Transforming Narratives launches in Birmingham

Groundbreaking programme plans to establish Birmingham as leading international centre for Pakistan and Bangladeshi arts.

This week sees the official launch of Transforming Narratives, a ground-breaking three-year project that will establish Birmingham as a leading international centre for contemporary Pakistan and Bangladeshi arts. Managed by Culture Central it is supported by Arts Council England and delivered in association with The British Council.

The formal launch of Transforming Narratives took place on Thursday 21st March in an event at Birmingham Repertory Theatre hosted by BBC Asian Network’s Nadia Ali and attended by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Yvonne Mosquito, Mr Ahmar Ismail, Consulate General Pakistan and Mr Muhammed Nazmul Hoqu, Assistant High Commissioner Bangladesh.

Delivered by 12 diverse Birmingham-based cultural organisations Transforming Narratives links Birmingham with major cities in Pakistan and Bangladesh and will lead to new artistic works, a cultural leadership programme, new audiences, creative exchange and dialogue as well as artistic archiving.

Partners include: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Birmingham Museums Trust; Birmingham Repertory Theatre; Fierce Festival; Ikon Gallery; Kalaboration; Legacy West Midlands; Midlands Arts Centre; South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive; Sampad; Sonia Sabri Company and Soul City Arts / Mohammed Ali.

One of the biggest British Council projects in a UK city, organisations from Birmingham are travelling to Pakistan and Bangladesh to meet with artists there, to share learning and start to develop artistic projects which will take place during the life of the project. For the launch weekend, the Birmingham team were joined by arts leaders from Bangladesh who are in Birmingham to experience the city’s cultural offer.

The project launches with two collaborative events at Birmingham Repertory Theatre signalling the start of the artistic programme. Already sold out, Sigh of the Musaafir takes place on Saturday 23rd March led by Artistic Director Mukhtar Dar is a cutting-edge international collaboration featuring artists from Pakistan and Birmingham.

Bangladesh to Birmingham takes place on Sunday 24th March at Birmingham Repertory Theatre and is an immersive dining experience that invites guests to experiences the sounds, sights and flavours of Bangladesh as they enjoy an authentic three-course Bangladeshi meal, prepared by award-winning chef Munayam Khan. Guests will be surrounded by film projections from in and around Dhaka created by artist and curator Mohammed Ali with music performed live by Bangladeshi artists who are here especially for this event.

Sophina Jagot, Transforming Narratives Project Manager said: “It is fantastic that we are able to launch Transforming Narratives here in Birmingham, for decades people have left their homes to forge a new life in Birmingham, but their stories have rarely been told. Working with partners here in the City as well as in the cities of Bangladesh and Pakistan we are uncovering these stories and look forward to sharing them.

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

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England added: “There are strong links between diversity and creativity, and it will be fascinating to see how the different city environments and landscapes involved in Transforming Narratives will inspire artists and inform audiences.

“We are delighted that this National Lottery funding is supporting a project which will celebrate and explore history and tradition, while focusing on creating new stories at an international level, for everyone to share and enjoy.”

Kathy McArdle, Director of England & Cities, British Council commented: “Transforming Narratives builds on the vibrant and diverse artistic talent of South Asian communities in Birmingham, Bangladesh and Pakistan for the mutual benefit of all three places, whose histories, heritage and stories are intrinsically interconnected.

“This hugely ambitious three-year programme aims to establish Birmingham as a global leader and pioneer in contemporary South Asian cultural programmes, which is an ambition we fully support. Transforming Narratives is relevant, necessary and important, drawing inspiration from the past, but being resolutely focused on the present.

“As the UK’s organisation for cultural relations between the UK and other countries, we are immensely proud to play a small part in this wonderful project and look forward to the opportunities it brings for artists, curators, programmers, audiences and residents of Birmingham and our partner cities in Bangladesh and Pakistan.”

Find out more about Transforming Narratives online at or on social media: Twitter – @T_Narratives; Instagram – @transformingnarratives; Facebook – TransformingNarratives.

Tickets are still available for Bangladesh to Birmingham on Sunday 24th March here

Arts Council England is investing £660,000 of National Lottery money in Transforming Narratives, as part of the Ambition for Excellence scheme, an Arts Council fund to develop artistic and cultural talent and leadership and give an international dimension to excellent work.