Queen Mary University of London: Queen Mary celebrates Bangladesh’s Independence through Freedom and Independence Theatre Festival

Typically named A Season of Bangla Drama – an annual festival which brings the borough’s communities together to celebrate the magic of theatre as well as the arts and cultural traditions of Bangladesh – it has been renamed this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the Independence of Bangladesh. The festival runs from 5 to 28 November.

Delivered through the School of English and Drama, there will be a number of exciting theatrical performances, exhibitions and talks at the biggest Bengali arts festival in Europe, celebrating the themes of freedom and independence. They will all help facilitate a dynamic cultural exchange between youth, elders and marginalised groups across the UK Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Rohingya, Somali and London’s East End communities.

Ali Campbell, Professor of Applied Performance Practice said: “What do we mean by Independence? Recent experience would suggest that the English understanding of this can be remarkably narrow and has little to do with direct, lived experience. Performance accesses and embodies that experience.

“In this, our tenth year of strategic partnership with the Season of Bangla Drama Festival, the Drama Department at Queen Mary will be one of the key spaces in Tower Hamlets where over November the meaning of Independence will be investigated and celebrated through performance, discussion, poetry, film and song: not least as this is the 50th anniversary of Bangladeshi Independence.

“It is well worth remembering that the most common national celebration on earth is a holiday marked in 65 different countries annually: Independence from the British! There is much to be learned about our own national identity – here, now, today – from this rather humbling fact.”

Queen Mary has worked with Tower Hamlets by providing resource and technical support, curatorial input which has shaped the events on display, and some of the funding needed for the festival.

Highlights from this year’s programme include Orna (The Cover) – a powerful piece that explores the oppression of women, Mukti – which tells the stories of the several women who played a huge part in the liberation war of Bangladesh, and From Cable Street to Brick Lane – a documentary on the fight against racism and fascism in the East End of London.

In keeping with the festival’s strong East London identity, the festival’s events will take place across numerous local venues including Genesis cinema, the Brady Arts Centre, and Queen Mary’s Mile End campus.

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