Meet Alchemy blogger Huma

Huma Qureshi is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes for several newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian and The Times. She also puts in a weekly appearance on the BBC Asian Network. Huma’s work can be found at and you can follow her on Twitter @huma_qureshi.

Huma’s top five festival picks…

1) The Many Faces of Love
I can’t wait to come along to this, because I’m a bit of a romantic at heart, and also because I adored Farahad Zama’s lighthearted, affectionate novels about arranging marriages; plus Monhi Mohsin’s witty tweets make me laugh so I’m looking forward to her talking offline!

2) The Ethnic Writer: How to avoid labels
As a writer myself, I’m all too aware of falling into the ethnic label trap (British, Muslim, Pakistani parents? Check, check and check) so am intrigued to hear what Nikesh Shuklah has to say on the matter – plus his book Coconut Unlimited rocked.

3) Sachal Jazz Ensemble
Okay: I have a confession to make. In the run up to my wedding last year, I practiced ‘walking down the aisle’ in my flat, shimmying along to the Sachal Jazz Ensemble’s rendition of The Girl From Ipanema. My song choice was vetoed in the end (ahem), but now I’ll get to hear them live (bring me that tabla beat) so the sashaying can recommence.

4) Pakistan On The Brink
The world is watching Pakistan right now – and this intellectual talk sounds fascinating to get an insight into the political instability Pakistan finds itself in. (If only this didn’t clash with the Sachal Jazz Ensemble…)

5) Watermarked: Women and Water in Pakistan
One of my favourite all-time writers, Kamila Shamsie, is appearing at this event, to talk about Pakistan, women and the aftermath of the 2010 floods – not to mention funny lady Shazia Mirza and the hugely clever Ziauddin Sardar. All three contributed to a collection of stories, published last year to raise money for the All Pakistan Women’s Association, which was beautifully put together by Homa Khaleeli, so this will no doubt be a wonderful evening.

Find Huma on the web:
The Guardian


Meet Alchemy blogger Kimberly


Kimberley Harvey is a freelance contemporary dancer and dance teacher. She has performed in a variety of dance projects over the years, some of which have been on the Clore Ballroom floor and around the building of The Royal Festival Hall.

Kimberley came to dance in 2000 when she was one of the founding members of Candoco’s youth dance company, Cando2.

After graduating from Candoco Dance Company’s Foundation Course in Dance for Disabled Students she went on to be one of the emerging artists on Candoco’s 3 year Moving Bodies programme; and became an Associate Artist with the company.

Kimberley is also a dancer and co-choreographer in Subtle Kraft Co. with Anna Bergström. Earlier this year they performed their debut work ‘Cravings of Intimacy & Solitude’ at The Place in London as part of Resolution! 2012.

Dance is well and truly my first love, but I do enjoy getting lost in the world of writing now and again, so blogging for the Southbank Centre during Alchemy seemed like a great way to infuse writing with my thirst for the arts.

(Photography by Gabriela Restelli)

Kimberly’s Top Five Festival Picks…

1. Moni Mohsin, Rosie Thomas, Farahad Zama: The Many Faces of Love
I am fascinated by human psychology, our perceptions and indeed, perceptions of love. Love is such a complex emotion and I am intrigued to see the different ways that these authors write about love, alongside where and how their thoughts on the subject may be similar or different.

2. Nikesh Shukla – The Ethnic Writer – How to Avoid Labels
Again, this links to my interest in psychology and the notion of ‘labelling’. How labelling is so often immediate, but yet unconscious. Does the label refer to an aesthetic, assumption or a combination of both? When is labelling negative? Can it ever be something positive? Can you ever choose the label?

3. Morning Yoga
As a dancer, I love yoga and its something that I practice on a personal level. A widely held assumption with yoga is that you have to be super-supple…this just isn’t true! Yoga is about working with your own body and getting to know and understand more about your physical (and emotional) self.

4 & 5. ‘The Art of Seeing’ and ‘The Art of Listening’
I chose these as my final two festival picks because I am always keen to maximise the potential of any experience. As a dancer I am fascinated by the notion of different levels of awareness and the effect that it has on the body.

Find Kimberly on the web:

Meet Alchemy blogger Kerry

ImageKerry is a writer, stylist, digital consultant, editor, blogger and vintage dealer based in London. Hailing from the North of England Kerry studied English in Cornwall and Manchester and currently writes and edits for a number of online and off-line publications. Kerry also offers advice on Digital Branding, manages marketing campaigns for fashion clients, edits websites and provides creative input to a variety of campaigns and projects. Also a published poet and vintage fashion dealer Kerry spends her spare time working on her own blog, Tricky Customers, scouring markets and baking cakes.

Kerry’s Top 5 Festival Picks:

1. Alchemy Catwalk
It’s always great to see collections by designers and India has such a strong aesthetic identity. The venue, The Clore Ballroom in The Royal Festival Hall is also going to be stunning.

2. Hetain Patel & Shane Solanki: Work in Progress
Creative collaborations are often very interesting and the exploration of language and communication is very close to my heart as a writer.

3. The Brit Pak
Being introduced to new artist is always exciting especially when the art comments on social issues.

4. Taste of India
I adore authentic Indian food as it’s so full of flavour and love to watch it being cooked by the experts.

5. Asian Dub Foundation
Asian Dub Foundation are musical pioneers who have encouraged more and more people to perform and listen to Asian music. Their political background, musical sound and influence makes this band  fascinating and unique.

Find Kerry on the web:
Tricky Customers blog
Tricky Customers Tumblr

Meet Alchemy blogger Alex

ImageAlex grew up in Telford, Shropshire, and is immensely grateful to that town for instilling within him a desire to move as far away as possible. That desire took Alex first to Manchester, where he attained a first-class honours degree in Music, and then on a 6 month trip around the world, starting in Delhi, India, and working his way across Southeast Asia, Australasia and South America.
It was thanks to this experience that Alex was named one of the Guardian Readers’ Travel Writers of the Year in 2010, an unexpected achievement which eventually led to London, where he joined the team at My Destination as a Travel Content Writer. Once here, Alex was able to indulge in his fascination with the written word, a fondness for referring to himself in the third person, and a deep infatuation with culture and the arts. When he’s not at work, Alex is either travelling to or from work, burning the frying pan, or getting distracted by social media, often at the same time.

Alex’s Top 5 Festival Picks…

1.Taste of India
It’s not just the taste of India you’ll find here, it’s the sights, sounds and smells, the essence of Indian life. There is no other event at Alchemy that will transport you to a different time and place quite so convincingly as this.

2. Pete Lockett Rajasthan Collaboration
In musical circles, Pete Lockett’s name is met with reverence and respect, a startlingly versatile percussionist whose skill and experience is rivalled by few. It’ll be fascinating to see the chemistry he’s established with this group of musicians from the villages north of Jaipur.

3.The Art of Listening
It’s easy to gravitate towards the familiar format of concerts and performances when it comes to the arts, but Alchemy is about so much more than that. The Art of Listening is a chance to learn about how to maximise the concert experience by focussing on how we engage with sound, a skill that is tragically neglected and underestimated by many.

4. Shiraz and the Sabri Ensemble
Combining mediums as only Southbank Centre can, this event will appeal to music and film lovers alike. In typical Indian fashion, it’ll stimulate the senses and inspire the heart, with genre-mixing music set against a visual backdrop that focuses on India’s greatest monument: the Taj Mahal.

5.Urban Vani
When I first saw Shlomo, at a percussion festival in 2007, he completely transformed my concept of what a musician is, and blew my mind in a way that has never been equalled. Although I don’t know a great deal about the other performers, if they’re sharing the bill with Shlomo this event is guaranteed to be unmissable, no doubt a great opportunity to challenge preconceptions and absorb new ideas.

Find Alex on the web:
Groupon Blog

Meet Alchemy blogger Sadaf

ImageSadaf Ahmed is the founder of Bollywood Bitesized, which aims to get more people interested in vintage Bollywood film by presenting edited films in an immersive, themed space and combining them with live music, dance and performance.

Prior to this, she spent ten years in television and print journalism. Her broadcast work included working on award-winning feature length documentaries ‘The Age of Stupid’, about the impending environmental crisis, and ‘Injustice’ about deaths in police custody. She then moved into print journalism and joined The Voice, Britain’s seminal black newspaper, as a reporter.

Next, she obtained a place on The Guardian newspaper’s ‘Trainee Scheme for Promising Journalists’. Soon after, she became pregnant and left full-time employment but continued to freelance, contributing to a variety of blogs and publications including Catalyst magazine and the blogs Pickled Politics and Liberal Conspiracy.

Sadaf really loves old stuff. Especially old films, and is on a mission to get everyone else loving them too.

Sadaf’s Top 5 Festival Picks…

1.Shiraz & The Sabri Ensemble
Fantastic concept! Take a vintage film, in this case a silent one, and put a live score to it. And it tells one of the most poetic love stories of all time, the Emperor Shah Jahan and the love that led to the building of the Taj Mahal.

2. Asian Dub Foundation
Seminal fusion band. I grew up with these guys and despite their success they remain innovative and full of integrity. Their live score to The Battle of Algiers at The Hackney Empire in 2004 was one of the most mind-blowing film/live music events I’ve ever been to.

3. Charity Shop DJ
I love these guys! They contacted me soon after I started Bollywood Bitesized, and after we’d had a chat it was clear that they’re doing with music what we’re doing with film. That is, taking the music loved by another generation and introducing it to a new one. And in doing so they’re bringing grandparents, mums, dads and the hip-kids together.

4. Mushaira and poetry recital
Many a Saturday morning in our household was filled with the sound of my dad’s Urdu poetry. He’s from Lucknow, renowned for it’s culture and he really instilled a love for wordplay and verse in me. It also goes someway to explaining my discomfort with bad language. Urdu is a language without swearwords, instead, rapier wit is the weapon of choice.

5. Bollywood Dance Workshop
I’ll definitely be making my way down to one of these workshops to bust a move. There’s a lot of great dance events on during the festival but these workshops are a really fun and accessible introduction to this increasingly popular form of South Asian dance.

Find Sadaf on the web