Hamara Girls who are a group of young women aged 13 to 19 have been working with a range of professional artists in the field of dance, drama, costume design, storytelling and music to explore themes of identity and belonging through various cultural dance forms that make up their cultural heritage and have influenced their lives growing up in Leeds. The Girls group have worked with organisations like Punjabi roots academy and SAA UK on workshops such as, bhangra, classical khatak, Bollywood, poetry and DJ’s from Direct Sound. By providing stimulating facilitation and support this resulted in the participants producing and performing their own work.
The girls group developed their own dance and collaborated with Punjabi Roots academy, who are a special training academy involved in a multitude of mainstream productions such as Blue Peter CBBC, BBC Asia Network, BBC3 Bollywood Carmen, BBC The One Show and worked nationally and world-wide with a number of high profile actors, presenters and music artists such as, Preeya Kalidas, Abhay Deol, Meera Syal, Sofia Hayat, Stephen Rahman Hughes, Nitin Ganatra, Angellica Bell, Helen Skelton, Barney Harwood, Wes Butters, Panjabi MC to name but a few. They take an educational approach in teaching workshops and perform professional shows at events in a number of eastern and western creative arts such as Bhangra dance, Bollywood dance, Dhol drumming, Djing, Drama and so on at a number of events, functions and educational facilities. In 2013 the academy were crowned champions at a Yorkshire talent show called ‘Brad-Factor’ where over 250 dance groups, singers, rappers and other talented people entered and worked extremely hard to get through all auditions stages to reach the grand finals held at St Georges Hall (Bradford). From this great achievement and success they have become role models and mentors giving support and advice to new and up coming talent. Punjabi Roots Academy carried out workshops with the group teaching them about the history of the dance form bhangra and the basic steps to start a dance piece which they showcased in a Summer Ball event organised by the girls group.
The Summer Ball was open to women in the community after recognising some cultural and religious values the young people decided to cater for women only. The event differed from the original proposal and was organised as the young people were unable to perform at the Breeze festival due to Ramadan being at the same time. Around 120 people attended the Summer Ball event, young people decided to charge for tickets and fundraise for Gaza, they charged £10 a ticket for an adult and £5 for a young person, raising over £1000 for their charity. Young people planned the whole event, from the poster designing, to leaflet distribution to organising the setup of the hall and doing outreach and distributing flyers for their events to ensure that they are well attended, aiming to get a full house.
The young people made a short film working in partnership with an organisation called Chicken Shop Shakespeare who works on performing Shakespeare sonnets in a modern day picture. The organisation has been about taking film-making and acting back to basics. They work in a guerrilla style with skeleton crew, shoot in the street and in local area. While this means that the short films are less polished than they could be, this gives the rawness and immediacy that adds to their power. Recently they have been working in schools and community projects and regularly have auditions. Young people worked with professional actor and a film maker to make their own short film where they wanted to send a positive moral message regarding their culture. We carried out many drama workshops and lots of ice breaker activities which made the young people feel really comfortable and open up. This was followed on by brainstorming and evaluating what influenced the young women growing up. There were a variety of topics that were established such as music, television, movies, family values, extended family issues, cousins, aunties, uncles, religion, culture and ethnicity. They recognised three types of families; one with extreme views, one who is modern and one that has a good balance of cultural and religious values. Based on this they decided to showcase one scenario and how they found each family would deal with this. This met the aim to inspire, educate and broaden the cultural experiences of young women and also support them to develop their creative talents. In a safe space, the young women were given opportunities to participate in activities to develop their creative self-expression, build confidence, increase self-esteem and raise their aspirations through the creative arts medium. The film was screened at Hyde Park Picture House which allowed the community and the young people’s family and friends to come and view their work, encouraging social participation. Unfortunately we were unable to produce a resource pack with the DVD for schools due to not enough funding however; the short fill gives a positive message and it would be simple to develop much work from this within schools. The girls group have been invited to other projects to show their film, this is inspiring for other young people and encourages them to be creative and aspire to achieve more. Alternatively this has built the Hamara’s girls group confidence immensely and they have become more confident in public speaking and performing. The girls group organised a smaller event at the Hamara centre for the short film to be shown where they were applauded and praised for their hard work and efforts by the community and staff. This event was extremely successful and well attended.