Alchemy 2013

Preview of Europe’s biggest South Asian Arts Festival

Posted: 03.04.13

There are so many incredible arts events going on these days that even we can’t keep up, but The Alchemy at The Southbank Centre (10-21 April) is one we always have marked in our diaries a year in advance to make sure we don’t miss out.
It would be terribly clichéd to say ‘it’s amazing because there’s something for everyone’…but quite frankly we will say it as it’s true, there IS.
In fact even if you claim to not be interested in music, dance, literature, design and debate, once you have looked in the 33-page brochure, we are convinced something will spark excitement in you.
Especially as there are activities for every budget…whether you have money to burn on the best price seats or can only afford to go to things that are free, there are no excuses not to pop down at some point during the 12 days.
Question is, who do you take with you and what do you go and see? We’ve made these dilemmas simple with our guide to what we think will be the highlights and who will enjoy them.

The Trendy Fashionista: Alchemy Fashion Show Fri 12 April
Bloggers – remember to take your cameras! Showcasing the latest design talent coming out of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, this is the kind of fashion show seriously cool people will be attending, make sure you’re one of them!

The Shopping Addict: Alchemy By Design Fri 12 – Sun 14 April
You can’t have a festival without market stalls so make sure you bring some extra cash to support the 30 designers who’ll be selling their wares including textiles gifts and jewellery.

The Bollywood Wannabe: Bollywood Big Sing & Dance Sat 13 April
Ever wanted to be in the movies? Of course you have! Well now’s your chance and you don’t even need to board a plane to Mumbai. Take part in a singing workshop and performance AND master a dance routine with queen of choreography Honey Kelaria before being filmed. Your starring role will appear in the Southbank’s very own Bollywood movie that will be screened on April 21st.

The Foodie Fan: Alchemy Food Market 12noon-10.30pm every day

If it’s curry in a hurry you’re after, or the chance to Chaat and snack, head down to the Festival Village where Roti Chai have a special Alchemy residency serving up lunches, afternoon tiffins and yummy cocktails or sample the plethora of other stalls – you can have a different feast every time you visit the festival.

The Crafty Type (various dates)
With the DIY/make do and mend ethos having a major resurgence in Britain, Alchemy takes craft into a whole new direction, celebrating the presence of craft in South Asian cultures. Join in a discussion about The Power of Craft (April 11th), take part in a fabric-printing workshop with FabIndia, explore some rather fabulous textile exhibitions and go on a hunt for rickshaws.

The Culture Vulture: Talvin Singh Bombay Talkies Sun 14 April
This is going to be one of those ‘I was there’ moments so make sure you are! The legend Talvin Singh will be performing improvised live scores to two classic silent movies accompanied by sitarist Roopa Panesar. You know the saying ‘miss it miss out’? Well it applies here.

The First Date: Daksha Sheth Dance Company – Shiva Shaki Mon 15 & Tues 16th April
Taking someone you don’t know that well to see a dance may sound a little scary, but this isn’t any old performance. No one can fail to be impressed by Daksha’s incredible aerial work, circus skills and all round amazingness. Blending contemporary dance with traditional Indian styles accompanied by live music you’ll definitely have a lot to discuss together post-show.

The New Music Fan: Khiyo Tues 16 April

Indulge your ears with new sounds you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. London based Brit-Bengali band Khiyo mix Tagore’s poetry with acoustic sounds, strings and vocals. Something different for the music connoisseurs on the hunt for something original.

The Lover of Classical Music: Baluji Shrivastav Sat 20th April

He’s the man that made the sitar cool. Blind musician Baluji has cult status in the classical world and was last seen performing alongside Coldplay at the Closing Ceremony of The Paralympic Games. In this rare live set he’ll be playing with a full orchestra.

The Family Outing: (various)
In this final section, we couldn’t quite work out what to pick…dance by Gauri Sharma (12 April), Nihal’s Burban Mela (20 April), Bollywood singer Ash King (April 20th), BBC Concert Orchestra (21 April)? There are basically SO MANY events in this jam-packed festival you could take a different family member with you every day, or indeed the whole clan.

To see the full list of events and to book tickets visit 

Main image: Akash by Chris Nash for Southbank

Words: Momtaz Begum-Hossain

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