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Transforming Narratives: the story so far  

Sigh of the Musaafir delivered by Kalaboration at The Rep helped launch Transforming Narratives in March 2019

Transforming Narratives is a project to establish Birmingham as a global centre for contemporary arts from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The project brings together artists and cultural organisations from across artforms, who are located in Birmingham and cities in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Since the project’s inception in June 2018 relationships have been forged in Birmingham and cities such as Lahore and Karachi in Pakistan and Dhaka in Bangladesh.


Transforming Narratives officially launched with two collaborative events at Birmingham Repertory Theatre including Sigh of the Musaafir on Saturday 23 March 2019, led by Artistic Director Mukhtar Dar (Kolaboration) featuring artists from Pakistan and Birmingham.

This was followed by Bangladesh to Birmingham the following day, which was an immersive dining experience that invited guests of all backgrounds to experience the sights, sounds and flavours of Bangladesh as they enjoyed an authentic multi-course Bangladeshi meal, prepared by award-winning chef Munayam Khan.

Guests were surrounded by film projections from in and around Dhaka created by artist and curator Mohammed Ali (Soul City Arts) with music performed live by Bangladeshi artists who travelled to Birmingham especially for the event. As a British artist of Bangladeshi heritage Ali has been instrumental in the development of Transforming Narratives programme.

Research and development

In November 2018 an open call was launched for research and development projects that created a new dialogue and artistic works. A total of 19 trips were funded by the Transforming Narratives Open Call R&D programme.

One of the R&D trips saw Birmingham-based artist Maryam Wahid visit Pakistan for the first time, the resulting photographs she took are now on display at the Too Rich a Soil exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall until 19 April 2020.

As well as this, a curated study trip to Birmingham with ten cultural organisations from Pakistan and Bangladesh was also completed.

Research Projects

In the spring of 2019 an open call for Community Facilitators resulted in six highly respected professionals conduct research projects to engage with a wide range of people from the Birmingham, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities including many artists and women.

Through consultations and study groups these community facilitators were able to gain an insight into how these people thought of art, their level of engagement, challenges to participation and aspirations going forward.

New Commissions and appointments

As part of the Transforming Narratives project there have also been five new commissions including Birmingham Contemporary Music Group’s Music in Dialogue on 30 June 2019 to establish cultural exchange and communication between musical traditions of different continents.

The Sonia Sabri Company is also formulating a new dance entitled Sahasa (The Brave) with events taking place at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on 28 and 29 February in connection with the commission and more details can be seen here.

This autumn two new appointments were made with Erica Love becoming the Director of Culture Central, the programme provider, and Parminder Dosanjh as Transforming Narratives Project Director.

2020 Projects

As we move into the new year, many exciting projects are in the pipeline including new artistic programmes, as a result of Transforming Narratives first open call, which will form the beating heart of the Transforming Narratives project.

These programmes will be a mix of exchanges and collaborations, featuring a stimulating mix of events in Birmingham, Pakistan and Bangladesh. A second open call for artistic programmes launches in early 2020.

Also in 2020, a Cultural Leadership programme will begin to develop the cultural leaders of tomorrow, working to improve the skills and confidence of 20 young creative producers from across the project’s three target areas, through a bespoke learning programme including residencies and international exchanges.

As well as this, events will be organised as part of the Transforming Narratives Critical Dialogue element to promote conversations, debate and new understanding on a range of topics.

Partners and funders

Throughout the project’s life Transforming Narratives is working with 12 partners, they are:

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG)Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT)Birmingham Repertory TheatreFierce FestivalIkon GalleryKalaborationLegacy West MidlandsMidlands Arts CentreSouth Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (SADAA)SampadSonia Sabri Company and Soul City Arts.

Sophina Jagot, Transforming Narratives Project Manager, said: “Working with partners here in the city as well as in the cities of Bangladesh and Pakistan, we are uncovering new stories.

“This project is a real opportunity for us to establish Birmingham as the leader in contemporary Pakistani and Bangladeshi arts both in terms of the artistic programme we will develop but through working with communities, stakeholders and artists to develop skills, encourage debate and knowledge sharing.”

Transforming Narratives is a groundbreaking three-year project to establish Birmingham as a leading international centre for contemporary Pakistani and Bangladeshi arts, for the mutual benefit of Birmingham and cities in Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

It is managed by Culture Central, supported by Arts Council England Ambition for Excellence scheme (a fund to develop artistic and cultural talent and leadership and give an international dimension to excellent work), and delivered in association with The British Council.

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