My photo journalistic experience led me to a unique approach in making theatre; heavily researched and based on interviews with real people dealing with real issues. Whilst back in Peterborough in 2019, I was commissioned by Good Chance Theatre to work on a new show about masculinity and vulnerability working with British Muslim men. A perfect opportunity had arisen for me to set up a new arts space for the local community on Gladstone Street to engage with the arts and the theatre making process. We ran workshops and events as well as three new exhibitions by British South Asian artists, funded by Arts Council England.
62 Gladstone Street gave me an opportunity to revisit the visual arts and work on storytelling in a different way. It also gave other artists an opportunity to work with me, where I was able to offer them, in exchange, a platform to showcase their work, at the heart of a migrant community. 62 relaunched as an online platform to showcase the work of British South Asian artists and now acts as a network for people of Asian and none-Asian backgrounds to be able to find artists, writers and activists for open collaborations and commissioned work. I have been working on this project now for over 18 months and it has taught me a lot about resilience as an artist, how to protect myself when working as a political artist, the importance of artistic space and personal boundaries.
During my Remote Residency with Metal I realised that to remain an artist myself I had to have clear boundaries between my art, myself and the people I was working with; my life and my creativity are not always the same thing. As an artist it’s hard to distance yourself from your work, mostly you are your work and when you start digging deeper, you find more of yourself. Slowing down, exploring ideas in a safe space with people you trust is very important. If I’ve learned anything, it’s to trust myself more and to take my time before launching into new collaborations. While I’m willing to share my space, I’m not always willing to share myself and to me this is a lifelong journey. I ask a lot of questions, why me? Why now? And crucially, who is this for? It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a lot of hard work, determination and faith to make new work. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and commissioning some incredible artists, some of who I’d like to share here.
Riya Chowdhury illustrator: ri-ya.co.uk
Suna Afshan poet and editor: www.sunaafshan.com
Kazim Rashid visual artist: endlessloveshow.com
Sabba Khan architect and graphic designer; sabbakhan.com
Maryam Wahid photographer: www.maryamwahid.com
For more, please visit