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There is Brady Arts Centre plonk right in the middle of social housing blocks, warm and glowing in the street of brown and yellow Autumn leaves. Would that I had such a venue by my estate. I would be at every function, drag in my children and grandchildren, sniff out what’s free and share my home made samosas with the welcoming staff.

The place was buzzing yesterday. The reception staff are just smiley always and there were acting classes going on, a seminar being set up,and felt tip pens all over the place: the mark of activity and creativity. That was just on the ground floor ..and the kettle was on!

I had such a good time last night. It was freezing outside and the bus took longer because it was on diversion. I pushed myself onwards. My day had exhausted me and I just wanted to eat meat; meat in a bun,. meat in gravy, even meat disguised as fat chips. The Burger King had gone, vanished, closed down so I just made do with a packet of crisps. Hungry I entered the arena where I would begin my formal education about Bangla drama and Bangla drama in the UK.

Not disappointed at all. Remember the session would last from 7.15pm prompt until venue closing time 9pm so I knew the two speakers would take us the audience on a whirlwind journey across continents. I wanted to learn about acting troupes in Bangladesh and any vibrant Bangladeshi drama scene in the UK.

I was a volunteer blogger for “A Season Of Bangla Drama” in order to learn about other cultural enterprises.

We were introduced to a book “The Arts Britain Ignores.” by Naseem Khan .

The title of the evening’s event under the umbrella of the current Season Of Bangla Drama in Brady Arts Centre and Rich Mix E1 was”A Comparative Study-History and Development of Bangla Drama in Bangladesh and the UK”.

Our first speaker was Dr Nazneen Ahmed.  She read from her PhD notes about the two forms of drama in East and West Bengal up to 1941; Urban theatre and traditional theatre.  Dr. Ahmed  assumed an academic audience whereas not all of us were up to speed. It is always great to hear experts expound on their work. I was intrigued by some of her statements and wanted to ask more but time was limited and interruptions were many. People’s mobiles went off loudly, people chatted as though we were at a wedding, the Bangla TV photographer was shining his lamp into anyone’s eyes and actually documenting the event by film without asking permission from individuals in the audience. Anything goes? Not on really. I was intrigued that Dr. Ahmed said that in the main drama and in particular Bangladeshi  drama is about people rebelling against the authorities.

I was interested to know that much of the drama of the early 20th Century was shaped by Russian and American theatre. I couldn’t judge the attitude towards that at all except that it was a note of interest that serving military personnel from the USA  formed and produced theatre in Bengal.

The delight of the evening was the modest and softly spoken Dr.Muhammad  Ahmedulla of  the Brick Lane Circle. He went through the London archives about Bangladeshi drama in an east London full of racists and suspicion towards the incoming Bengalis after 1971. This was the east end (now Newham and Tower Hamlets) where women from Bengal and everywhere else kept in their houses and men attended meetings and cultural groups. One could believe that nothing much has changed as last night we were mainly a male and mature audience. Let us at this point remember where stands the Brady Arts Centre. Not so far from mothers and daughters, and in the 21st century.

On the pillars of the Centre are quotes and autographs of the performers guesting in A Season of Bangla Drama. The mural is finished and a worthy climax to a great exhibition about the rise of the Season. (SOBD). It’s colourful, original, street-suited and vibrant in design. Well done artists young and older!

Part 2 to follow. Coronation Street arrived! Now that’s some drama. Well-scripted and excellently acted.

          

               

Who am I to be blogging about “A Season of Bangla Drama?  Someone who loves drama and theatre, one who subscribes to SkyArts, someone who had to beg the authoritarian authorities so that I could wear trousers when teaching drama in a junior school back in the backdays of the seventies, someone who is hungry to experience and learn about other places, a North Londoner who lives in North east London and prefers it.

The call went out from Tower Hamlets Festivals and Events department for bloggers at “A Season of Bangla Drama”. I responded. What better way to learn about people than through drama?  Seen the films, read some books, and time to get  involved deeper even though I can’t write the script.

A few years ago I lived on a remote Scottish island. I’d come down to London to support musicians in Brick Lane. Remotely, I collaborated with Jake Green, the photographer, and wrote an anthology of poems, “Ribbons” (coming soon). Some of the words just capture the Brick Lane of the late nineties.

Last year I found out through a throwaway comment dropped by my younger sister that my father was born in Turner Street, Whitechapel, just behind the London Hospital.  He’d  told me that he was a Cockney because he was born within the sound of the Bow Bells.

turning into Turner Street E1

I come from a family of true snobs and so,  as we were in Muswell Hill (knobs ‘ill),  and even though we were living on a council estate riddled with murderers and gang-members, we shunned the rough and ready east-enders especially in the dock areas. It is only lately and coincidentally with the volcanic cultural eruptions around the Olympic site in old brownsite Stratford that I am learning about the geography and make-up, then and now, of Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Dalston;  all the allegedly fashionable dwelling places.

My grandmother, a seamstress by trade, lived in Shoreditch before moving to leafy, hilly Crouch End N8.   I  visited her regularly in Crouch End because I loved her.  I was about thirteen when I described Bethnal Green to her as a hotspot of prostitutes and thieves. I’d read about slums in east London.  I had never been there.

“It’s always been bad.” she affirmed.

In the few years my dad lived in the poverty of Whitechapel he was beaten by his father, that I know. Dad would turn in his grave if he knew I were the only English white person along his road the other day. Remember he would have been an Imperialist. He was a racist, for sure, and spent loads of energy justifiying every viewpoint he held. However he was right about the Western diet contributing to bowel cancer and was able to use Binary Code and do Calculus, no problem. He cooked a masterful spaghetti bolognese and gave mum nine kids!

Brady Arts Centre would have been a girls’ club in those days, I believe, and is documented under Jewish History.

So, here I am at SOBD

It was night-time at 2.30pm today; so dull and cold and yuk but as ever Whitechapel was buzzing. All the mums were out with their buggies and their other children hanging on to the pram handles. The market stalls were busy. The beautiful textiles were shaking in the bitter wind. Business as usual.

Brady Arts Centre is always ready with warmth and a welcome.

Today it was busier than ever with  Maraz Ahmed  putting up the exhibition “A Retrospective- A Season of Bangla Drama”   almost single-handedly. I was invited into the auditorium to peek at the ongoing rehearsal for The Movement Theatre’s production tonight directed by Dr. Mukid Choudhury. It was a magical shot in the dark literally because the colours of the lighting and the costumes are awesome and the professionalism and dedication of the performers, all moving, were evident,  as it should be.

Tickets were sold out early. I love the strictness about not allowing latecomers and hopefuls around. It’s an insult to the troupe when people rock up late and loud. The audience wants to stay in the realm of fantasy not be interrupted by shuffling people.

Next year I’m booking for first night at first whiff.

The trick is in the fantasies about to unfold in Hanbury Street E1 and the treat? obvious.

I was priveleged to get into the auditorium today. Thank you, Ruksana.

Radio station Betar Bangla showcased “A Season Of Bangla Drama” tonight at 8.45pm. That’s Betar Bangla on 1503 mw.

Dr  Mukid Choudhury took phone calls about the upcoming season of drama at the Brady Arts Centre. He spoke about “Ekti Asharhe Shopno” aka “A Fantastic Dream” being based on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and stressed how the theatre is about physicality and movement.

He answered another caller and talked about Tagore,  intergenerational theatre, and the Movement Theatre.

The season is aimed primarily at the Bengali speaking community in London’s east end.

Other calls were addressed to the other studio guests who included Selina Shelley (“Jamuna”)  and Dr. Sheik Selim (arts and literature ambassador for Tower Hamlets).