BBC Radio Leicester’s Asian Life Festival

Celebrating five decades of Asian life in Leicester through food, arts and culture, BBC Radio Leicester’s Asian Life Festival explored all aspects of the journey so far that have made Leicester the incredible city it is today. Part of the festival was ‘The Good Companion’, a skit written by Divya Ghelani, which I had the pleasure of directing.

In May 1974, over 500 black and Asian workers at Imperial Typewriter Co. on Leicester’s East Park Road, went on strike against unequal pay and racism on the factory floor. The so-named ‘Asian Worker’s Strike’ was unofficial and unsupported by the local TGWU who many said were in cahoots with the factory management. It is one of the first stories of resistance for Asian workers and yet it has been excluded from Leicester’s recorded history. Part of my own family were Ugandan Asian refugees so when I heard the premise for the skit, I was captivated by the story and excited to come on board, but at the same time shocked to have had no prior knowledge of the events that took place.

The Good Companion

The following is an extract from a conference paper presented by Evan Smith at the 2008 Social History Society conference in Rotterdam:

“The strikers claimed that the ‘white workers don’t suffer from the same degree of discipline as blacks do’… they were quoted in New Society as stating, ‘This discrimination is quite peculiar because it is so hard to nail. It is the racialism that you feel but cannot overtly see, that exists at Imperial’.

The representative of the TGWU for Imperial Typewriters was George Bromley, who objected to the unofficial nature of the strike and the demands being made. Bromley criticised the unofficial measures being taken by the Asian strikers and their apparent disregard for the ‘proper disputes procedure’, stating that the strikers ‘have got to learn to fit in with our ways’.”

The Good Companion was performed by local Leicester actors Marcus Langford and Krish Bharat. It followed a film that included interviews with Ugandan Asian refugees discussing the hardships of working in factories in the seventies.

The festival was an enlightening celebration of Asian history and life in Leicester and I am extremely proud to have been a part of it.

Cast: Marcus Langford & Krishan Bharat

Director: Kieran Vyas

Writer: Divya Ghelani

Producer: Kamlesh Purohit

 

More info on the Imperial Typewriter strike: https://hatfulofhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/before-the-unity-of-grunwick-40-years-since-the-imperial-typewriters-strike/

 

‘King Richard’s Cyber Horse’ by Sara Bodinar

This autumn I’ll be directing ‘King Richard’s Cyber Horse’, a brand new play by award-winning writer Sara Bodinar. The play was commissioned by Urban Young Actors especially for their end of year show and centres around a virtual reality game in an apocalyptic future. Rehearsals begin in September and the production goes up on 23rd November.

This will be my fourth time directing for Urban and is undoubtedly the biggest project yet. Over the years, I’ve been blown away by the level of talent coming through the doors and the list of Urban alumni speaks for itself.

‘King Richard’s Cyber Horse’ will see historical events navigating on a futuristic landscape and, I must confess, the theme of virtual reality gets my inner child beaming with excitement. My only hope is that the budget stretches to some extensive primary research with Oculus Rift headsets! Needless to say, I can’t wait to dive into rehearsals and get started.

Director: Kieran Vyas
Writer: Sara Bodinar
Producer: Melissa Smith

#WAKEUP

At the end of last year, I posted on Facebook after witnessing a young girl being sexually assaulted in Leicester. A friend commented and said why don’t I use music and film to do something about it. Six months later and I’d like to share this…Two stories about real people I’ve encountered in my life which have had a profound effect on the way I see things. One is the victim of sexual assault and the other of homophobia.

Producing this film has been a huge challenge, the second story in particular. I wanted to reach out to the musical community I was raised in as I believe it’s a community that still suffers from a lot of homophobia. Time after time again I had the figurative door slammed in my face by people not wanting to be associated with the subject matter. The comments I received were shocking and appalling, and at the same time proved the importance of the song’s message.

Thank you to the cast for their support and to SAM.G for her breathtaking vocals.

If you like it and believe in the message, please like, comment, share and ‘let everybody know if you’re bringing love’. Thank you.

 


BBC RADIO LEICESTER

Catch me on BBC Radio Leicester speaking to Jo Hayward about #WAKEUP and the stories of sexual assault and homophobia that inspired it.

LISTEN HERE (from 2:06:00)


 

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Auditions

In April and May I’ll be joining the panel at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire during initial and recall auditions. The industry is ever-changing and the craft is always evolving, so during my time on the other side, I hope to get an insight into what drama schools are looking for right now.

I trained at the RBC so I expect that watching the auditionees perform in front of the panel will fill me with bittersweet nostalgia. Auditioning for drama school can be a scary experience. Even after training and working in the industry I still get nervous regularly in a variety of situations. But those nerves exist because we’re invested, passionate, and we hunger for the joy in performance. Let’s face it, most actors only choose this career path for the love of the art. So if you’re auditioning for drama school right now, nerves can be a good thing. Let them energise your performance. You’ve (hopefully) done the hard work, now you just need to trust in yourself.