Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Saved! The Watermans Arts Centre, Brentford, London

The London Evening Standard today brings this gratifying news about an arts venue in west London which has consistently show-cased theatre, film, comedy and more, on British-Asian themes :

Brentford arts centre wins back funding
Louise Jury, Chief Arts Correspondent, 04.11.08

ARTS Council England is to restore nearly 60 per cent of the funding axed from the Watermans Arts Centre, Brentford, in recent cuts.

It reassessed its decision after the venue threatened to go to judicial review and will pay an annual grant of £240,000 for three years.

The new Arts Council support is specifically targeted at Watermans'programme of work with Asian artists and for Asian audiences. Ninaz Khodaiji, Watermans' programmer for Asian arts, said: "We are at a crossroads in Asian arts development with audience needs becoming more diverse than ever."

Watermans' tradition in Asian arts goes back to its 1984 opening when sitar player Ravi Shankar was the first to appear at the venue.

Why should this matter? Do we need specific 'British-Asian' arts? Aren't there plenty of other arts venues in London? Important questions. Quick answers are, yes, it matters because there has been no other similar forum in London which has consistently introduced and promoted some wonderful British-Asian artists e.g. Sanjeev Bhaskar, amongst many others, started here.

I caught an as-yet-unknown Sanjeev performing there in the mid-1990s when I did a review for Eastern Eye of his then-burgeoning comedy act with, of all people, Nitin Sawhney (check his website, he had a slick PR company even back then...). The British-Asian experience has not been adequately reflected in other theatres around London. Not only that but Watermans also hosts some Indian Punjabi theatre companies too. It's a wonderful riverside venue in a great setting - see what's on here and check it out sometime.

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