Imagine Asia – A new writing festival

Thursday 06 April 2017 - Saturday 08 April 2017 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Attenborough Arts Centre
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 A mini-festival of British and Asian inspired new work.
Staged readings of new works are presented to audiences, including visiting professional writers, dramaturgs, directors, producers, theatre lovers, and new play enthusiasts. Festival participants also have opportunities to discuss these new works to nurture the work.
Tickets: Pay What You Want
Imagine-Asia is supported by a donation from the estate of the Indian poet Sultan Jokhia. 

Happy Hijabi

by Shahid Iqbal Khan
Directed by BAFTA nominee Janys Chambers

Thirty something Zeenat is haunted by flashbacks of her failed marriage.  She wants to move on; her parents blame her for the split and she suffers the cultural stigma of being a ‘divorcee’.

While at work she is harangued by a rude customer and subject to extreme islamophobia. Simultaneously, destiny introduces her to Danyaal, a man passionate about self-defence and fighting bigotry. They bond, fall in love and plan marriage, but before she can fully commit she needs to leave her past and her ex-husband who was no Mr. Right.

Will Zeenat and Danyaal find happiness?  Can she overcome her own hesitation and combat the cultural prejudices that stand in the way?

Happy Hijabi is an everyday story of the British Asian Muslim experience in the UK.



by Subika Anwar-Khan

Three women, one voice. A solo performance inspired by real life case studies of domestic violence, Divided merges three South Asian female perspectives of westernised integration and eastern traditions.

Divided is inspired by real life case studies of domestic violence and segregation. As three different characters explore integration into an unknown territory, flat representations of femininity are challenged by understanding westernisation from a South Asian perspective. Divided uses different music styles and genres, to illustrate the perplexity of integration into the West.

Age guidance: 12+


Kathakali Kabaret

by Aletia Upstairs

Seven short men can drive a woman to the deadliest of sins! Enlightened by various Indian performing arts, Aletia Upstairs brings an exotic new dimension to the Snow White fairy tale. Dressed in hotly-coloured costumes and gorgeous make-up Aletia takes Snow White to India. 

Using the Indian performance style of Kathakali – in which the performers transform in full view of the audience, this is a cultural fusion cabaret rich in music from Berlin to Bollywood, Anne Sexton poetry and standup comedy.


Mata Hari

by Aletia Upstairs

Dutch-born wife Margaretha Geertruida Zelle re-invented herself as the femme fatale Mata Hari. Accused of espionage during WW1, she reflects on her life as she awaits her death by the French firing squad.

Mata Hari is interspersed with songs including some in French and Dutch, including “My Death”, “25 Minutes to Go”, and Aletia’s own compositions “She Cries” and “Catch Me When I Fall”. The show features photos and film of the period of Mata Hari’s life 1876 – 1917.


Three Daughters

by Omar Khan

After the death of their father, three estranged daughters of dual heritage, meet at their father’s shoe shop to hear the reading of his will; where years of resentment finally bubble over.


About the Artists

Shahid Iqbal Khan

Shahid Iqbal Khan loves words and their stunning ability to reveal or withhold the truth. He writes poetry and plays. His association with the Carol Godby Theatre Workshop and Phizzical Productions introduced him to the passion and drama of theatre. Shahid attends Manchester Muslim Writers’ workshops which look at the art and craft of writing in its various forms. His first play, The Smile of Despair was produced and then subsequent redrafting brought forth Mr & Mrs Khan, which made the top 5 festival of New Writing competition at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre. Happy Hijabi is his second play.


Aletia Upstairs

Aletia Upstairs is a performing artist, cabaretist, singer-songwriter and vintage songstress doing a PhD in Performing Archives. Her practice involves (auto)biographical and participatory performance. She examines memories and mementos in intercultural, interlingual and intermusical performance with traces of original music, poetry and puppetry. She has produced several cabaret shows as well as a solo album and an EP. In 2016 her work Emballage was awarded the Kantor Demarco Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and she performed at London Pride. She was a 2017 Jazz Idol Finalist.


Omar Khan

Omar has been writing professionally for theatre since 2006. He has been commissioned for five plays (and script edited a further two).

In 2013, he joined the writing team on the Zing TV British Asian soap Cloud 9, where he wrote 23 episodes and was a consultant on several others. In 2014, he wrote and produced his own sitcom pilot, Love, Sex and Side Effects, which got a development contract with BBC Comedy. In 2016, Omar was short-listed for the BBC Films Screenplay First Award, one of only 7 from 445 applicants. This led to him being placed on the shadow writers’ scheme for the CBBC show The Dumping Ground.


Subika Anwar-Khan

Subika Anwar-Khan is a playwright and actor who has developed new scripts with various theatre companies for the past 7 – 8 years. Her most recent play Stateless was commissioned by Kali Theatre and is now working on various commissions, including a biopic play based on the first British Asian Princess to join the Suffragettes, which ran at the Vault festival in February 2017. Subika is also an associate artist at the Curve Theatre, Leicester where she is developing a dystopian piece about immigration within the UK.