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Sampad's Chai and Chat is coming to Coventry

Posted on 28 October 2019

Next month, Coventry is set to host its first ever Chai and Chat session when Sampad Arts bring the latest in their popular discussion series to the Belgrade Theatre.

Taking place at 3pm on Saturday 9 November, this free, informal discussion offers an opportunity to network with like-minded creatives, and to hear from emerging playwright Lakshnie Hettihewa-Young about her experience of breaking into the theatre industry. It will also run alongside the opening of a new exhibition, Colours of Life, featuring work by Coventry-based British South Asian artists Gurdip Junjuha and Kitty Kaur.

Ahead of the event, we asked Sampad’s Heather Maclaurin to tell us more about how the Chai and Chat programme started, and what Coventry can expect from our session at the Belgrade.

When and how did Chai and Chat get started?

Chai and Chat started in 2018 with our first session at Zindiya in Moseley. We invited Abda Khan to lead the discussion – Abda is a writer, lawyer and was awarded Muslim Woman of the Year in 2018.

What was the motivation for starting the talks? Was there anything in particular you hoped people would get out of it?

Chai and Chat is part of our wider long-term programme and strategy called Sakshi. Sakshi is a four-year initiative running from 2018-2022. Between 2018 and 2022 Sampad are delivering a series of projects which focus on girls and women, to involve them in creative projects and to get their voices heard through the arts.

Chai and Chat allows us to deliver Sakshi in a relaxed and accessible way to women across the West-Midlands and beyond. We knew there was an appetite for informal ways to express creativity and network with other likeminded creatives. It’s a great way for women to get together in a safe and welcoming environment to share or listen to each other’s work as well as well as have a lovely cup of chai (tea)… there’s often cake too!

This is the first one at the Belgrade – what are some of the other places the talks have been held?

We have hosted Chai and Chat at Zindiya Moseley, Wolverhampton Literature Festival, the IKON Gallery in Birmingham, and Highfield Community Hall as part of BEDLAM Festival 2019. It’s a great event that we can ‘tour’ around to different venues. We have a small group of women who attend most events, but often we meet new women at each location which is great, as we know we are reaching more and more women and hopefully encouraging inspiring discussion each time!

Have there been any stand-out talks for you so far?

All of the artists and speakers have brought something unique and inspiring to Chai and Chat. We are very lucky here in the West Midlands as we have so many extraordinary women in the creative sector. Every Chai and Chat is memorable for us and the people who attend because the talks are often so intimate and personal, everyone takes away something really special.

What made you want to bring Chai and Chat to Coventry?

We want to cast the net wider and keep reaching more women who haven’t yet had the confidence to shout about their creative voices, or to attend a creative networking opportunity. Coventry has a brilliant arts and culture offer and we want to (hopefully) add to that offer with Chai and Chat. We are especially excited to work with Belgrade on this particular event and place Chai and Chat in such an established venue!

How did you end up in conversation with Lakshnie Hettihewa-Young? Why did you think she’d be a good fit for Coventry’s first Chai and Chat?

Lakshnie is a new writer who started her journey with playwriting with Kali Theatre’s Discovery Programme 2018. Kali Theatre present groundbreaking new theatre by female writers of South Asian descent. Moving on from the Discovery Programme, she had the amazing opportunity to present her first short play Amma’s Girls at Birmingham Rep. Following this, she joined the Write Away Programme at Birmingham Rep where she learned more about the craft of writing for theatre and developed The Long Way Home which was subsequently showcased with Tamasha Theatre in London at their annual scratch night ‘Over to you’ hosted at Rich Mix.

Whilst Lakshnie has not been part of our Chai and Chat events before, she is the perfect example of taking her creative journey to the next level through identifying opportunities and pathways into the arts sector. We hope that our Chai and Chat events also provide women with insights into how these pathways are accessible and what is available around the West Midlands.

Hopefully the talk at the Belgrade will be the first of many. What are your other plans for the future of Chai and Chat? Do you plan to expand further or take them to any other new locations?

We are always on the lookout for new locations and venues for Chai and Chat and we are making it very much part of our regular programming. Having run this event many times in the last year we know it works in community settings as well as big venues like IKON Gallery. It’s an exciting time for a free and accessible event to be so popular and to be taken to so many places around the region!

Lakshnie Hettihewa-Young leads Sampad’s Chai and Chat session at the Belgrade Theatre on Saturday 9 November. Tickets are FREE but places are limited so advance booking is recommended. Head over to our event page to reserve your place.