Asian Music and Dance

The North-East

The North-East has a vibrant arts scene that eagerly embraces creative influence from around the globe. If you know where to look, it’s possible to enjoy a steady and diverse stream of quality South Asian arts, staged by some of the country’s most dedicated arts organisations in a number of bold and exciting venues. 

Despite being one of the UK’s least ethnically diverse regions, the North-East is home to a number of passionate individuals and organisations determined to share the spirit of South Asian arts with as much of the wider community as possible.

One such organisation is GemArts, a dynamic collective based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Working with national and international artists, GemArts stages vibrant festivals, workshops and concerts. It is a key partner in the bi-annual SAMA Festival. Billed as ‘South Asia upon Tyne’, last year’s SAMA featured performances from the Nritarutya Dance Company, Shashank the south Indian bamboo flute virtuoso and Bangladeshi composer and vocalist Habib Wahid who fuses traditional Bangla folk music with contemporary urban beats.

Future SAMAs promise to be even more extravagant affairs with various handpicked venues opening their doors to writers, musicians, filmmakers and more. Other examples of GemArts’ work include the staging of a groundbreaking exhibition on the history of bhangra music in the North-East, celebrating Refugee Week and regular performances by some of the biggest stars of South Asian music and dance. 

South of Newcastle, in Stanley, County Durham, is Lamplight Arts Centre, a recently refurbished venue now home to Kalapremi, another SAMA partner. The group of people who make up this arts development organisation bill themselves as ‘lovers of fine art’. The art they’re referring to is very much South Asian in origin and covers a number of media. With projects that include kathakali performances, the publication of an in-house magazine (katha) and the creation of a DVD encouraging cross-cultural understanding amongst young people, Kalapremi promote creativity in every guise. Additionally, the organisation has a youth branch – Yuva. This important project invites people aged 13-21 to take part in creative workshops in order to encourage their AQ (artistic quotient). Digital photography, professional videography, Indian mural art, Indian classical dancing, creative writing and Indian music have all featured on the line-up of activities. 

Back in Newcastle the unique Dance City occupies prize position in the region’s performing arts scene. As the National Dance Agency for the North, this venue is about both participation and inspiration. Visitors from across the region take part in classes (kathak and bollywood) and workshops, at Dance City, which also boasts an extremely varied performance programme.

 Pakistan Cultural Society is a group doing much to promote multicultural arts across the North-East. Based in Newcastle’s west end, the society played a pivotal role in organising last year’s Islamic Arts and Heritage Festival. Colourful family events, a spectacular Sufi music and dance performance and a Qawwali concert performed by the Nizami Brothers were all on the bill. 

The Pakistan Cultural Society’s founding mission was to unite traditional and contemporary South Asian arts. Through projects based on drama, literature and dance, the organisation continues to fulfill that goal, creating opportunities for participation and performance. 

On the other side of the river Tyne and less than three miles away, the Sage Gateshead has been a magnet for world musicians keen to showcase their talents in the North-East since 2004. The venue has been particularly effective in attracting big South Asian names to perform in its impressive auditoriums. 

Over the years there have been performances from Zakir Hussein and The Masters of Percussion, a production of The Dying Song with legendary singer Bireshwar Gautam playing the androgynous courtesan Surayia, and, perhaps most memorably, a night of soul-touching sounds from ‘sufi queen’ Abida Parveen. On 3rd November, Sage Gateshead in partnership with GemArts, will be promoting classical guitarist Simon Thacker and the Nava Rasa Ensemble, comprising leading musicians in Western classical, Indian and jazz music.

Thanks to high-profile arts destinations like The Sage Gateshead, BALTIC (Centre for Contemporary Art) and The Angel of the North, North-East England is known worldwide for its mainstream arts and cultural events, as well as its high-spirited population. Less commonly known is that this region is continually investing in wider, more disparate arts communities; a fact that can only benefit a dynamic South Asian arts scene full of future promise. 

Region Listings



GemArts creates, develops and promotes culturally diverse arts events and projects. 


Helix Arts

Helix develops and runs participatory art projects and has had particular influence working with the North-East’s BME community groups. 



For 25 years, Kalapremi has been encouraging and empowering South Asian creativity across the North-East.   

Newcastle Asian Arts and Music 

A voluntary organisation promoting Asian arts, music and culture within Newcastle and the wider North-East. 


North-East Cultural Diversity Arts Forum (NECDAF)

NECDAF provides practical services to the cultural, arts and community organisations serving minority ethnic communities in North-East England.

Pakistan Cultural Society 

A visionary arts development organisation that actively promotes the richness and diversity of South Asian Arts


Dance City, Newcastle

Whether you’re looking for stunning performance or professional dance classes, Dance City is the place to go. 

Live Theatre, Newcastle

A intimate, compact space that has long been a North-East favourite for daring theatre, great live music and a relaxed vibe. 

Northern Stage, Newcastle

This innovative and radically modernised venue stages some of the region’s most pioneering and uplifting live performances. 

The Sage Gateshead, Newcastle / Gateshead

Newcastle / Gateshead’s landmark music centre welcomes musicians from around the globe. 

Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle

Run entirely by volunteers, this cinema screens the best of world cinema. Also check out the music, live art and exhibitions programme. 



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