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‘Queer Brown Stories’, as heard on BBC Radio 6 is an initiative led by and for the Queer & Trans South Asian community in Camden. It is part of the Connecting Camley Street Artwork Programme and marks a significant step in the inclusive development of Camley Street. Curated by Dhaga, this project expresses the Queer & Trans South Asian Community’s experience and aspirations for the future of cities through creative community engagement. 

Central to this initiative were two engaging workshops, designed to hold space for the community to come together and share their experiences through exploratory creative outputs. These sessions were instrumental in shaping the narrative and visual identity of the mural to be launched in June 2024 at the Camley Street Underpass. Sign up to our mailing list to get notified about the launch event which will be part of the Camley Street Festival on the 16th of June 2024.

Themes pertinent to the Camden LGBTQIA+ South Asian community are explored intricately across each billboard, bringing together identity within the context of the built environment. These include celebrating Queer joy and the connected intersectionality within the community, the often layered and complex identities of Queer and Trans South Asian people which are shaped by many facets; such as, personal and collective histories, ancestral connections, navigating a Queer diasporic identity within the city and the community’s visions for a more inclusive future. 

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Each participant's contribution, whether through poetry or collage, is intricately woven into the mural by artists Aarandeep Sian & Sarith Ratnayake. The design followed a collaborative and iterative process following discussions with the Camley Street Team of Camden Council, ensuring accessibility to the wider community. 

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The project commenced with a free-writing poetry workshop called 'Space, Place & Belonging', facilitated by artist, writer and poet, Nikita Aashi Chadha. This was a closed, safe online space for folks to engage with complex themes within diasporic experience in a lighter touch way through the mediums of poetry and freewriting and the lenses of postcolonial and Queer theory. Participants explored the localised Queer & Trans South Asian history of Camden, and their feelings towards space, place & belonging. The collective poem created during the workshop flows through the mural and mingles with the conversations and visuals that arose from the subsequent workshop, ‘Taking Up Space in the City’. The workshop was facilitated by Aarandeep Sian at the Old Diorama Arts Centre and centred collective collaging, carving out space for participants to explore their experiences, and envisage the future of Queer South Asian presence in Camden. 

To equip the community in understanding their rights and the importance of using their agency to vote, the HENNA Asian Women’s Group and the Bengali Women’s Forum supported with information on voter registration during the event and also catered delicious samosas and biriyani. 

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Designing for an inclusive future, it is crucial to understand the history of the Queer & Trans South Asian community and this was made possible by the Naz & Matt Foundation who hosted a film screening of ‘Discovering Kali’ following the workshop. ‘Discovering Kali’ is a documentary celebrating the 25 years of Club Kali, which has been a safe space that originated as a club night predominantly held in Camden for Queer South Asians all over the UK. Members of the Club Kali community also engaged in an interactive panel discussion where further insights into the history were discussed. The mural recognises Club Kali as a significant part of the Queer South Asian History in Camden, treasuring the stories which provide a much needed sense of belonging to current and future generations. 

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The 'Queer Brown Stories' mural will be launching on the 16th of June as part of the Camley Street Festival. It hopes to express the desires, stories and experiences of a community that has always existed and yet lacked recognition by the city. It is evident that the narratives and visions of the community and the questions posed represent a model of deep inclusivity, which has the potential to shape cities that truly recognise, embed and cater to diverse and intersectional identities.

Sign up to our mailing list to get notified about the launch event.

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