I had the pleasure of visiting England for the first time to attend FL in 2015. It was an amazing experience that has probably led me to where I find myself now. 18 year old me had a lot of ideas about working with art, music and dance as well as the community but had no exposure to social enterprises or that there was a structure to creating and making a social impact. I left Bangalore, India in 2016 where I had spent pretty much my whole life and moved 6000 miles away to Leeds. There I attended Leeds Arts University and pursued a degree in Fine Arts, which I graduated with First Class Honors in 2019.
My practice as a visual artist has always been very interested in ideas of home and cultural difference but the community has always been at the forefront of these concerns. Whether it was film or murals, I wanted to make art with people and I wanted to see creative people make art together. This is how We Belong Here first began. We Belong Here (https://www.webelonghere.co.uk/) is now a registered CIC that works within contemporary and community arts in Leeds, but it first started out as an experiment in my final year to create a space where music, dance, performance and art could be expressed equally and safely. Since the first event we have been on a journey full of ups, downs and an ongoing pandemic later we have still managed to connect with local communities. Our recent projects include The Bunting Festival (https://www.thebuntingfestival.com/) and The Memory Bank Mural. (https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/people/young-people-in-armley-create-memory-bank-mural-3202623)
I have a lot of exciting projects planned with We Belong Here, including launching INSERT, a new cross-arts space in Leeds. I am also currently working on co-creating ‘The Tiger Who Lost Their Smile’, a children’s theatre production about friendship, culture and courage. It’s exciting to see where you come from and how much of a difference the FL programme made to the larger arc of my life and I’m really excited about the future.