A FESTIVAL showcasing South Asian heritage in Bradford is set to begin tomorrow.

Bradford South Asian Heritage Month launches tomorrow and runs until August 22 at Kala Sangam Arts Centre with the ‘Gigglewallahs!’ open mic comedy night hosted by BBC Radio 4 and Radio Leeds personality, writer and comedian Nick Ahad.

Last year’s inaugural festival, held at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, featured 24 virtual activities including a live cook-along, a storytelling night with people sharing personal tales and items from their heritage; a women’s cricket match special; a Q and A with Bradford crime writer A A Dhand, and a women’s forum – ‘Brown Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.

This year’s calendar includes a mix of live and virtual events, among them a hip-hop night featuring young South Asian performers; poetry and dance showcases; a retrospective of the legendary Bradford Mela; a ‘musical calligraphy’ event combining Islamic calligraphy with Sufi music influences; conversation sessions focusing on men’s and women’s mental health and issues like depression and menopause; cooking and sports sessions; and a young people’s forum, ‘Young, Brown and Bradfordian’. The event will end on August 22 with a celebration of the Hindu and Sikh festival of Raksha Bandhan, which is about the importance of sibling bonds and protecting each other.

Using the #HappyRakshaBandhanBradford hashtag, people will be encouraged to celebrate the importance of these values across communities and blood ties - brotherhood and sisterhood in all its forms.

The day will also pay tribute to the Covid-19 frontline workers who have protected everyone through recent challenging times.

The idea of Bradford South Asian Heritage Month - which is supported by Bradford Fringe, The Leap and the Bradford 2025 bid among others - is to promote the rich and vibrant contribution of South Asian diaspora communities to the life and identity of Bradford, and to reach out to people regardless of background who are interested in South Asian culture but who might not normally normally engage with mainstream arts and culture.

Artists Munaza Kulsoom and Uzma Kazi, who are co-organisers of this year’s event, said: “We are delighted to be able to bring Bradford South Asian Heritage Month back.

“As life starts to get back to normal post-pandemic, arts and culture is going to play a huge part in making us all feel better collectively, and we are keen to reflect that sense of moving forward with our packed calendar this year.

“This will be a month-long celebration of the culture, history, diversity and creativity of the UK’s South Asian diaspora communities, viewed through the lens of Bradford and its people.

“Bradford South Asian Heritage Month 2021 will celebrate and appreciate the creativity, colour, spectacle, poetry, culinary magic, exuberance and entrepreneurial flair that define Bradford’s ‘desi’ contingent - and will help reclaim Bradford’s story in the process.”