Alchemy Black Country – Full programme announced

  • 16 events across Wolverhampton, Stourbridge, Walsall and Sandwell
  • A celebration of South Asian music, art, performance and comedy
  • Newly commissioned performances to be seen for the first time in the region

This May sees Black Country Touring once again partner with national arts centre Southbank Centre, to bring a programme of artists and commissions together for the return of Alchemy, the UK’s largest festival of South Asian cultureLocal and international artists will feature on the packed 8-day festival line-up taking place 20-28 May, alongside Southbank Centre’s eighth Alchemy in London, from 19–29 May.

Opening the festival on Saturday 20th May with dance, aerial acrobatics and rope walkers will be Circus Raj, a supergroup of elite street performers who’ll combine their amazing skills and breathtaking acts of courage and bravery at Stourbridge’s Glasshouse Arts Centre.

We invite you to join us that evening for a free night of lively discussions, contemporary art, photography and beats from mercury nominated DJ Swami and Punjabtronix at India Rocks! (Or Not!?) which will fill the space at Wolverhampton Art Gallery (also 20 May).

Diverse musical offerings include a 6-piece horn section and dhol drums of Bollywood Brass Band Acoustic who’ll be playing the hits from Indian films at Thimblemill Library, Smethwick (25 May). While the landscape and vibrancy of Jaipur is brought to life through sound from the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band when they visit Wolverhampton’s Newhampton Arts Centre (27 May).

Two major new commissions, developed collaboratively by Alchemy national partners, are included in this year’s touring programme. Join us for an electrifying night of international hip-hop at Arena Theatre (24 May) as artists from South Asia and the UK mix rhymes to sound system beats, against a backdrop of video art.

Beats Without Boundaries is the culmination of an international project, pairing UK artists with South Asian rappers, crossing cultural and geographical borders through a shared love of hip-hop.

Rapper Black Zang, host of the first ever hip-hop radio show in Bangladesh; Sri Lankan rapper, singer and songwriter Ashanti De Alwis, the first Sri Lankan female rapper to be signed with Sony and Universal Music; Paradise, Afghanistan’s first female rapper, and partner Diverse, who make tracks speaking out for women’s rights in Afghanistan; and artists making waves in India, pioneer of feminist rap Dee MC, and Naezy, whose popularity has soared thanks to his music about politics and poverty will all appear with new works.

Southbank Centre’s Alchemy has commissioned this new international music performance in partnership with British Council and Alchemy national partners. Audiences are encouraged to come dressed in something fun and colourful at Newhampton Arts Centre (23 May) for Sajeela Kershi’s Mother Tongues from Farther Lands a brand new live performance devised by the comedian, activist, writer and creator of the multi-award-winning, sell-out national tour of Immigrant Diaries.

Taking inspiration from communities across the UK, Kershi and her cast, Shobna Gulati, Shobu Kapoor, and Shyama Perera bring fascinating, fearless and funny monologues to life inviting communities to celebrate the stories and lives of the unsung inspirational South Asian women across the UK. An inclusive show for all, this brand new performance invites audiences to come dressed in something fun and colourful.

Other performance comes courtesy of Afreena Islam’s intimate piece Daughters of the Curry Revolution, where she invites you to take a seat around her dinner table as she serves up second-hand stories of her father (23 May). While the subject of marriage approval and acceptance along with the attitudes and lives of British Bengali families is explored in Bangla Brummies at Brasshouse Community Centre, Smethwick (21 May).

This year’s Alchemy focuses on the contribution of diaspora communities to British society. The festival, which takes place in partnership with London’s Southbank Centre, celebrates the dynamic cultural connections and exchange of ideas between South Asia and the UK.

In a festival that celebrates international artists alongside British Asian talent join us to experience the familiar and discover something new. Embrace stunningly intricate artworks from The Singh Twins at Wolverhampton Art Gallery with their Mersey Miniature series, while BBC DJ Noreen Khan brings the laughs to the gallery for a night of female-fronted stand up (25 May). Explore cultural connections and ask questions about identity with films curated by Black Country Touring with Anita & Me (26 May), Om Shanti Om (22 May) and The Lunchbox (23 May).

Alchemy Black Country ends on the bank holiday weekend with a Desi Pub Crawl featuring a tour of Creative Black Country’s Landmark project of unique artworks displayed in the region’s Desi Pubs.

Full listings and booking information is available at



Circus Raj
Saturday 20th May, 11am & 2pm
Adults £5 / Children free
Box Office: 01384 399 433
Glasshouse Arts Centre, Wollaston Road, Stourbridge, DY8 4HF


Circus Raj, a supergroup of elite street circus performers from enchanting Rajasthan combine their amazing skills; performing breathtaking acts of courage and bravery. Preserved over many centuries from the time of the Maharajas – they take this ancient, mystical and magical circus format to even greater heights.

Circus Raj’s cast of dancers, illusionists, aerialists, acrobats and rope walkers, with the eye-watering displays by their fakir, present a colourful, vibrant, fast-moving extravaganza of intrigue, drama, feats of daring, music, laughter and surprise.

Circus Raj are performing as part of an all day family-friendly event running at the venue from 10am – 4pm.


India Rocks (Or NOT?)
Saturday 20th May, 6pm-10om
Box Office: 01902 552 055
Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton, Wv1 1DU

Today and tomorrow: British Asians and their tenuous marmite relationship with India. Three panellists discuss all things Indian from a uniquely British Asian perspective hosted by BBC Journalist Ruchi Tandon. Curated by Bobby Tiwana.

This will be followed by exclusive music from mercury nominated DJ Swami with ‘Punjabtronix’, where sounds of Punjab meets cutting edge electronica. Produced by Asian Arts Agency.

Explore The Black Country’s Punjab through a prism of women’s lives. Four talented photographers: Uzma Mohsin (India), Andrea Fernandes (India), Jennifer Pattison (UK) and Jocelyn Allen (UK) present Girls, Girls, Girls! a work in progress.

Produced by Creative Black Country, Multistory & Delhi Photo Festival. Supported by British Council as part of Re- Imagine India, UK-India year of culture 2017. 14 yrs +.
THEATRE: Bangla Brummies
Sunday 21st May, 7pm
Box Office: 0121 555 5672
Brasshouse Community Centre, Brasshouse Lane, Smethwick, B66 1BA

Bangla Brummies is set in the Small Heath area of Birmingham. It begins in the 1970’s and centres around two young Asian bachelors. Hisham ends up marrying a white Irish girl, while the other Malik, is wed to a bride from Bangladesh. When Malik’s daughter grows up and falls in love with a non-Muslim white man, trouble ensues.

This is a funny but insightful look into ‘approval and acceptance’ in marriage and how the lives and attitudes of two British Bengali families change over time.

This is a development performance by this new local company. Black Country Touring is pleased to be working with Purbanat in the development of their work. (12 yrs +)
FILM: Om Shanti Om (Cert 12)
Monday 22nd May, 8.15pm
Box Office: 01902 716 055
Light House Media Centre, The Chubb Buildings, Fryer Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1HT

Om Shanti Om, 2007, directed and co-written by top choreographer Farah Khan, tells the story of Om (Shah Rukh Khan), a junior artist working in 70s Bollywood who aspires to be a huge Bollywood actor. He is in love with Shantipriya (Deepika Padukone), the beautiful lm star, but has no hope of winning her heart. When both unexpectedly meet their demise, they appear again in the modern day, but this time roles have been reversed.


FILM: The Lunchbox (Cert PG)
Tuesday 23rd May, 2pm
0300 555 2898
Forest Arts Centre, Hawkish Road, Walsall, WS3 1AG

An ill-tempered of office worker (Irrfan Khan, Slumdog Millionaire and Inferno) receives the wrong tiffin (lunch box). A young housewife (Nimrat Kaur) intended the lunch for her husband with a note to try and rekindle some romance in their relationship. The mistake is quickly discovered and a pen pal friendship between the housewife and office worker ensues.
ART: Mersey Miniatures: The Singh Twins
Saturday 20th May – Sunday 23rd July, 10.30-4.30pm; Sun 11-4pm
01902 552 055
Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1DU

International artists The Singh Twins explore their Indian heritage and the coming together of east and west, in the past and up to the present day, in a series of exquisite miniature paintings on display at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Here the Singh Twins’ contemporary Miniatures Series continues to inform the on-going and mutual influences between Indian and British culture and art, and presents to viewers how traditionally perceived boundaries between places, cultures and times begin to dissolve.


COMEDY: Watch this space / The Alchemy Participation Project

Ahead of Alchemy Black Country, artists have been collaborating with communities in the Black Country, Doncaster, Oldham and London to create a new and original piece of performance. Join us to see what they’ve created together.


THEATRE: The Daughters of the Curry Revolution
Tuesday 23rd May, 12pm / 2pm / 7pm
£7.50 (including refreshments)
Box Office: 01902 572090
Community Room @ Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 4AN

“When I was little, I used to hang out at my dad’s restaurant every weekend, back when they used to stay open until 5am”.

In this intimate performance, Afreena invites you to take a seat around her dinner table as she serves up second-hand stories of her father’s past, present, and what little she imagines is left of his future. (8 yrs +)
DANCE: Bhangra Tots
Wednesday 24th May, 10am
0121 555 5672
Brasshouse Community Centre, Brasshouse Lane, Smethwick, B66 1BA

A fun way and enjoyable way for young children to engage and interact with storytelling and dance with their grown ups. Join Bhangra Man dance artist Sohan Kailey as he takes you on an imaginary magic carpet journey across to the Punjab and Mumbai India to experience the dances of Bhangra and Bollywood.

A super way for families to dance together as demonstrated by Sohan. Dance to the latest “Bhangra and Bollywood” music beats, and meet Bhangra bunny the puppet and friends in an interactive puppet show. (2 yrs +)


MUSIC: Beast Without Boundaries
Wednesday 24th May
01902 321321
Arena Theatre, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1SE

Join us for an electrifying night of international hip-hop as rap artists from South Asia and the UK mix rhymes to sound system beats, against a backdrop of video art.

Beats Without Boundaries is the culmination of an international creative project, pairing UK music producers with South Asian rappers, crossing cultural and geographical borders through a shared love of hip-hop. (14 yrs +)

Southbank Centre’s Alchemy has commissioned this new international music performance in partnership with British Council and Alchemy national partners: Black Country Touring, Cast Doncaster and Oldham Coliseum Theatre, generously supported by Arts Council England.

Business Studies pupils at Colton Hills Community School will be developing “real life” marketing skills with this show.


COMEDY: Funny Girls with Noreen Khan
Thursday 25th May, 7.45-9.30pm
Box Office: Wolverhampton Art Gallery (in person); wolves or 0870 320 7000

BBC’s DJ Noreen Khan is back in town! Noreen hosts a night of comedy with her favourite stand up comics, Sukh Ojla, Sindhu V and Shaista Aziz. For the first time, this all female line up will share more than a few good jokes.
(18 yrs+).
Produced by Creative Black Country.
EVENT: 100 Masters
Sunday 21st May, 1-3pm
0121 525 1127
Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick, 128-130 High Street, Smethwick, B66 3AP

This event highlights experts from the Sikh community in Smethwick and beyond. Councillor Preet Kaur Gill profiles some of the most influential experts from the community and invites you to experience the temple’s free kitchen.
100 masters is a yearlong project that profiles 100 experts from the Black Country.
Collaboration produced by Creative Black Country and Birmingham Impact Hub. (All ages)
MUSIC: Bollywood Brass Band Acoustic
Thursday 25th May, 7.30pm
£3 in advance / £5 on the door
Box Office: 0121 429 2039
Thimblemill Library, Thimblemill Road, Smethwick, B67 5RJ

Funky drummers and a hot 6-piece horn section play massive hits from Indian films, driven by the huge beat of the dhol drum. Wielding saxophones, dhol drums and a colossal sousaphone, the Bollywood Brass Band are one of the most colourful, joyful and exhilarating acts around. The show features video projections of Bollywood dance sequences from classic movies, bringing an extra dimension to the music. (All ages)
FILM: Anita & Me (Cert 12)
Friday 26th May, 6.30pm
Box Office: 0121 555 5672
Brasshouse Community Centre, Brasshouse Lane, Smethwick, B66 1BA

Based on the best-selling novel by the Black Country’s own Meera Syal, 12 year old Meena lives in the fictional Black Country mining village of Tollington in the 1970s. The only Asian girl living in the area, Meena’s life starts to look up when she meets 14 year old Anita – daring, blond and beautiful. As Meena begins to idolise Anita, her life becomes torn between her culture and the rock’n’roll lifestyle of the era.


MUSIC: Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band
Saturday 27th May, 7pm
£8 / £6.50 / Family £26
BoxOffice: 01902 572090
Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 4AN

The Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band is a living embodiment of this landscape, a spectacular celebration of its vibrant and colourful lifestyle, their music and dance a heady, exciting and hypnotic reflection of this enchanting region.

Eight musicians from the villages surrounding Jaipur, Rajasthan’s renowned “Pink City”, make up the brass core of this rousing new ensemble on trumpet, saxophone, tuba, sousaphone and trombone, supplemented with clarinet and keyboard against an insistent background of percussion on side, bass and dhol drums. Dancing to this uplifting music is unavoidable and is represented in two unique styles – Kalbelia, or Sapera, and Bollywood. (All ages)

Desi Pub Mela
Sunday 28th May, All day from 1pm
Box Office: 0121 525 1127 /
The Red Cow Pub, 296 High Street, Smethwick, B66 3NL

Desi Pub landlord Beera and special guests present a Bank Holiday pop up Mela. Live music with Laal & The First of May Band, bhangra legends, dance, dhol and desi pub art. Be warned, it could get wild! (All ages).
Produced by Creative Black Country, Kalaboration and Midland Pub Association.
Desi Pub Crawl (18 yrs +)
Sunday 28th May, Tours start 2.30pm – finishes 5pm
Box office: 0121 525 1127 /
The Red Cow Pub, 296 High Street, Smethwick, B66 3NL

Hop onto the desi pub bus for a tour around the Black Country’s best kept secret; its Indian pubs. Meet the landlords, see some desi pub art and grab a pint! Each desi pub serves speciality desi grills and a range of home cooked curries.




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