Masala festival. Vikas Kumar, 15.6.23

Returning for its eighth event, the incredibly popular, and GemArts award-winning, Masala Festival is back celebrating South Asian creativity and cultural goodness!

Continuing to expand on its original premises of bringing impactful art and culture to venues and spaces in the North-East, this year’s event sees even more packed into the festival’s six-day duration.

“This year we’ve tried to go even bigger and get even better than previous years” confirms Vikas Kumar, chief of Gem Arts and curator of the Masala Festival.  “In the first instance that means being really clear with some of the themes we want to explore such as celebrating and exploring contemporary experiences of migration, identity, existence and place.  Then after that it’s really been about trying to work with international artists from across the South Asian diaspora, as well as local artists, to create really impactful events and art that have a real potential to positively influence people and connect them to each other.”

Built around a variety of art-based events (music, dance, literature, poetry, films, exhibitions, workshops, events for children and families, and food), this year’s Masala Festival aims to push the festival’s artistic boundaries into new places.  Vikas confirms the intent by offering insight into the diversity of the events, “we want to use different types of art so that we can impact a diverse collection of people with diverse interests – some people may have a preference to see shows or films, others might want to read stories or poetry, and no matter which type of art people enjoy I’m sure the festival has something for everyone”.

Opening with ‘Roshni’ by Sonia Sabri Company on 17th July, the festival hosts a number of unique events including an extraordinary musical event performed by two leading lights of the British jazz scene – Yazz Ahmed and Arun Ghosh, the launch of Out of Sri Lanka, a ground-breaking anthology published by Bloodaxe Books and dance performance events at Monument Metro by Amina Khyam Dance Company.  

Also worth noting will be the work of artist Sajil Kaleem, who’s paintings will be exhibited at The Newbridge Project, and some fascinating film showcases including Rehna Maryam Noor at Tyneside Cinema on 18th July.

“More than anything, we want the Masala festival to be somewhere that offers accessible places which enable people to be inspired in some way and then to feel safe to have conversations about their own interests and enjoyments.  We are all, regardless of our heritage, incredibly different as individuals and we all have our own tastes and preferences which give us unique and interesting personalities.  The more that we can share those with others, the more comfortable people can be to share their own stories and their own art with others.  Sometimes all we need is a little nudge and a little inspiration and it can bring out huge changes to how we feel and how connected we are.”

Regardless of artistic interest, Vikas is keen to point out that the heart of the Masala festival has been, and always will be, the people who attend “It’s great to have shows and events but more importantly this is a chance to connect and learn with others; the Masala festival is for everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, background and interests”.