Aug 22 2013

British Asian Drama Workshop with a twist

A British Asian gay drama workshop is coming to Newcastle’s Pride Cafe Saturday 28th September.

Beneath the Surface is a theatre project about British Asian gay lives, led by Bobby Tiwana; supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. The project uses community participation techniques to develop awareness and live performance to increase visibility of British Asian gay lives.

Next month six workshop events will take place across England from London to Newcastle. Dramatised extracts (inspired by contemporary gay lives) will be presented intimately using live performance and audio within a workshop setting. Audience members will discover more about the characters’ lives and narrative themes through creative discussion and interaction. The performers are: Dharmesh Patel and Rochi Rampal. The creative team includes: Carl Miller as writer, Steve Johnstone and Kate Chapman as joint directors, and Bobby Tiwana as producer.

Research Process

Last autumn the project conducted 10 oral history interviews with people across England providing them with the space to tell their story. Scratching at the surface threw up so many interesting and diverse lives, beyond the stereotypes. The initial ‘call out’ received an overwhelming response, more than the project could service. Respondents were compelled to talk, to share, wanting others to learn from their experience. Most were frustrated with the status quo, of the mostly hidden nature of Asian homosexuality. The creative team listened to the material gathered, drawing out common themes and areas for further exploration. Carl Miller then set about writing monologues inspired by the initial research.


The project is motivated by the much hidden nature of (most) British Asian gay people and a lack of visible role models in public life and cultural content, rendering such lives invisible. It’s inspired by a trip to India in 2011 by Bobby Tiwana, with his male partner, an Indian residing in the UK, when they visited a gay men’s group in Bangalore. “It was emancipatory: the first time that either of us had been in a room full of Indian gay men. Most of the men were out and living their lives, some in relationships and yet they were still close to their parents,” stated Bobby. On returning home and after reflection about his own experience and that of his British Asian peers, many of whom remain hidden, the project was borne.


Beneath the Surface is working with a range of arts and LGBT sector partners in each of the locations to ensure broad reach with relevant grassroots communities and to maximise the potential of the activity. In addition to Arts Council England, the project is commissioned by GemArts based in the North East; as well as support from Sheffield City Council and Point Blank Theatre in Yorkshire, Black Country Touring and Healthy Gay Life in the West Midlands. The project is made possible by working with MESMAC North East and Pride Café, Centre for HIV & Sexual Health and Sheffield Theatres, Leicester LGBT Centre and Curve Theatre, Smethwick Library, Sampad, and Southbank Centre.

The September event workshop discussions will inform the future direction of the drama. As well as stories that might be anticipated, there are also other perspectives, those who may not be gay but whose lives are touched by homosexuality in some way. There are some wonderfully warm, unexpected, contradictory – essentially human characters depicted in the stories. Bobby states, “We’re very excited to be at this point, of bringing some characters to life from the page and enabling communities to respond to the material. I’m sure the experience will be rewarding, challenging and inspiring as well as the unexpected… things which come up.” The workshop events are a crucial part to realising the full production in the future.

The end result is intended for gay, heterosexual, Asian and wider audiences: “Good drama transcends such divisions,” says Bobby. In addition to raising money to fully realise the theatre production in 2014, he is also trying to identify appropriate partners to maximise the learning, training and archive potential of the material gathered; and to appropriately celebrate and profile the lives of the respondents more directly.

It is widely researched and understood that people from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities have higher rates of alcohol and drug dependency, are more likely to suffer from depression and mental health problems, are more likely to self-harm and to have attempted suicide. There is much progressive work being done to support LGBT young people through various anti-homophobic bullying initiatives. Lesbian & Gay Foundation; Stonewall; Schools Out; Diversity Role Models; ILGA; Runnymede Trust.

September 2013 – Workshop Performance Dates

Sat 14, 5pm         Southbank Centre              London, SE1 8XX

Wed 18, 7pm       Smethwick Library             Smethwick, B66 1AA

Thu 19, 7pm        Midlands Arts Centre        Birmingham, B12 9QH

Tue 24, 6.30pm   Sheffield Theatres              Sheffield, S1 1DA

Fri 27, 7pm          Curve Theatre                     Leicester, LE1 1SB

Sat 28, 6pm         Pride Café                            Newcastle, NE4 7JD

To find out more or to contact Bobby Tiwana visit the project website blog