An entertaining 11 days of comedy, theatre, debates and workshops has come to an end, as Southbank Centre’s annual Alchemy festival closes its doors for a sixth year. Always an avid supporter of the arts and culture, Grange Hotels is proud to be partnered with such an artistically creative and culturally diverse event, and was delighted to welcome Alchemy performers, the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company, as guests at Grange Tower Bridge Hotel.
First descending upon London’s thriving South Bank back in 2010, Alchemy celebrates a cultural fusion of the UK and South Asia, with this year’s line-up featuring artists and performers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the UK. With more than 70 events taking place throughout the festival, there was something for everyone to enjoy – from dance and theatre to film and music to literature and art. And with half of these events free, there really was no excuse not to join in.
The first weekend kicked off with an eclectic mix of music, dance and theatre together with a series of literature and talks, including the ever-popular Jaipur Literature Festival. Residing at Alchemy for the second year running, this event promised ‘an insight into the greatest literary show on earth’, and those in the audience were not disappointed. The weekend ‘festival within a festival’, which saw both days bookended by an enthusiastic display of morning music and evening partying, was in its own words a ‘magical mystery tour’, wherein the audience experienced a series of talks and discussions surrounding South Asia's multilingual literary heritage.
One of the festival’s biggest highlights came from Indian playback singer Shreya Ghoshal who, having already delivered two sell-out shows at Royal Albert Hall in 2013 and 2014, graced the stage at Royal Festival Hall for a sensational Saturday night filled with Bollywood hits. Her first time performing at Alchemy – but hopefully not her last – Shreya also visited Leicester and Manchester during her short UK tour.
Throughout the festival, a host of ‘all day, every day’ events were on offer in addition to the scheduled performances. In-between shows, visitors were invited to relax in the Alchemy Unplugged Music Lounge at the Riverside Terrace Café, explore interactive art installations at Royal Festival Hall, or indulge in a smorgasbord of Asian cuisine at the Eastern inspired food market. A spectacle in itself from street food organisation Kerb, over 20 stalls turned up the heat and served up the spice, bringing even more flavour to this already sizzling event.
In amidst the poignant dance numbers and thought-provoking debates of this year’s Alchemy, two events in particular stood out for us, as the last Sunday of the festival uniquely offered several hours of comedy. With both sessions led by BBC Radio 4 favourite Hardeep Singh Kohli, Alchemy Comedy School Showcase introduced emerging British Asian comedy talent from across the UK, whilst Alchemedians Live saw the best of the British Asian comedy scene take to the stage for an evening of ‘razor-sharp humour’. We in the audience were treated to a great atmosphere and some spectacular talent, notably from comedian Imran Yusuf.
Moving performances, mouth-watering food and (mostly) sunny skies – what more could you ask for from a festival? We look forward to our continued partnership with Alchemy for 2016.