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Enjoy footage and audio recordings from our recent Asian Voices. It was an evening of writing inspired by the historic Brighton Pavilion and India, held at Crawley Library this past Saturday.
Despite the rain, the modern library held a sizeable local audience, with former soldiers and people of different Asian backgrounds in attendance. We were really pleased to see so many people arriving early, and quickly fill in while we had teas, coffees and biscuits and everyone go to know one another before the night had begun.
Bert Williams MBE from the Sussex Chattri group gave a lively talk about the Indian soldiers stay in Brighton during World War I, when Hindu, Muslim and Sikh Indian soldiers were treated at the Brighton Pavilion, a make-shift hospital, and their now famous letters home. This was followed by a dramatic reading from actors Rez Kabir and Richard Sumitro and Uschi Gatward, who brought to life a play based on the Indian soldiers letters, called Through the Flames by emerging Asian LGBT playwright Sonya Roy. Lastly, writer and creative writing tutor Umi Sinha read from her new historical novel in progress about Indian soldiers and a new think piece that reflected on the relationship of her Indian heritage and with this place England she calls ‘home’.
Here’s a review written by Sonya Roy of the event:
On Saturday evening on the 20th October at Crawley Library a wonderful event took place. INSPIRE was an evening of history and writing inspired by the Brighton Pavilion and its links with India. In the early days of the first World War, many Hindu, Sikh and Muslim soldiers were bought to Brighton which had been turned into a hospital town. For nearly two years thousands of Indian soldiers were resident in what was at that time a small seaside town. And in that time there was a shortage of English men as most had joined up so there were a lot of lonely English women who were drawn to the “dusky warriors” from the East.
INSPIRE took fact and fiction and created a fusion of fact and fiction in the guise of a talk from the Chattri group and two short readings, one from a play called Through the Flames and a novel entitled Belonging. Bert Williams gave an informative talk about the Indian soldiers and their contribution to Sussex during WWI and two writers, Sonya Roy and Umi Sinha put forward their interpretation through fictional accounts of relationships forged in war.
Two London actors Rez Kabir and Richard Sumitro did an amazing reading of two of the characters from Through the Flames helping to create a haunting atmosphere that spoke of a world at war and a love that dared not be named in a racially intolerant Empire. And Umi Sinha’s book Belonging though not yet finished, will hopefully be on the shelves of Sussex Libraries when finally published.
The evening was very well attended with some and Uschi Gatward did a brilliant job of compering the evening’s educational entertainment that was so popular it overran as there so many questions and comments from the audience.
Crawley Black History Group were the hosts for the night and Amy Riley from Writing Our Legacy was the linchpin which enabled this event to happen in the first place. I really hope that this will be repeated next year with more Asian literary talent and even more history on offer.