arts and museum development. He has a range of experience in project management and development in visual/public arts, youth arts, arts and health and arts in prisons. He comes from a culturally diverse South American/ Caribbean Asian background and uses this fusion in digital music production and still occasionally plays to audiences in venues and festivals across the UK and further afield.
Oliver Nyumbu Oliver Nyumbu is the Chief Executive of Caret, a leadership and organisational change consultancy which helps organisations to transform themselves. He is a specialist in Strategy Review and Formulation as well as Business and Organisational Effectiveness. He works with senior leaders and teams to manage change and improve organisational effectiveness, business performance and working relationships. Oliver works with organisations worldwide to move beyond strategy formulation to strategic management and implementation. As part of this work he coaches leaders in commercial and professional services businesses, local government, health authorities and the housing sector.
Padma Rao An arts professional, with over fifteen years of experience in diversity, strategic arts management, funding and artistsâ€™ development at local, regional and national level. One of her key contributions includes the development of a stable arts infrastructure for the Black Ethnic minority-led organisations and artists in the North East. A published poet, Padma has edited several anthologies and worked in radio in India and at the BBC. She
has experience of board membership in the third sector and actively contributes to help address the issues of community cohesion and inclusion in a voluntary capacity.
Piali Ray, OBE Piali Ray is the Director of sampad, a leading agency for the development of South Asian arts, based in Birmingham. She has high achievements both in the academic and artistic fields. Having attained first class degrees in B Ed and MA History, she has also excelled as a performer, teacher and choreographer of Indian dance. She was conferred The Order of The British Empire (OBE) in 2002 and an Honorary Doctorate by Birmingham City University in 2006. Piali founded sampad in 1990, at a time when the provision of South Asian arts was ad hoc and ignored by the main funding stream. She aimed to provide South Asian artists working in culturally diverse Britain with a support mechanism, and to give them confidence, status and a context for the considerable heritage they had brought with them. Through the work of sampad, individual artists, a consortia of schools and disenfranchised inner city communities, have all been given a voice through the fulfilment of their artistic and cultural needs for self69
expression and identity. She was awarded Outstanding Business Person of the Year by the Institute of Asian Businesses, part of Birmingham Chamber and Commerce and Industry.
Prabhu Guptara Professor Prabhu Guptara is Executive Director, Organisational Development, Wolfsberg, a subsidiary of the UBS bank. He is Freeman of the City of London and of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, and Chartered Fellow of the of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, of the Royal Commonwealth Society, and of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts Commerce and Manufactures. He is a Visiting Professor at various Universities and Business Schools. Earlier roles included Governor of the Polytechnic of Central London, Member of the Council of the British Institute of Management and member of the South East Regional Council of the Confederation of British Industry. Consultancy consultancy roles have included Akzo Nobel (Netherlands), Barclays Bank (UK), BP (UK), the Council of Europe and Nokia (Finland). He wrote “Top Executives in the Global 100 70
Companies and their IT-Competence,” and is included in Debrett’s People of Today and in Who’s Who in the World.
Rajiv Anand After completing an MA in Contemporary Art Theory, Rajiv Anand worked at Kirklees Museums in the area of diversity and outreach. In 2002, he became Diversity Officer for MLA Council in London to develop diversity strategies and develop the Cultural Diversity Network across England. He has been the South Asian Officer and Team Leader for Cultural Diversity at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Currently, he is working as a Museum and Heritage Consultant for the Institute of Jainology on the JAINpedia project.
Ranjana Ghatak Ranjana Ghatak works through Antara Arts, which she set up, as an Indian classical vocalist, event and project manager and consultant. With a background in both Indian and Western classical music she has trained with Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty. She performs and teaches Indian vocal music to various schools, colleges and individuals around the country. She has an MA in Arts Management and worked as a Gamelan project manager for the London Symphony Orchestra. Projects
have included a Gamelan arrangement of John Adamsâ€™ Short Ride in a Fast Machine, in addition to concerts and projects with both schools and the local community. She has worked across the UK with several organisations, which have included the City of London festival, Darbar, LSO St Lukeâ€™s, sampad and Serious International Music Producers.
Ranjit Sondhi, CBE Ranjit Sondhi has been chair of sampad since 1999. Until recently a senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham in Community and Youth Studies department, Ranjit has served as a member of the Independent Broadcasting Authority and the Radio Authority, a deputy Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Chairman of the Refugee Employment Training and Education Forum, and a Governor of the BBC with special responsibility for the English Regions. He is currently Chairman of the Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust, a Trustee of the National Gallery and a Trustee of the Baring Foundation. Ranjit was appointed as a Civil Service Commissioner in April 2007. He was awarded an honorary D.Univ by the University of Central England in Birmingham in February 2003.
Sanjeevini Dutta Sanjeevini Dutta is the Director of Kadam and the Editor of Pulse magazine, the leading publication for South Asian dance and music in the UK. Sanjeevini has led Kadam, a dance agency based in Bedfordshire, for the last twenty years. She holds a Masters in Psychology and Social Work from Bombay University. She trained in odissi dance with Shankar Behera. Sanjeevini became closely involved with dance in education and in partnership with Bisakha Sarker produced a video Dance, Dance Wherever You May Be, which is still used in schools today. In 2001, the same partners launched Living Tradition, a CD Rom tracing the development of South Asian dance in the UK. Sanjeevini was also the first Director of Aditi, the former umbrella organisation for South Asian dance in the country.
Savita Vij Savita founded CultivAsian in 2006 to create a cross-cultural platform to explore changing diasporic South Asian identities. This was born out of her own multi-disciplinary background in academia (Sociology and Cultural Studies), journalism and independent policy research. Previously, she worked for the Runnymede Trust. She now resides in India. 71
Shipra Ogra Shipra Ogra is an architect by education, a potter by training and an arts manager by profession. Her relationship with the arts began at the British Council in New Delhi where she worked across different art forms, delivering projects all over India in music, theatre, fashion, literature and design. She moved to the UK in 2005 to do a Masters in Arts Management and came to Londonâ€™s Bubble Theatre Company as an ITC Fast Track placement. In her current role as Producer at the Bubble she works closely with the Creative Director on the overall strategic direction of the company while leading on areas of development and marketing.
Skinder Hundal Skinder Hundal is Chief ExecutiveÂ at New Art Exchange (NAE), an award-winning and leading contemporary arts venue organisation, based in Nottingham, that commissions and promotes arts that explore and champion culturally diverse voices through arts exhibitions, events and learning programmes. Previously, Skinder was a senior manager at sampad, where he helped set up the national Aarohan Ahead leadership network, the West Midlands 72
World Music Consortium and several youth (urban) arts development programmes including Yuva and Music Mania. His vocational experience is broad including: community and economic regeneration; enterprise development; lecturing, research and development; business planning; marketing & communications: audience development; organisational development/ strategy; events production management; radio production; compering/presenting and arts administration.Â
Supriya Nagarajan Supriya Nagarajan is the founder of Manasamitra, a South Asian arts organisation in Yorkshire which produces live events and innovative educational programmes for the region. Set up in 2005, it now employs two people and works with many UK based and visiting artists as a self-sustaining social enterprise. Mumbai born, Supriya has been trained in South Indian classical carnatic singing since the age of five. Previously, Supriya worked in the banking sector for more than twenty years.
Tasawar Bashir Currently studying architecture, Tasawar Bashir has since the early 1990s worked for the Drum, BBC Radio One’s John Peel, many Birminghambased club nights as a promoter, DJ and visual artist. In 1995, he set up film library Cinephilia: it was, according to the Observer newspaper, the UK’s finest art-house cinema collection. In 1999 he became Head of Cinema at the Midlands Arts Centre working with the Bfi and international film festivals. In 2001 he joined the Birmingham Bid Team for the 2008 European Capital of Culture competition. As joint head of cultural projects he devised and managed over thirty initiatives across the arts spectrum, working at grass roots with local artists as well as with flagship organisations such as the BBC, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the CBSO, the REP, Zaha Hadid Architects and mac. In 2003 he left the UK for India and worked with the award-winning music composer A.R. Rahman producing a number of international film and music projects. He returned to Birmingham in 2005 and set up the Mirage Film Festival focusing on contemporary Middle Eastern cinema. Working with FIERCE festival and the RIBA he also produced a number of mini festivals that explored the relationship between art, cinema and architecture. Recently, Tasawar won the
Best Art and Design award at the inaugural Muslim Arts Awards 2010 for an installation dedicated to the sanctification of late Bollywood playback singer Mohammed Rafi. He has just completed a biography of sampad that celebrates the South Asian arts company’s pioneering twenty year history, and is currently finishing a documentary film that will premiere later this year.
Urmala Jassal Urmala Jassal is the Programme Manager for sampad. Previously, she was Producer at Light House Media Centre, the West Midlands based digital media organisation. She headed Light House Productions and produced an awardwinning short film drama funded by UK Film Council as well as 2D and 3D animation, promotional videos for corporate organisations and digital educational projects with young people. Urmala has an MA in Media Production and has also worked in various production companies including Endboard Productions and the BBC Asian Programmes Unit on fact-based programming.
Biography photo credits: Mark Gifford, Naz Koser, Oliver Nyumbu, Prabhu Guptara and Savita Vij courtesy of sampad. Remaining photos by Ian Reynolds, i4images
›› I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door – or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.›› Rabindranath Tagore