To say that leading arts organisation Kala Sangam had humble beginnings would be an understatement.

It started in a back room at the home of Dr Shripati Upadhyaya, consultant psychologist at Bradford District Care Trust, and his wife, Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, a consultant in metabolic medicine.

The couple had a vision of bringing people together through the arts. Taking inspiration from the point of North India where rivers meet and flow together, they came up with a name for their organisation. In the classical Indian language of Sanskrit, Kala means art and Sangam is meeting point.

A quarter of a century later, Kala Sangam has grown, like a river meeting the sea, into an internationally-recognised arts company.

Originally a space for creating, learning and performing South Asian arts, it is today an intercultural arts centre; producing and staging a diverse range of work representing Bradford's many communities Bradford. It is one of the only South Asian-based arts organisations in the UK with its own theatre.

This year Kala Sangam celebrates its 25th anniversary with a series of events, including a gala dinner. Creative Producer Alex Croft says it's an opportunity to celebrate the past, and look ahead.

"Since 1993 we have brought the best in South Asian arts to the city and we're celebrating this throughout the new season, which features Santoor and Qawaali performances. We're also looking to the future," says Alex. "Kala Sangam is changing. We're becoming an international arts hub, which means more diverse work on our stage, more engagement with communities across Bradford, more of a role in supporting artists, and even more high quality art on show.

"Our 25th Anniversary Gala dinner will include a range of performances in our Ganges theatre, showcasing both the company's rich history and its exciting new direction."

Kala Sangam started out as a handful of dance classes, based in Leeds. In 1996 it moved to Bradford's Carlisle Business Centre. "They gave us six months free rent as we had no money. It was hard work but I was passionate about our aim of bringing people of different ages, cultures and abilities together," recalled Dr Geetha, who spent her weekends teaching dance classes, returning to work at Guy's Hospital in London during the week.

As well as providing training in classical art forms including Bharatanatyam dance and Tabla percussion, Kala Sangam delivered classes in Indian classical and folk dance and Bollywood traditions. When the organisation grew, the plan was to re-locate to Bradford's inter-cultural faith venue Life Force, but the £5 million centre went into administration and closed in 2001. Then, in 2008, Kala Sangam received £1.5 million Arts Council funding and moved to St Peter's House, a Grade II listed Victorian building in Forster Square, often referred to by Bradfordians as "the old Post Office".

A major refurbishment programme began with a glass-fronted entrance and lift, complementing a stylish mezzanine at the rear of the centre, overlooking the grounds of Bradford Cathedral. The refurbishment also included a 112-seat multi-purpose Ganges Theatre, with a sprung floor and state-of-the-art sound and lighting. The venue hosted performances from around the world, as well as classes and productions by local organisations. Each room was named after rivers in South Asian countries and Yorkshire, including the Ganges auditorium and the Aire board and training room.

Today, Arts Council-funded Kala Sangam has three core programme stands. "We continue our tradition of showcasing and promoting South Asian arts, supporting artists and putting on their work. These are predominantly fourth generation British South Asians, whose cultural reference is as much YouTube as their grandparents," says Alex.

"The programme also reflects British diversity - we bring in and deliver work that goes beyond just race/faith-based work. We're committed to hosting Bradford's Wow Festival ('Women of the World', celebrating women and girls, which returns to Bradford this year) and events for International Women's Day, and we hold a weekly disability dance event.

"We also support new artists and work in Bradford. South Asian work is our bedrock, but we're building on that. We're taking the best Indian music and dance and making it relevant to all communities in Bradford. "

Located on the edge of Little Germany, Kala Sangam was a hidden gem, tucked away from the city centre, until The Broadway opened. Alex says there is still some way to go in attracting more interest.

"We have two big challenges: one is letting people know we're here and the other is people thinking it's solely a venue for South Asian arts," he says. "We're an inter-cultural organisation. Local community theatre and dance groups can hire our theatre. It's a safe environment, an "artist incubation space" to create productions and take risks. We work in partnership with Bradford theatre companies - Freedom Studios, Mind the Gap, Theatre in the Mill.

"Bradford doesn't have a big producing theatre, or an opera or ballet company, like Leeds. But we can be bigger than the sum of our parts if we work together. By creating a network of artists we can make Bradford even more of an exciting place."

Kala Sangam's gallery hosts up to six exhibitions a year - a recent installation was Through My Father's Lens by Nabeelah Hafeez, who used a camera belonging to her late father, a Bradford-based poet. The exhibition fused poetry by father and daughter, in English and Urdu, with his photographs from the 70s, 80s and 90s and Nabeelah's images of Bradford today. An 'artists' takeover' was another recent event.

This summer the gallery showcases work by young people, and there's also a breakdance weekend involving spray-painting walls.

Other events coming up include We Are Here, a collaboration with Bradford's Oastler market exploring its history, communities and stories, and the world premiere of Quest, a family show fusing folk music, breakdance and traditional dance performed by Breaking Tradition and the Demon Barbers, exploring "the power of imagination in times of displacement".

Dance Discoveries, on Saturday, May 12, is billed as "Everything you ever wanted to know about South Asian dance but were too afraid to ask". The event, for dance lovers and those who don't know their Kathak from their Kuchipudi, features a range of South Asian dance styles, performed by top regional dancers who discuss the history and heritage of each dance. On Saturday, June 16 Ustad Kiranpal Singh, one of the UK's leading Santoor maestros, will give a recital on the delicate instrument, accompanied by Surdarshan Singh Chana on Tabla.

Kala Sangam also works in schools, delivering dance and theatre workshops, holds weekly dance classes for people with and without a disability, a contemporary dance class for boys and a yoga group. There are plans for a Dancing with Parkinson's sessions, for people with Parkinson's Disease and other conditions affecting mobility.

Use of the centre has diversified in recent years. The Rooftop cafe, open to the public daily, has sink-into sofas and coffee tables dotted around the mezzanine and a balcony. The building is often used for weddings and corporate events. "The potential for this building - and this city - is huge," says Alex. "Bradford has challenges in terms of social inclusion, but it has the potential to show how to be a successful city of many cultures. We can be a space for people to come together and learn about each other's cultures through the arts. It is hugely important to develop the potential of young people. Our workshops provide an accessible, safe space for young people of all backgrounds and abilities to express themselves."

A former child soprano who went on to tour the UK in a heavy metal band - "What can I say? I like singing", he smiles - Alex went to Bradford University then worked in PR and marketing for Northern Ballet, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Phoenix Dance and the Arts Council. Kala Sangam was, he says, the organisation he was waiting to work for. "It's an incredible place, with a wonderful legacy," he says. "Its original vision has evolved, but the initial ethos, of bringing people together through arts, rings just as true today."

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