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Transforming Narratives: Four years working with 500 creatives across three countries

Main image: Saif-Ul-Malook Orchestra: Safar Ul Ishq – The Hymns of Saints is set in Mirpur, Kashmir
  • Watch our new short film, produced by Amrit Singh, which features the work and voices of artists who have been supported by the programme.
  • Transforming Narratives has also created a Digital Timeline feature, which highlights its achievments and those of the artists it has worked with.

For four years, Transforming Narratives has supported cultural and creative exchange between artists, creative practitioners and organisations in Birmingham, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This includes supporting and connecting more than 500 artists and creative practitioners across the three countries.

Established in 2018, Transforming Narratives has been managed by Culture Central, supported by Arts Council England and the British Council and delivered in association with The British Council.

Ground-breaking programme

Transforming Narratives has been a ground-breaking programme that has offered a range of platforms for new artistic voices, exchanging narratives around contemporary lived experience across the three countries.

Transforming Narratives has also built meaningful and enduring relationships between the cultural sectors in Birmingham, and vilages, towns and cities in Pakistan and Bangladesh, now and for the future.

The programme has also worked with ten Birmingham-based partners: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG)Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT)Birmingham Repertory TheatreIkon GalleryKalaboration Arts , Legacy West MidlandsMidlands Arts CentreSouth Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (SADAA)Sampad and Sonia Sabri Company.

'So much has been achieved'

Sophina Jagot, Project Director for Transforming Narratives, said:It’s been a real moment of reflection, putting together the short film and timeline of Transforming Narratives, we’ve been able to really think about the ways in which Transforming Narratives has supported new work, challenged the norm and created genuine cultural exchanges across Birmingham, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“So much has been achieved through the programme, and I hope people take a look at the Transforming Narratives website to get a sense of the work that has happened over the last four years and the connections that have been made, we hope the legacy of this engagement, support and delivery is more creative and cultural connections across the three locations in the years to come.”

Transforming Narratives commissioned new art and forged new connections bringing artists, curators and organisations together, to promote new ways of thinking and working. Artists were supported to develop new work in an artist-led, trust-based approach.

Understanding of contemporary culture

R&D visits brought artists to Birmingham, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Birmingham, a series of community facilitator research reports were commissioned to better understand the context for people who identify as of Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Kashmiri heritage living and/or working in Birmingham to develop the team’s understanding of contemporary culture, people’s engagement with the city and experience of the city’s cultural life. 

When Covid hit, a Digital Collaborative Programme was launched with grants leading to 17 new artistic commissions linking the three countries and which included a series of critical dialogue events to encouraged debate.

Mukhtar Dar of Kalaboration Arts, who produced Songs of Solitude as part of the Digital Collaborations Programme, said: “Transforming Narratives opened doors which had previously been closed.”

Mela & Symposium

The Transforming Narratives Mela & Symposium in March 2022 brought together artists and audiences in Birmingham, Pakistan and Bangladesh for a ground-breaking three day online festival, with 14 new commissioned projects.

Samira Syed, one of the Producer’s of Angon – a series of podcasts linking individuals from the art and cultural communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Birmingham commissioned through the Digital Collaborative Grants programme, said: “When you bring people together and let them speak and create, bonds beyond politics and borders can get forged. I think these are key for our education and our future.”

Transforming Narratives also supported professional development with its Cultural Leadership Programme that brought forward a new generation of artistic leaders, from Birmingham, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Cultural organisations were supported to programme new work through the programme with 10 Birmingham-based arts organisations formed a partnership, and curators and managers making new connections. 

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