Pink Sari Revolution

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Earlier this year we announced we were one of just five Midlands arts organisations to benefit from investment from Arts Council England’s Re:Imagine India programme.

Curve will receive an award of £25,000 to develop a stage adaptation of Amana Fontanella-Khan’s documentary novel Pink Sari Revolution, charting the formation of the Gulabi Gang, an army of 20,000 working class female vigilantes operating in North India today and who fight for women’s rights against a backdrop of horrific oppression.

Conceived as a dance-drama, work will begin on the stage version in a two-week workshop at Curve in Spring 2016 led by Curve Associate Director Suba Das in collaboration with Curve’s Associate Artist, the Leicester based choreographer Aakash Odedra.

 

Site specific dance with Curve Young Company

Auditions for our three Curve Young Company groups for 2014 – 2015 are in full swing.

CYC member, Amira Barnwany, shares with us some of her memories of the dance projects which took place in July this year, and how the group created two very special, site-specific dance pieces.

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The past year’s CYC Dance has been undoubtedly action-packed, with our group working on two very different site specific projects. The first project was for the opening of the Cathedral Gardens in honour of the reburial of Richard III, whilst the second was an imaginative performance created and structured around the German Expressionism Gallery in the New Walk Museum.

For the Cathedral Gardens piece, we began by creating a visual mind map, initiating and exploring movement which would express a specific section of Richard III’s story. In my group of three, we improvised with contact movement which enabled us to illustrate certain themes – for example the social hierarchy which we suggested through the use of different levels.

At the same time, other dancers in the company began to explore religion and the significance of faith in relation to the king. This led the piece down the route of the Lord’s Prayer, which we chose to explore through sign language. We developed the prayer through movement, and applied a majestic quality which was important in portraying such a meaningful narrative. Reviewing each other’s work allowed us to select the most effective and expressive motifs which were then moulded chronologically.

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Later, the dance was formed around the space in correspondence to a large map of the Cathedral Gardens, starting on a grassy plane and around the statue of Richard III, before travelling along the path to the modern sculpture. The last section, based on the new water feature in the gardens, carried us centrally to the entrance of the cathedral. The sculpture was designed as contemporary slats, each displaying the silhouette of Richard at a different stage of life. The dance idea was to move smoothly through and around the slats, whilst portraying the story through movement.

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On the day of the performance, we rehearsed the Cathedral piece in the gardens for the first time and modified the positioning of each section of the dance exactly around the specific features in the gardens. We also worked out where to direct our attention in order to persuade the audience’s eyes to follow the action.

Both performances of the day were very enjoyable, and the weather only complimented our noble characterisation – although many of us had to squint as we regally placed our heads towards the sun!

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For the New Walk Museum piece, ideas began to emerge after our initial visit to the exhibition. We all chose, as soloists or in groups, a work of art that most interested us and the piece grew to be a collective timeline of Expressionism in Germany.

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Some dancers chose paintings from war time expressionism, which gave rise to very grotesque and cynical dances that were very effective in conveying a message of war-time horror or insanity. Others chose abstract works which expressed a mood through the growth in nature. My group looked into expressionism during the Weimar years and featured a range of abstract movement connecting to the madness of the Messiah. The development of the museum piece particularly interested me as I had studied the Weimar period and also Expressionism in my Art and History A-levels.

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The performance day arrived and we held relevant positions surrounding our individual paintings motionlessly. The projected patterns on to the floor proved very fitting for some dances and helped to create suspense, where the audience waited in anticipation for the next painting to enter the third dimension. We also directed our body language and eyes towards the dance in progress, to direct the audience’s focus. We concluded the piece with an upbeat interpretation of a tulip painting, which took the form of cabaret, performed in unison and counterpoint.

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The performance of both pieces created a lot of excitement due to the spontaneity of dancing in a site specific venue, and also gelled us together as a company.

Curve Young Company is very beneficial for young people looking for a class to assist their technique but also meet new people in the process. It is a unique environment as the age range allows you to gain from the various experiences of other dancers that you meet. The opportunity to participate in the choreographic process as well as the performance offers a new perspective of dance for many people, generating the creative atmosphere of the company.

Mel, our dance teacher, guides our creative ideas and has a very innovative teaching style which is valuable to everyone. Attending workshops with professional choreographers and dancers who are currently performing at the Theatre is another highlight of my time at the company.

For more information on Curve Young Company and details on how to join,visit our website.

Sabras Radio presenter Raj introduces Diwali Hanagama

This month Leicester celebrates Diwali, and for the third year we’re teaming up with Sabras Radio to present Diwali Hanagama.

We caught up with Raj Baddhan, afternoon presenter and Sabras Operations Manager to see what’s in store for audiences this year.

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For those who aren’t familiar Sabras – tell us a little about the radio station…

Sabras Radio is the Midland’s biggest Asian radio station, providing entertainment for all ages to Asians living in the Midlands. We are stepping into our 20th year of broadcasting so over the next few months, expect some exciting, bigger things from Sabras!

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What is Diwali Hangama?

Diwali Hungama is our variety entertainment show, held in conjunction with Curve. We bring entertainment from all aspects of the Asian entertainment sector including stars from television, music and arts.

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Diwali picThe line-up has been announced – who are you most excited about performing?

Talks have been going on for several months with artists and sponsors for the event and finally we believe we have a brilliant show lined up!

This year, we have gone back to basics by championing the biggest local Asian stars of current times.  Headlining the show is Arjun who is the biggest sensation from hits online and now dominating the charts worldwide. Not only that, we have Punjabi rockstar Juggy D –known for his award winning work over the years, plus British Pakistani artist Hussnain Lohori. 

We also welcome some of the best dance troops around including Subhash Viman’s dance group, Darpan Dancers and this year’s Ras Garba winners. There’s also comedy from Uday Sodiya. Kash Kumar from 6-2-8 Show and myself from Drivetime will host the event again.

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It’s going to be quite a spectacle, not just with our great artists line-up but also because of how the show has been put together. 

Watch the Diwali Hanagama trailer:

To buy tickets to Diwali Hangama visit our website.

Shakespeare’s Othello meets West Yorkshire 2001

Frantic Assembly return to Curve this month with an electrifying take on Othello, Shakespeare’s thriller-tragedy of paranoia, jealousy, lust and murder.

We talk to Scott Graham, Frantic Assembly’s Artistic Director about their new adaptation and the inspiration behind its modern-day setting…

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Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham in rehearsals for Othello

The setting of our Othello in a Northern pub came as a direct result of our reading Nick Davies’ harrowing book Dark Heart and in particular a section which describes conditions on a council estate in Leeds. Following this, we began to research the events that culminated in the violent urban protests on 5 June in the Harehills area of Leeds. Prior incidents in Lancashire the previous month are often associated but for our purposes we focused on the activity in West Yorkshire and began to examine what it was that triggered unrest there.

Situated on the inner north east side of Leeds, Harehills is the home for many of the city’s working class Pakistani community. Trouble began following the arrest of a Bangladeshi man on suspicion of either driving a stolen car or having a stolen tax disc. The arresting officer used CS gas in the event of arresting the man, an event witnessed by several bystanders. This lead to a night of arson and violent disorder in the Harehills area. Whilst the protestors later maintained that their actions were in response to suspected racism within the West Yorkshire Police, the event became notable for much more.

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Othello rehearsals

One was the reporting of the incident. The Yorkshire Post was heavily criticised for its coverage of the event. The paper depicted the Asian men responsible for the violence as grotesque, primitive and barbaric. Flashes of violence between white and Asian groups flared up, or were suddenly newsworthy. White residents in the area were suddenly all too ready to speak to local and national TV crews about ‘them’ and the problems they believed ‘they’ caused. Theories began to fly – that the whites who spent all their money down the pub were jealous of the young Asians who saved hard and drove around in flash cars, that there was still bad feeling following the infamous trial of Woodgate and Bowyer of Leeds United for attacking an Asian student outside a nightclub in the previous year.

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Cast in rehearsals

What became apparent was that racism between the two Harehills communities (and to an extent, parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire) was becoming incredibly assertive. In 2001 it seemed that the policy of ‘cultural diversity’, championed by Roy Jenkins in his key speech as Labour Home Secretary in 1966, had been rejected outright. If the intention of that policy was to bring people of different cultures together then here was refusal of the strongest kind. What complicated the issue in 2001 was that there seemed to exist a strategy of consenting apartheid between the conflicting groups.

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Richard James-Neale, Barry Aird, Steven Miller, Dritan Kastrati and Ryan Fletcher in rehearsals

Such conditions were believed to be powerful structures that enforced and maintained segregation. Commentators at the time were also keen to point out that a common misconception regarding the flashes of violence between different groups was that this was an issue of race. Instead, it was suggested that this was more accurately an issue of religion rather than colour.

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Steven Miller as Iago

Such thinking was supported when it was disclosed that two of the men who went on trial for the violent disruptions in Harehills were not Asian. One man was Afro-Caribbean, one white and all the rest were British Asians.

So things were incredibly complex at this time in West Yorkshire. We began to imagine just how different the scenario might be for a black male in this same community. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, British youth had been appropriating and replicating black culture, most notably through fashion and music, to the extent where even dialect began to be affected. We all know now that this cultural pattern and impulse was to continue growing. Today we are witness to much the same scenario. The wholesale appropriation of rap and hip hop music by white youth is only as remarkable as how improbable it seems that, say, banghra music will ever achieve such status amongst the same group.

It seemed entirely likely that a black male in this possibly racist white community might slip under the radar, black not really being enough to suggest Other. When white kids are 23 standing on street corners singing along to rap and hip hop tracks, most of which are fixated with ideas and notions of black experience and identity, the argument goes that a sophisticated form of understanding emerges.

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Steven Miller, Mark Ebulue and Ryan Fletcher

Add to this the age old idolatry factor that goes hand in hand with music stars and suddenly the black male is easily recognised not just as un-Other but actually a figure of aspiration. During a spell of racial unease like the one existent in Leeds during 2001 then, it is neither impossible nor improbable that a black male might exist in a unique and almost privileged position. Until, of course, he attains a white girlfriend…

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Mark Ebulue as Othello and Kirsty Oswald as Desdemona

Our time and setting for Othello is abundant in issues and complexities that have proved to be incredibly invigorating in the rehearsal room. It has also allowed for a rich process and a firm sense of time and place for our audiences.

Othello opens on 28 October – visit our website for more information.
Rehearsal photography by Manuel Harlan.

Leicestershire’s WW1 remembered in Pack Up Your Troubles

To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire is hosting a special concert at Curve on 2 October. Pack Up Your Troubles follows the stories from Leicester and Leicestershire during 1914 – 18, recalled through the music, songs, poetry, photography and art of the era.

We caught up with BBC Radio Leicester’s Dave Andrews who is directing the concert to find out more about the show. PUYT_email_600x272 What was the inspiration behind Pack Up Your Troubles?

I’m chair of a local group called Applause which has the twin aims of raising money for local charities and promoting local musical talent. Leicestershire’s Lord Lieutenant – Lady Gretton – is our Patron and she asked if we would put together a show which would be a fitting commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of WW1.

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Leicestershire soldiers leaving from London Road Station

How is the concert coming together at the moment?

Pretty well really. The show is going to tell the story of the war through music which was written at the time (all kinds from classical and opera to popular and music hall) along with the stories from BBC Radio Leicester’s archives of local Leicestershire heroes of the war.

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Leicestershire soldiers in the trenches

How did you go about researching the narrative element of the concert?

I used to be a history teacher so I did have a basic knowledge of the main elements of WW1. However I’ve been to our brilliant Records Office at Wigston to get additional help on the local stories from the staff there and also the local newspapers of 100 years ago. The other great source of stories has been the series of World War 1 at Home features researched and broadcast by my colleague at BBC Radio LeicesterBridget Blair. Pack up 2

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A Zeppelin similar to the one which dropped bombs over Loughborough on 31 Jan 1916

What is the most inspiration story you’ve heard about Leicestershire citizens involved in War?

The story which always makes me weep is listening to Market Harborough’s Arthur Tugwell describing the Christmas truce in 1914 when the soldiers from both sides come out of the trenches to shake hands, exchange gifts and play football. They also sang carols together. The next day of course they had to go back to shooting at each other. This story will feature in the show.

Who can we expect to see performing at the event?

We’ve got some great musicians – The Enderby Band, the barbershop quartet – The Simpletones, Elaine Pantling, a choir put together by Chris Johns, the Director of Music at the Cathedral, well known soloists David Morris and Jenny Saunders and plenty more including a fantastic routine from Curve Young Company. Breakfast presenters Jim Davis and Jo Hayward will be reading some poems as will Mid-morning presenter Jonathan Lampon. My BBC friends and colleagues (and also Applause Board members) Martin Ballard and Monica Winfield will be looking after the narration along with myself.

Which segment of the concert are you personally looking forward to?

There’s going to be a lot of light and shade – with classical pieces like Mars from The Planets to Elaine Pantling dressed as Marie Lloyd singing saucy songs and leading some community singing. However, I think the real moment for me will be when at the end the band play Evening Hymn and Sunset and we have a poppy petal drop of 12, 000 poppies – one for each of the lives of Leicestershire people who died in the war.

How have the families of those involved in the Great War responded to the organising of this special event?

Very positively. We’ve invited the relatives of all the people whose stories we are featuring and hopefully they will all come along. We will also have representatives and standards from many of the Veterans’ Associations as well as the Royal British Legion.

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Front page of The Daily Telegraph on 11 Nov 1918

Where will proceeds from this event be going? 

Thanks to Curve for so generously donating the use of the theatre and to all the performers who will be performing for no fees – all the proceeds will go to the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

To book tickets for Pack Up Your Troubles click here.

All images thanks to Leicestershire Records Office in Wigston.

Behind the scenes of the University of Leicester’s Sue Townsend exhibition

Sue Townsend was without doubt Leicester’s best loved author and earlier this summer we were thrilled to announce that we will be staging a brand new musical adaptation of her iconic novel, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾.

When we discovered that the University of Leicester was planning an exhibition of Sue’s life and work opening on 5 September – we had to find out more and chatted to Simon Dixon, Digital Humanities and Special Collections Manager.

What was Sue’s relationship with University of Leicester?
Sue was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Leicester in 1991, and in 2008 she became an Honorary Distinguished Fellow, the highest honour that the University can award. We were delighted in 2005 when she entrusted the Library with looking after her extensive literary and personal archive. It is an extraordinary collection, that charts her entire writing career from the early unpublished manuscripts that she wrote in secret while her family were asleep, to her final published work The Woman who Went to Bed for a Year.

Sue Towsend receiving her honorary degree from the University in 1991 (Leicester Mercury Archive)

Sue Towsend receiving her honorary degree from the University in 1991 (Leicester Mercury Archive)

What was the inspiration behind the Sue Townsend exhibition?
Like so many people in Leicester we were deeply saddened when we learned of Sue’s passing in April. We wanted to be able to mark her incredible achievements as a writer, and the contribution she made to the University and the city by depositing her archive with us. We use the collection for teaching with our students on a regular basis, but members of the public do not often have the opportunity to see the fascinating material that we hold. I hope that the exhibition will help to promote Sue’s literary legacy and encourage visitors to the Library to read and re-read her work.

© Caroline Holden-Hotopf

© Caroline Holden-Hotopf

What are the must-see exhibits?
One of the boxes in the archive contains some of Sue’s early unpublished manuscripts, probably written in secret before she confessed about her writing to Colin Broadway. In the box are a series of copies of the Eyres Monsell and Saffron Community news from 1975, a community newspaper distributed to 4,000 homes in the area where Sue lived and worked. The May edition contains an article titled ‘OOYAH, GERROFF THE COMICS!’, and encourages parents to let children learn to read from comics instead of force-feeding them the ‘insipid lispings of Janet and John’. It’s unsigned, but the style, the passionate advocacy of literacy, and the loathing of Janet and John books suggest that this, and another article from the same year, were Sue’s first ever published works.

What other items can visitors expect to see on display?
The archive is such a rich resource, it was hard to decide what to include and what to leave out. I’ve selected items that tell the story of Sue’s life, and her whole literary career from her early years with the Phoenix Theatre, right through to her later novels and her involvement in the new Curve production of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾.

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Our new musical opens on 7 Mar – 4 Apr 2015

One of my favourite Sue Townsend books is The Queen and I, in which the monarchy is abolished and the royal family are sent to live on a council estate. The archive contains research notes for the book, including estate agents details for a 3 bedroom semi-detached house in Braunstone with handwritten alterations by Sue. This became the house in Hellebore (Hell) Close inhabited by the Queen and Prince Philip in the book, and will be on display with Sue’s hand drawn sketch of the Hell Close.

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© Caroline Holden-Hotopf

Is there anything that Adrian Mole fans in particular should look out for?
Adrian Mole fans will be able to see pages from the original draft manuscript for The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ containing one of the most famous and best-loved passages from the book. The manuscript contains numerous crossings out and alterations, and you can really see Sue fine tuning sentences until she was happy with them. Also on display are some of Caroline Holden’s original artwork for the first two Mole books, including an early version of the iconic cover art.

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First page of the original manuscript of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 © Estate of Sue Townsend

How did you go about gathering the items on display in the exhibition?
All of the items on display are from the Library’s own collections. The majority are from the Sue Townsend Archive, but we’re also fortunate to have Caroline Holden’s Mole artwork. Many of the photographs we’ve used are from the Leicester Mercury archive, which we also look after.

How have Sue’s family responded to the exhibition and the early preparations?
We’ve received great support from Sue’s family, not just for the exhibition but for all of the work that we do with the archive and we are very grateful for this. They are planning to visit the exhibition later in the year.

Sue Townsend on a previous visit to the Univ ersity of  Leicester  Credit: University of Leicester

Sue Townsend on a previous visit to the University of Leicester © University of Leicester

When does the Sue Townsend exhibition open and how can people find out more.
The exhibition opens on 5 September and runs to 4 January 2015 in the basement of the David Wilson Library on the University of Leicester campus. Entry to the Library is free but security controlled. Members of the public can ask for admission to the Special Collections exhibition at reception. Library opening hours can be found on our website.

There will also be an opportunity to see more of the archive and ask questions on 15 November at a fringe event during Literary Leicester.

A Closer Look at YAE Emilia Robinson

On Monday 11 August, dance practitioner Emilia Robinson will be presenting her Young Arts Entrepreneurs project, A Closer Look for the first time as part of our Showcase Day.

Puzzling over some of life’s biggest questions such as “What do you desire in life? What is important to you?”, Emilia tells us here about the collaboration that she brought together in an attempt to help answer them, and what the Young Arts Entrepreneurs programme has meant to her as an emerging artist.

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Tell us more about your YAE project
The aim of my project, A Closer Look, is to bring together a new community of emerging artists who each work with different art forms to exchange practices and ideas, creating a ‘work in progress’ for a new performance. The creative inspiration for this project has been gathered from contact with members of the general public in the UK and worldwide, collecting multiple stories and tales within the theme of ‘human experience’, looking at questions such as “what do you desire in life?”

The collaborators for this project span across dance, music, theatre, performance art and digital media.

The theme and interests of this performance project mean that anybody, anywhere, will be able to relate to the ideas expressed. This project is a pilot programme, to test out the collaborative framework, to see where we can take the work next, and to see who else might be able to benefit from this project.

What will you be sharing at the Showcase Day?

We will be having a performance sharing of A Closer Look at 11.30am in the Studio, followed by a practical workshop at 2pm. Here audience members can join the collaborators to experiment with movement, voice, sound, text and projection, and step behind the scenes of our creative process to discover how the project was researched and brought to life.

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How has the YAE programme helped your project develop?
The YAE programme has allowed me to look at my artistic practice within a business framework, by understanding key components such as: Who does this benefit? What are the aims? Who would fund this and why? Who is the audience for this project? And the scary one: what will this cost?

Which element of the programme has been of the most use to you and your project?
The programme has supported me and enabled me to experience and initiate the creation, marketing, producing, performing and evaluating of an entire project from start to finish. This journey is extremely important for me to understand as a freelance and independent dance artist who aims to facilitate future projects.

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Emilia and fellow Young Arts Entrepreneurs in a training session at Curve

What opportunities have you received as a part of the programme that you wouldn’t have otherwise?
The mentoring, financial support, training and tailored experiences provided by the YAE programme have ensured that I have had a well-rounded experience of creative entrepreneur training. Extensive contact with professionals in the industry as well as touring of the BBC Radio Leicester studios and speaking to the team about how to do a press release and market my work, is something that I would have never done before.

How do you feel about the YAE programme coming to an end?
The YAE cohort of participants and mentors have been really supportive and I hope that they will be long-term collaborators, friends and colleagues. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn alongside an exceptionally motivated and inspirational group of young artists and arts entrepreneurs – they really have kept me sane.

Are you looking forward to the upcoming showcase day?
Yes, I look forward to sharing my project with others and being brought up-to-date on everybody else’s projects – I am excited to see how people’s projects have unravelled over this year. I think it is a great opportunity to discuss my project with other individuals and to hear their ideas and comments about it too.

From all that you’ve learnt, what would be the one key bit of advice that you’d pass on to budding arts entrepreneurs?
The one thing to continuously think is: what makes me different? (And another thing is to always remember to be grateful to the people who help you – you need them.)

To book a place to see A Closer Look and attend the workshop on Monday 11 August click here.

Find out more about The Showcase Day.

Photography by Nathan Human.