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Style & Stuff Editorial

masalafestival18.jpg Hey! Hey! It’s the Masala Festival!

Now as much a part of the summer months as wasps in your picnic sandwiches, but infinitely more fun, is GemArts’ award-winning Masala Festival, which returns in July with nine days of the finest in South Asian arts and culture. 

Music! Dance! Food! Film! Art! Poetry! Is there anything that the Masala Festival doesn’t do? Now in its third year, it has been expanded just so they can fit everything in, and for their latest extravaganza GemArts will be celebrating the spirit of the north by presenting an outstanding selection of artists and producers based in the North of England, either working in South Asian art forms, presenting South Asian themes, or with links to South Asia in their own heritage.

In a festival that is going to be overflowing with exciting visual stuff, I reckon jaws may drop furthest with ‘Everything Nothing’ an exhibition from Sumit Sarkar. This will be a retrospective of Sumit’s 20 years of painting and sculpture and those pieces will be shown alongside new work exploring 3D print, virtual reality and motion capture.

Naturally, there will be plenty of live music to keep you entertained and one of the highlights is sure to arrive in the shape of Ashraf Sharif Khan and Shabaz Hussain at Sage Gateshead (Wednesday 18 July). Ashraf Sharif Khan’s sitar playing combines an astonishing technical proficiency with perfection in musical expression, while Shabaz Hussain is regarded as the leading Tabla virtuoso of his generation.

There’ll be more musical treats at The Jazz Café when Jesse Bannister goes through his paces (Thursday 19 July). Widely heralded as the finest Indian saxophonist in Europe, Bannister is acclaimed for delivering a fusion of jazz and Indian music and for this gig he has put together a new quartet, all of whose members are enthusiastic about crossing musical boundaries.

There will be an evening of poetry – Language and Identity – at The Lit & Phil that will see turns from Sujata Bhatt, Vidyan Ravinthiran and Zaffar Kunial (Tuesday 17 July). These three award-winning poets will read from their latest works that consider, amongst other themes of home and heritage, multiculturalism and history, as well as the inheritance of languages – Kashmiri, Sri Lankan, Gujarati and English – that have influenced their poetry and their identities.

The Arch Sixteen Café in Gateshead is sure to be another popular venue when they screen Gurinder Chadha’s award-winning, heart-warming and hilarious film Bhaji on the Beach, which is sure to go down especially well with homemade vegetable curry, your very own bhaji, and a drink from the bar (Wednesday 18 July). Other film screenings will include Slumdog Millionaireat the Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay (Sunday 15 July), Village Rockstarsat the Tyneside Cinema (Saturday 21 July) and Awake – a programme of South Asian film shorts at BALTIC (Friday 20 July). 

There will also be the chance to view some rare Indian miniature paintings at the Hatton Gallery (Saturday 21 July), plenty of workshops, a special festival menu at the award-winning Dabbawal street food kitchen in Newcastle and Jesmond, and the whole thing is wrapped up rather gloriously with a Mini Mela at the Live Garden at Live Theatre (Sunday 22 July), which will feature an enthralling mix and blend of South Asian flavours for all the family.

GemArts Masala Festival, Saturday 14-Sunday 22 July, venues across Tyneside. More details: gemarts.org