Lok Virsa – Birmingham Hippodrome 30th March 2019
Spring was slow to appear in March this year but the sun burst through the clouds on Saturday the 30th  March just in time for Lok Virsa at the Hippodrome, in the centre of Birmingham. 

I had heard wonderful tales from other colleagues about Lok Virsa, a one day arts festival or ‘mela’ of free arts activities and pop-up performances for all the family, but I was not prepared for the joyous carnival atmosphere that was to burst upon the streets of Birmingham and fill the beautifully decorated Hippodrome with the vibrant sights and sounds of the Indian Subcontinent.

The afternoon began with a lively procession through the bustling streets of Birmingham with passers by drawn in by the stunning costumes of the dancers and hypnotic rhythm of the drums.




The energy and exuberance of the procession was even enough to stop the traffic in its tracks:

Crowds gathered outside the Hippodrome as the musicians and dancers opened the afternoon festivities with a wonderful selection of dances and invited the public into the Hippodrome for an unforgettable day of music, dance and arts activities for all the family.


My role for the day was to greet visitors and let them know what was happening and what events were taking place.  This was no easy task as over 5000 people came along to enjoy all that Lok Virsa had to offer. The time flew as I chatted to people who wanted to learn more about Sonia Sabri Company. We had lots of enquiries about the different dance and music classes that we offer inspired by the stunning performances on the day.  I was also responsible for overseeing our great group of volunteers. These students willingly gave up their Saturday to help where needed, from decoration of the Hippodrome in the morning to supporting the artists throughout the day and ensuring that they had sufficient art supplies for the popular art activities. As I zoomed around the building, I also took the opportunity to snap pictures and videos of all the activities to share on social media.  The dance and music workshops were full of enthusiastic participants and I loved seeing the concentration on everyone’s faces as they focused intently on learning new steps and rhythms. The joy on their faces when they were able to follow the steps was so wonderful to see.

The free art activities were popular with young and old.  Visitors were able to try out calligraphy, rangoli and book binding as well as block printing and it was great that so many who took part were able to take home a memento of their day. The mhendi (henna tattoos) were also extremely popular and the designs were intricate and exquisite.

It was lovely to speak to families that had never visited the Hippodrome before or seen the style of music and dance and art activities that make Lok Virsa such a vibrant and exciting festival. It was also so special to see so many families having fun together, from grandparents to young children; everyone had a smile on their faces.

The atmosphere was carnival like and the magnificent spaces of the Hippodrome echoed with music and laughter. The beautiful film screening of “Dastaan with Sarvar Sabri” accompanied by live music and the eloquence of the poetry readings brought the day to a dignified and serene end.

I feel so lucky to have been a part of this colourful and fun filled day and I am looking forward to the next Lok Virsa – watch this space, as we may well be coming to a town near you very soon!


Photo credits: Anisa Fazal, Liv Buckland, and Lisa Godsal
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LOK VIRSA: BEYOND BORDERS, IS BACK!


LOK VIRSA: BEYOND BORDERS, IS BACK!

I remember the first time I ever saw ‘Lok Virsa’ and became involved in some way with the project was in April 2012 as part of the Alchemy Festival, Southbank Centre. 

‘Lok Virsa’ means the ‘heritage of the people.’ It is this wonderful simplicity that Sonia Sabri Company celebrates by focussing on the beautiful arts and crafts of the Indian subcontinent.


                                                                               


(Image by Sonia Sabri Company)

India and Pakistan share a rich heritage in their customs and traditions, which unites the people of these places, despite political differences. It is this heritage that has transmitted itself to different parts of the world and is now being shared right here in the UK.

The main things that I recollect from the ‘Lok Virsa’ day in 2012 were the vibrant colours of the costumes, the beautiful sounds of the folk songs, the simplicity of the folk dances, the buzz of the audiences, the chitter chatter of workshop participants and the interaction of spectators as they watched the performances. It was a truly amazing and joyful day!

                                                                                                                 

(Image by Pulkit Sharma)

Five years on and ‘Lok Virsa’ still remains to intrigue audiences all over the UK and you’ll be pleased to know that the festival will next be seen at Swindon Dance, 5th Nov, 12pm-5pm.


https://www.swindondance.org.uk/event/lok-virsa-beyond-borders/










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LOK VIRSA: Beyond Borders
Saturday 26th August


As a company that celebrates music, poetry, crafts and dance, we are delighted to announce that our one day mela event, LOK VIRSA: Beyond Borders, will be returning to Birmingham at the Library of Birmingham this summer!
On Saturday the 26th of August, from 11-4:30pm, we will be celebrating South Asian arts and culture, going 'beyond borders' and reminding audiences of unity despite modern borders and political differences. 


This event is very close to our hearts, as inspirational artists from the Indian sub-continent ,will be sharing their love and passion for art forms such as Dance, Arabic Calligraphy, Mehndi, Rangoli and Block Printing! Its set to be an engaging,inclusive day for all of the family, with a variety of engaging workshops, and exciting Indian traditions activities.

You could find yourself unleashing your artistic and creative side, with a Ajrakh inspired block printing activity, that will not only excite but educate you in the fascinating history and culture of South Asia. 

Or simply being memorized by watching the fast paced and energetic traditional folk dances from the subcontinent!


With not long to go, we encourage you to come and re-discover the roots and ideas behind South Asian music, dance and visual arts, at LOK ViRSA!
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