BACK in 1993 two doctors, Shripati and Geetha Upadhyaya, put their vision of bringing people together through the arts into practice. The couple set up an arts hub in a room of their home and called it Kala Sangam. They took the name from the Sanskrit for arts (kala) and meeting point (sangam).

The centre expanded into premises at Carlisle Business Centre in Manningham before moving to St Peter’s House, between the Broadway and Bradford Cathedral. Kala Sangam has become an internationally recognised arts company, reflecting the diversity of contemporary Britain through the work it presents, the artists it supports and the communities it engages with.

Over the years artists working with the company have appeared on TV’s Songs of Praise and at the Houses of Parliament and the Royal Albert Hall. Dr Geetha Upadhyaya was awarded an OBE in 2016.

Originally set up to develop South Asian arts, particularly Indian classical dance and Carnatic music, Kala Sangam went on to deliver outreach projects in schools and communities across the Bradford district. In addition to the company’s two performance programmes a year, it holds classes and workshops. The arts centre has two main performance spaces, the Ganges Theatre and the Indus Hall, and meeting spaces used for events such as conferences and weddings. In recent years the intercultural arts hub has expanded to support artists working more widely in dance, theatre, music and poetry.

Now the centre - founded by Dr Shripati Upadhyaya, consultant psychologist at Bradford District Care Trust, and his wife, Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, a consultant in metabolic medicine - is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a vibrant arts programme and an exhibition looking back on its story.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kala Sangam has been championing classical Indian dance for 30 yearsKala Sangam has been championing classical Indian dance for 30 years (Image: Karol Qyszynski)

As part of the anniversary celebrations, the company is launching a new commission for Indian classical artforms. The bi-annual Kala Sangam Commission, offering artists £10,000 to develop a new piece of performance work, is aimed at supporting new work showcasing the variety of Indian classical artforms, combining tradition with new ideas and challenging expectations to connect with audiences in new ways.

The commission - which includes a minimum of two weeks studio time at the arts centre and a performance opportunity in autumn 2025 - is for artists and companies working in any performance artform with its roots in Indian classical traditions, including dance, music or drama. It is open artists at any stage of their career. Kala Sangam will work with the successful artists to help them apply for additional funding for the project, and will also offer further support as needed. Alex Croft, Creative Director of Kala Sangam said: “As we mark three decades of programming and developing Indian classical work in the UK, we are announcing our biggest ever commission. The Kala Sangam commission is specifically designed to support the classical Indian performance sector, creating new work and helping artists to develop sustainable careers.

“We are really excited to be able to support artists to create a completely new piece of work that showcases the beauty and power of Indian classical performance.”

To apply for the Kala Sangam Commission, artists should send no more than two sides of A4, or a three-minute video, explaining their idea, what artforms it includes and how they want to develop the piece to: Alex Corwin (Marketing and Programme Manager) by emailing The deadline for applications is Wednesday, December, 20 at 12 noon. A panel of Kala Sangam staff and Indian classical performers, led by founding Artistic Director Dr Geetha Upadhyaya will decide on a shortlist of applicants to invite for interviews in January 2024.

Next year Kala Sangam will begin a major capital redevelopment of its building, reopening in 2025 - Bradford’s year as UK City of Culture - with a bigger, more accessible space and with a new name: Bradford Arts Centre.

Ahead of the refurbishment, Kala Sangam is celebrating its milestone anniversary with an exhibition looking back over its three decades. Drawn from the company’s archives, it runs at the centre until December 1.

Said Alex Croft: “As we look ahead to an exciting few years, with the redevelopment of our building in 2024 and City of Culture in 2025, it’s great to look back over 30 decades of work bringing artists and audiences together.”

Last Friday the birthday celebrations continued with Maitri, an evening of dance and music. Featuring dancers from across the UK, the event showcased classical Indian dance forms that have been at the heart of Kala Sangam’s delivery, including Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Moniniyattam.

The programme, curated by Rashmi Sudhir, one of the earliest members of the Kala Sangam team, brought a modern twist to classical traditions. Acclaimed musician Vijay Venkat, who has also worked with Kala Sangam for many years, programmed the music, which included his new work, Jazz Fusion.

The anniversary season ends with a new play, The Middle Game (November 22-25), inspired by the Bradford 12 case. Says Kala Sangam: “Tribe Arts presents the concealed history of a forgotten chapter in our nation’s past, when police brutality, inequality, political ruses and self-defence was an everyday visceral reality.”

* For more about Kala Sangam or the new artists’ commission go to, email or call (01274) 303340.