The Darbar Fringe Festival explored several different areas: mainly political, musical and other topics such as cuisine, brown, black and white interactive art, as well as performance.
Sandeep Virdee, OBE, is the Darbar Fringe Festival's Director. Virdee sees the promise and hope of such imaginative cultural outcomes in opposition to the Powell speech, post- Brexit, and at this time of the World Cup, political reaction, as offering a different way to explore the culture of brown people in the UK. This is also in opposition to the bias of the BBC, the Arts Council and other official bodies regarding (especially non-white) culture.
Skinder Hundal, CEO of the New Art Exchange (NAE) said that the NAE, and the spaces available in the building itself, offered a great creative interactive opportunity for a Fringe Residency for four artists: Kirsten Hammerseth, classical European flautist at The Philharmonia, Jasdeep Degun, Indian Classical Sitar player, Rehmatt Rayatt, Visual artist (film and spoken-word) and fantastic beatboxer and sound artist, Jason Singh. They worked together and interacted over several days, to produce an ‘Afterglow’ Fusion event - which was the highlight of the Darbar- and perhaps the progenitor of future mixed cultural endeavours.
The Darbar incorporated the explosive, as well as haunting music of Kefaya, a mixed European-Asian jazz–music fusion with song, with great guest-singer, Deepa Nair Rasiya; the interactive, energetic instrumental Kora; vocal and other Gambian music of Sura Susso and fellow-players; and a powerful South African photographic show by Zanhele Muholi: ‘Somnayama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness’, in the galleries at NAE.
Another area, apart from cafe-space individual and group auditorium performances, was a ‘Culture Unwrapped’ programme of three discussion-panels: ‘Being Brown’, ‘Big Picture’, and ‘Word Power’. They investigated the recently re-broadcast Powell Speech/Brexit/Trump developments, the meaning of Culture right-wing reaction, and the use and application of words in maintaining reactive hegemonies.
These events, that were keenly attended, included the active and contributory participation of Roopa Panesar, the finest European Sitar maestro. The panel discussions included journalist and producer Anila Dhami taking part in the use of communication in mis-appropriation and application of word-power, with speakers Amit Dand, Bohdan Piasecki, Rishi Dastidar and Sylma Aslam. Baptist Coehlo (Mumbai visual artist), Dawinder Bansal (theatre-producer), Manmit Jandu Singh (architect) and Sunil Shah (Oxford artist and curator), contributed to Being ‘Brown’. Nihal Arthanayake (TV & Radio-presenter), Ben Harriott (photographer), Kayza Rose (Exec. Dir. BLackOutLDN), Mahsuda Snaith (Fiction-writer) and Mahtab Hussain (British Social Commentator) all panelled ‘Big Picture’. Resistance to reaction in these areas of identity and culture is increasingly active and hopeful - if only because there is a wider public-sense of need for fair-play, irrespective of grouping. Also there is an increasing dialogue, as well as cultural projects and areas of commonality between white working-class and non-white socially-affected groups.
Skinder Hundal and the NAE Team, provided a wonderfully adaptive, hospitable facility of support for this imaginative, interactive, Nottingham Darbar – which I, as a Raj Anglo-Indian, can only strongly recommend and support for present and future Nottingham audiences.