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Jam-Packed: Reflecting on artistic whirlwinds and unforgettable moments in 2022/23

Hello, you gorgeous art lovers! How have you been? I can hardly believe how swiftly the past 24 months have flown by, bringing with them a whirlwind of remarkable and memorable moments and experiences in my artistic career.


Dawinder Bansal inside her British-Indian front room of the 1980s (Jambo Cinema)

Looking back at 2022/23, I'm amazed at my artistic journey and the incredible moments that unfolded after we emerged fully from lockdown in early 2022. It's been a while since I've written a post, so here are a few of my highlights.


As always, feel free to get in touch with ideas and suggestions. I'd love to hear from you.


Dawinder Bansal outside Jambo Cinema situated in Mander Centre January 2022

British Art Show 9 Offsite


2022 began with a fantastic bang as I proudly joined the ranks of commissioned artists for the British Art Show 9 Offsite programme in collaboration with Creative Black Country, Hayward Gallery and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.


The return of my immersive creation, Jambo Cinema (a 1980s British-Indian front room and VHS Bollywood rental shop), after the challenging hiatus of the Covid-19 Pandemic, was a truly special moment. The staging for this iteration was inside a vacant shop unit in partnership with the Mander Centre shopping mall in Wolverhampton - a departure from traditional gallery settings and brining the immersive experience to everyday people of Wolverhampton.


I was thrilled to host acclaimed artist, Hetain Patel inside Jambo Cinema.


The audience responses from people who walked through the doors and experienced the installation was moving and insightful. I learned a great deal while making this work inside a retail space, which all informed future developments of my immersive creations. It was a joy to bring my late father's corner shop, 'Bansal Electrical' back to life in Wolverhampton and it felt like a homecoming at last.


A multitude of visitors who came to see me at Jambo Cinema and Bansal Electrical, shared cherished memories of my late father's shop (located on Harrow Street, Whitmore Reans), truly and this greatly touched my heart. An unexpected delight was a visit from an individual who had worked at the shop during their university summer breaks—a testament to the lasting connections made through my father’s Bollywood VHS rental shop. I also had a few of our local MP's visit the immersive exhibitions and were particularly supportive as my next stop for this show was at the Commonwealth Games in the summer.



Dawinder Bansal with MP Stuart Anderson at Jambo Cinema, Mander Centre, Wolverhampton.

It was a delight to meet award winning artist and producer Dawinder Bansal at her Art Exhibition, ‘Jambo Cinema’ in the Mander Centre. This particular art piece was inspired by her own childhood in Wolverhampton and spending time in her parents' electrical shop, Bansal Electrical, which also rented VHS films. This is a great exhibition and very nostalgic for many who grew up Wolverhampton in the 1980’s.” - MP Stuart Anderson, Stuart Anderson is the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West.



MP Pat McFadden and Dawinder Bansal inside Jambo Cinema, Mander Centre, Wolverhampton

“I really enjoyed visiting Jambo Cinema. It takes us back in time to a British/Asian living room and electrical and video shop from the 1980s. This has been a labour of love for Dawinder Bansal and through it she tells the story of her own family and so many others from the South Asian community in the West Midlands at that time. I’m really delighted that this installation will be part of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.” - MP Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East.


ITV News Report about Jambo Cinema in Wolverhampton 2022


ITV reporter Lucy Kapassi visited the installation and shared her own enthusiasm for my work. You can watch her TV report by clicking on the image below or follow this link



National Diversity Awards Finalist and Ceremony


This momentum carried me to the National Diversity Awards (supported by ITV), where I stood proudly as a finalist in the Positive Role Model category for Gender.



The awards ceremony for the 2021 finalists was held in 2022 at the magnificent Liverpool Cathedral. It was an unforgettable night, to be celebrating achievements of some remarkable people across the country with Bhaskar Patel of ITV's Emmerdale Farm.


Dawinder Bansal with Bhaskar Patel at the National Diversity Awards 2022

Jay Blades Interview at Wolverhampton Art Gallery


My long standing connection with the Wolverhampton Literature Festival led me to an exhilarating opportunity to interview Jay Blades MBE, the host of a popular BBC television programme called 'The Repair Shop'. We delved into his book 'Making it', and discussed his BBC television show chronicling the journey of 'Learning to read at 51'. I absolutely loved Jay's positive energy and can-do attitude despite all of his life challenges. As someone who also failed in the traditional education system, it was an interesting discussion about how to make your own opportunities when all of the usual avenues seem closed. Sadly the interview wasn't recorded but I do hope to interview Jay again for a different project and will make sure I record it this time!


I set the stage with a touch of my Indian front room, along with treating Jay to my mother's home made chai in peach lustre retro teacups and saucers!


Jay Blades MBE with artist Dawinder Bansal at Wolverhampton Literature Festival 2022

Bhangra Beats and Black Country Beats exhibition


My passion for curating and storytelling about the South Asian lived experience led to a commission by Wolverhampton Art Gallery for their Black Country Beats exhibition. As part of the exhibition, I was honoured to curate 'Bhangra Beats' - a collection of posters and artefacts that showcased the vibrant Bhangra scene of the 1970s and 1980s in Wolverhampton. I am fortunate to be related to some of the pioneers of the British Bhangra music scene in the UK and this was a great opportunity to share images, awards and posters from private collections for the first time with new audiences. These items not only mirrored the cultural movement but also resonated with my own recollections of 'Daytimers' which were daytime discos for the South Asian youth who were forbidden to go out at night, unlike their English friends. So they sought to carve their own niches by hiring nightclubs during the daytime to re-create a night-time experience during the day. This is where the term 'Daytimers' is derived.



Top left to right - Dawinder Bansal with Adrian Goldberg, Dawinder Bansal with Parminder Azaad and his collection of posters loaned for the exhibition.


South Asian Heritage Month talk at MediaCom 'A Retrospective on South Asian TV Representation in the UK.'


During South Asian Heritage Month, I received an exclusive invitation to participate in an exciting event hosted by MediaCom, now recognised as EssenceMediaco. Renowned for its mission to revolutionise the world of advertising, EssenceMediaco focuses on enhancing the value and relevance of ads for both brands and consumers. With a stellar global client roster including heavyweights like adidas, Coca-Cola (TCCC), Dell, Mars, NBC Universal, P&G, PSA, Richemont, Shell, and Sony, the company is at the forefront of innovative marketing.

 

My involvement with MediaCom took centre stage during South Asian Heritage Month, where I had the privilege of being interviewed for a private event called 'A Retrospective on South Asian TV Representation in the UK.' This allowed me to delve into my work, exploring South Asian heritage and sharing insights into my commissioned project, Jambo Cinema. This immersive installation of the 1980s allowed audiences to experience what it was like to live as a South Asian Punjabi-Sikh who arrived in Britain from India, via Kenya. The project aimed to transport individuals back in time, providing a unique perspective on the challenges and triumphs of this cultural journey of many first generation Punjabi immigrants and their children.

 

Building on the success of the previous year, where I participated as a panellist in a discussion titled ‘Demystifying Stereotypes within the South Asian Community,’ my focus was about Asian Women & Cars, which had clinched the Asian Media Award in 2019. Joined by esteemed media colleagues Faima Bakar, an award-winning journalist, and Ravneet Nandra, a reporter for ITV Anglia, the talks underscored the agency's steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion.


Back in Time for Birmingham on BBC2


Another notable chapter in 2022 was my appearance on the BBC television show, Back in Time for Birmingham hosted by Noreen Khan. Here, I had the privilege of discussing the Bollywood film industry and the role of the iconic video rental shops in British Asian lives during the 1980s. The Sharma family were a delight to meet and it was sharing stories of my family's video rental shop and the piracy! Many of you are already aware of Jambo Cinema's roots, sprouting from growing up inside my parents VHS Bollywood rental shop in the 1980s. Through my exploration of my family's collection of film posters and VHS tapes—my story found its way into The Guardian, BBC Breakfast and Radio 4's Loose Ends and Radio 4's Front Row.



Jambo Cinema commissioned by the Commonwealth Games and Birmingham 2022


The crowning glory of 2022 was the grand commission as an artist for the Commonwealth Games and the Birmingham 2022 Festival.




This remarkable experience was a pinnacle moment in my artistic journey and undoubtedly, an opportunity of a lifetime. The commission allowed me to expand the immersive exhibition into four large spaces, with the addition of my teenage bedroom and a cinema screen. The installation was presented in partnership with the Mailbox, inside the former retail unit occupied by the designer giant BOSS.



A very big thank you to Tommy Nagra who is the Director of Content at BBC Children in Need. Tommy is a huge supporter of South Asian creative talent and I am fortunate to have had his support in recent years. Despite his busy schedule, Tommy travelled from Manchester to my opening night of Jambo Cinema at the Mailbox in Birmingham. During his speech, he shared a brief history of Asian Programmes Unit at the BBC and his work as BBC’s Head of Asian Programmes at the pioneering Asian Programmes Unit where he was responsible for launching a raft of new programmes including Network East and Desi DNA, and developing a significant slate of on and off screen British Asian talent. 



Tommy Nagra with Dawinder Bansal



This was a fantastic space to host the installation and the large unit allowed me to expand the work considerably. Creating the teenage bedroom was an absolute delight and audiences from all backgrounds loved it! Sign up to my mailing list to get news on where this installation will tour to next! Here I am, with these fabulous four discussing our pop idols of the 1980s!


On the bed with these fabulous four at 'Jambo Cinema' - Matt Dunnakey, Jarrod Parkin (back) and Richard Adams (front).


Simply put, audiences absolutely LOVED this version of Jambo Cinema at the Mailbox. People travelled far and wide to visit a bygone era of the 1980s, Video Rental shops and teenage life. Approximately 5,000 people visited Jambo Cinema at the Mailbox, with the peak being the unforgettable Commonwealth Games – where people from all over the world experienced the story of a hard-working Kenyan-Indian family trying to make it in the UK. It's hard to believe that what started out as a self funded pop up experiment, continued and has grown to be the work it is today.



Nick Owen, Satnam Rana, Katie Redford, Sathnam Sanghera, Sunny and Shay, Shani Dhanda and Shobna Gulati are a few of the people who have visited Jambo Cinema!



As the exhibition came to a close, I took time to reflect on the immersive exhibition and my ambitions for the future. It was a true honour to be part of the commonwealth games and to be an important part of cultural history in Britain. A much needed celebration, following the pandemic. As quoted by the Birmingham 2022 team "We didn't just go out, we went all out."




It has taken many years to reach this point in my career and it was only made possible through the help and support of senior arts directors and industry mentors who believed in me, my ideas and vision. I am grateful for all of the help and support for this work and bringing it to the communities it reflects and beyond. In particular, special thanks to Jude Kelly, Wayne Hemingway, Parminder Dosanjh, Skinder Hundal, Emma Chetcuti, Ian Francis, Louise Jeffreys, John McGrath, Kully Thiari, Raidene Carter and Martin Green, Lauren Zawadski, and Elena Gifford. A very big thank you to everyone who has been part of the journey.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank former leader of Wolverhampton City Council, the late Ian Brookfield and recently elected leader, Stephen Simkins for their incredible support and generosity for Jambo Cinema during the commonwealth games.


Contains Strong Language - FREE THINKING at the Birmingham Hippodrome


Through my commonwealth games commission and Back in Time for Birmingham appearance, I was asked to join a panel discussion for 'Contains Strong Language', BBC’s Radio 4 spoken word festival ‘Contains Strong Language’. The host, Matthew Sweet and panelists were particularly keen hearing about my amusing stories of attending secret and often forbidden daytime discos!




I thoroughly enjoyed discussing all things 'Black Country' with host Matthew Sweet and panelists Liz Berry, Tim Hicks, Dr Esther Asprey, Dr Simon Briercliffe and Matthew Stallard. Audiences were also taken into my secret world of VHS Bollywood piracy and British Asian youth culture during the 1980s and 1990s.



Women of the world (WOW) and Found Cities, Lost Objects - panel discussion.


I was also invited to join Women of The World Festival for Lubaina Himid CBE 'Found Cities, Lost Objects' for Arts Council Collections, looking at modern city life through a female perspective. The talk explored concepts of power, asking what this means for women in terms of value, safety, or being welcome in spaces, places and of course cities.


Sir Grayson Perry at The Red Lion


In September I had the honour of meeting one of the artists who inspired my own artistic journey, Sir Grayson Perry. Grayson Perry is an English contemporary artist, writer and broadcaster who started his career making punk-inspired ceramics and films, before moving to tapestries and textiles


We met while he was filming 'This England', a Channel 4 three-part television series where Grayson Perry travels through England in order to explore the idea of Englishness. In 2014, I listened to his BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures series while driving. I was captivated by his words and from that moment, a seed was planted for me to explore my own artistic talents and passion for storytelling.


This was one of the stand out quotes from that lecture.

"The metaphor which best describes for me, what it's like to be an artist is like a refuge. A place where I can go, inside my head, on my own and process the world and its complexities. It's a kind of inner shed in which I can lose myself" - Grayson Perry, BBC Reith Lectures - I found myself in the art world.


He also states "an art career is a marathon, not a sprint" in the same lecture. As a practising artist, this is something I can certainly attest to. Jambo Cinema started out as a one off pop-up event presented inside the mayor's parlor at West Bromwich Town Hall in 2016.. I found a great depth of healing while making this work, which began life as a dedication to the life and work of my late father. It has been quite a journey and incredibly heartwarming to have my family story centre stage during the commonwealth games. In particular celebrating the achievements and sacrifices of the first generation of South Asian immigrants like my mother and father who arrived in the UK from India via Kenya in the 1960s.


Asian Media Awards Finalist 2022 - Best Live Event


2022 ended with bang by being selected as a finalist for the renowned Asian Media Awards 2022!


Jambo Cinema was selected as a finalist in the category of Best Live Event 2022. It was an honour to be a finalist for the tenth anniversary ceremony. The awards were held at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate in October, a venue which hosted the very first Asian Media Awards ceremony many years ago.


A spokesperson for the awards said: “There have been some high-quality entries in 2022 tackling a wide range of subject matter and showcasing a variety of views and opinions. As well as celebrating the work of traditional forms of media there have been a number of entrants who have worked hard to reach new audiences through all forms of social media. We were also keen to recognise the creative industries who had to put so much on hold during the pandemic and who have come back so strongly in such a short space of time.”


While I didn't win, it was an honour to have been nominated and selected as a finalist for the awards and celebrate with distinguished guests from the mainstream creative and media industry, a fantastic crowd of South Asian media professionals in the UK. I attended the awards with Armand Beasley, a regular beauty expert and on screen makeup artist on tv shows like This Morning (itv) and LK Today (gmtv).





Welcome 2023


2023 kick started with an invigorating conversation alongside the incredibly talented writer and comedian, Sukh Ojla at Wolverhampton Literature Festival. Our discussion centred around her debut fictional novel, 'Sunny,' a brilliantly honest and humorous take on love, family, and mental health.


We delved into her creative process, uncovering the inspiration behind 'Sunny,' and explored her previous works, including the stage play 'Pyar Actually.'



Injecting my personal hosting flair into the mix, I served up some Indian tea and snacks in my vintage 1980s tea cups and saucers, creating a cozy and intimate atmosphere for our conversation. We journeyed through the rich intersections of Punjabi Sikh culture, humor, and literature, resonating with the hearts of the audience.


As fellow artists rooted in the world of theatre, Sukh and I bonded over our shared love and passion for storytelling. Here's to the magic of words, laughter, and the beautiful connections woven through the tapestry of literature and shared experiences.


BBC Front Row



Next up was gracing the illustrious BBC Radio 4's Front Row studios in Manchester as a guest. The show was hosted by Nick Ahad, who, incidentally, visited Jambo Cinema during the Commonwealth Games while presented at The Mailbox in 2022. We are pictured together inside "Bansal Electrical' installation in the photo below. The Front Row experience was nothing short of delightful and sharing the limelight with the accomplished artist Chila Burman was wonderful.


Dawinder Bansal with Nick Ahad

This influential art show, offered us a platform to delve into the fascinating intersection of identity and artistic expression. During our conversation, we explored how both Chila and I derive inspiration from our late fathers' unique businesses.


Chila Burman and Dawinder Bansal in the greenroom at BBC Radio 4 Front Row

My father, a qualified electrician and contractor also owned a VHS Bollywood rental shop in the vibrant 1980s while Chila’s father owned a number of Ice Cream vans in Liverpool.Front Row has consistently curated an impressive lineup of guests, drawing in high-profile celebrities who generously share insights into their creative processes.


Opening of South Asian Gallery at Manchester Museum


I was thrilled to witness the grand reopening of Manchester Museum on Saturday, 18th February, after a closure of 18 months and a remarkable £15 million redevelopment. Stepping into the museum, I felt proud knowing that it now houses the first permanent gallery in the UK dedicated to celebrating the rich experiences and contributions of the South Asian diaspora.

 

The gallery, a result of collaboration between Manchester Museum and the British Museum, proudly showcases world-class artefacts alongside the finest collections from South Asia. The meticulous curation reflects not only the historical significance but also the vibrant cultural tapestry of the South Asian community.

 

Prior to the public unveiling, an exclusive preview on 15th February saw luminaries from the creative industries gracing the gallery. It was great to be in the company of visionaries who appreciate the cultural wealth represented within the museum's walls. Among them were Nusrat Ahmed, the Lead Curator of the South Asia Gallery, and Esme Ward, the Director of Manchester Museum, both instrumental in bringing this project to life.



The event also provided an opportunity to connect with influential figures such as Nihal Arthanayake, the BBC Radio 5 live presenter, and Jasvir Singh CBE, a distinguished British family law barrister, media commentator and social activist and founder of City Sikhs. Elizabeth Lynch MBE, who attended the launch, added a touch of prestige to the occasion.

 

British Sikh Awards finalist


In May, I was recognised by the British Sikh Awards for my contribution to the creative industries and was selected as a finalist for the awards. Three hundred of the most remarkable British Sikhs are shortlisted as finalists at The 2nd British Sikh Awards 2023 after hundreds of nominations received from across the country. The awards aim to recognise a wide range of achievements from inspiring individuals. This includes those who positively impact business, charity, sport, arts, culture, religious advocacy, education and medicine among others.


Vaisakhi at the House of Commons


As a British Sikh, the month of April holds immense significance as it marks the celebration of Vaisakhi. This year, I had the distinct honour of receiving an invitation to attend a special Vaisakhi event hosted by MPs Pat McFadden and MP Jane Stevenson at the House of Commons.



At the 2021 census, the Sikh population in Wolverhampton (where I was born and raised) was recognised as the third-largest Sikh community among local authorities in England. The event featured distinguished speakers, included Sir Kier Starmer, the Leader of the Labour Party, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the first turban-wearing Sikh MP in the UK representing the Slough constituency, and MP Preet Kaur Gill, who made history as the first female Sikh MP in 2017.


Celebrating South Asian Heritage Month - Stories to tell


The theme for South Asian Heritage Month in 2023, 'Stories to Tell,' focused on celebrating our diverse community through art, music, fashion, and food. I was invited by Kiran Support Services to share my story at a special event with an audience - taking them on a journey of the highs and lows of balancing a career in the arts while being a young and later, an adult carer. Sharing the stage with Amtal Rana, CEO of Kiran Support Services, Sarbjit Kaur Athwal, author of "Shamed: The Honour Killing that Shocked Britain," and Dr. Fazia Shaheen, an academic in economic inequality and parliamentary candidate for Chingford & Woodford Green, was truly inspiring.