Judges


ACTA judges meeting
ACTA judges meeting took place on Thursday 23rd March in Central London


Professor Barnie Choudhury

Professor Barnie Choudhury has been a broadcaster for more than 35 years. He was a BBC trainee and worked there for 24 years, winning several radio and television industry awards. Barnie joined academia in 1999 and is the University of Buckingham's first professor of professional practice in communications. He's the honorary secretary of the Royal Television Society Midlands. Barnie is the chair of a Black Asian Minority Ethnic mental health charity in Nottingham, a member of Ofcom's Advisory Committee for England and currently the director of media and PR for the Commonwealth Secretariat. 



Rachel Harris
Creative Producer
Southbank Centre

Rachel Harris is the Creative Producer (Festival Development) at Southbank Centre. Rachel has a leading role in creating programmes designed to involve the widest communities in Southbank Centre’s work. She leads on a number of festival initiatives designed to integrate artistic ambition with social impact and cultural context and to reach beyond London to develop national and international connections.   
Rachel curates Alchemy, an annual 11 day international festival exploring the creative relationship between the UK and the Indian subcontinent presented across Southbank Centre’s venues. The Festival invites contemporary collaborative work from 6 countries and examines and celebrates the positive impact of diaspora communities in the UK.  
In 2013, she developed a collaborative festival in Salvador Brazil which used the arts as a way of progressing methods of social cohesion. She is currently working on a new festival to showcase contemporary China. 



Abid Hussain
Director of Diversity
Arts Council England

Abid Hussain is Director of Diversity at Arts Council England, the national development agency for the arts. He is responsible for leading the organisation’s work on equality and diversity. He has over a decade of experience working in the arts and cultural sector with a particular interest in leadership, talent development and philanthropic giving.
He is an alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) and a member of the John Adams Society, which promotes cultural, social and educational collaboration between the United States of America and the United Kingdom. He jointly led on the development and delivery of the internationally acclaimed Arts and Islam programme, which has delivered seminars, workshops, critical debates and artistic interventions across the United States of America, Denmark, Sweden and South Africa.
Abid has served in an advisory role for the British Council, the Institute for Community Cohesion, Eton College and currently sits on the BBC’s Audience Council in the Midlands. He has served on the strategic leadership group for the Mosaic Network, a mentoring programme established by HRH Prince Charles to inspire young people from deprived communities to realise their talents and potential.



Neha Jain 

Neha is the Founder & Creative Director or Aks Art Ltd, a not-for-profit theatre company with a vision to bring diverse people together to create art for social change and connectivity. She has produced, directed and acted in 12 houseful productions across numerous Central London venues and moderated several workshops, with reviews by national and regional newspapers in the UK and India. Outside of theatre her production credits include, Mountain Echoes, a radio-drama created for a charity in India, and more recently Robbed a short film currently in post production.
Aks is not a project or a business for Neha, it is an outlet for her enthusiasm and passion for community involvement; an avenue to galvanise a team towards creating art for the betterment of the lives of those who create it, and those who experience it.



Shobu Kapoor

Shobu is a well-known British Asian actress. She played Gita on EastEnders in the 1990s and is currently playing Mrs Khan in the BBC1 Sitcom, Citizen Khan.
Shobu was born and brought up in India and came to the UK to fulfil her lifelong love of acting. In addition to television, she has worked extensively in film, theatre, radio, and voiceovers.
Shobu is also a poet and playwright. She had her poetry debut at the Poetry Café in 2015 and was commissioned by Tara Arts Theatre to adapt a novel for the stage.
In 2013, she co-founded Roman Candle Productions, and has just left the company after having produced two short films, in order to concentrate on her writing and acting career.



Preeya Kalidas

Preeya Kalidas is a singer and actor who has had an extremely diverse career.  With roles in internationally acclaimed award winning movies Four Lions, Bend It Like Beckham, East Is East and an extensive number of TV roles playing Amira Masood in EastEnders, BBC Britz, BBC New Blood BBC Mistresses, BBC3 Bollywood Carmen Live, BBC Bodies, Hotel Babylon and ITV Mr Eleven.
On stage, Preeya was the first British Asian to be cast in a musical as leading lady in the original cast of AR Rahmans Bombay Dreams and The Narrator in the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Adelphi Theatre. She has also starred in plays at the prestigious Royal Court Theatre in playwright Levi Addai's Oxford Street and most recently Gurpreet Bhatti's Khandan.
 In 2016 Preeya’s role as Pinky in Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham the musical saw her receive, at the 40th Olivier Awards 2016, a nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical and she won Best Actress in Theatre at the first Arts and Culture Awards in association with the Southbank and Eastern Eye.
Preeya also has her own radio show on the BBC Asian Network broadcasting to the nation on Saturday afternoons. The show has attracted a diverse range of special guests every week including Danny Dyer, Kunal Nayyer (Big Bang Theory), Bear Grylls, Naughty Boy, Will.i.Am, Nadiya Hussain and Romesh Ranganathan to name a few.
Currently Preeya is starring in Andrew Lloyd Webber's original London production of School of Rock at the New London Theatre playing Patty di Marco.



Bhavit Mehta
Literature Programmer

Bhavit Mehta has worked as a publisher, translator and festival director. He studied Biological Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, and worked in a research environment at University College London before entering the world of children’s books in 2009, writing and publishing tales from India under his own imprint Saadhak Books. Between 2010 and 2014 Bhavit co-directed the South Asian Literature Festival, which took place in London and across the UK.
He has worked closely with the Society of Young Publishers, Eastside Education Trust, British Centre for Literary Translation and English PEN, mainly on translation and creative writing projects, and is currently on the board of Trustees for Wasafiri Magazine for international contemporary writing.
 Bhavit has worked with UK and international writers and collaborated with literature partners while working for the British Council and the Commonwealth Foundation. He has a personal interest in stories from around the world and their impact on cultural relations.




Dr MN Nandakumara
Executive Director
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

Dr MN Nandakumara is the executive director of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Britain. Under his leadership the bhavan has organised events relating to Indian art and culture, including music and dance performances by famous artists as well as seminars on religious topics and lectures by visiting scholars.
He has overseen the development of a new art gallery at the bhavan as well as the renovation of the centre's main 295-seat auditorium.
Dr Nandakumara has taught Sanskrit at Cambridge University and regularly lectures on Indian art, culture and philosophy at various schools, including Eton College. He has lectures on Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and the Bhagvad Gita in schools and colleges across the UK.
He instituted a music degree course at the bhavan, which is run in association with Trinity College Music and validated by City University, London.
He has worked at the India Office Library cataloguing Indian books and helped to decipher old manuscripts.



Shanti Panchal

Shanti Panchal is a respected artist and has been artist-in-residence at the British Museum, the Harris Museum in Preston and the Winsor & Newton Art Factory in London. He has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions, in Britain and abroad, including a touring exhibition of his work ‘Earthen Shades: paintings by Shanti Panchal’. Panchal is widely recognised for his watercolour paintings and has received numerous awards including the John Moore Liverpool Exhibition, the BP Portrait Awards, prestigious Ruth Borchard Self- Portrait Prize and in 2016 he was awarded Eastern Eye ACTAs Award for the Arts in London.
His work is in many private and public collections, including the Arts Council of England, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, British Museum, Imperial War Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Collection, London.



Sailesh Ram

Sailesh Ram, a former editor of Eastern Eye, is the founder and editor of www.asianculturevulture.com, a website dedicated to coverage of the Asian arts scene in its many guises. A journalist by background, whose work has been published in the Independent and Observer, he is also a contributing editor to AMG's Power List and Asian Rich List.
He also writes creatively, having had a novel for teenagers published many years ago, he now has several TV and film projects bubbling away.



Amit Roy
Eastern Eye columnist

Amit Roy is one of the most experienced journalists to have covered the Asian community and writes an influential column in Eastern Eye. He has also worked as a foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, The Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph.
Amit has covered wars all over the world, as well as the Iranian revolution. He has also written economic reports on India for the Daily Telegraph.



Paresh Solanki

Paresh Solanki is an award winning media specialist encapsulating social innovation as a tool of empowerment for individual and organizational development.
His diverse range of projects have won numerous accolades in broadcasting, events production, design; management, marketing and community cohesion. He holds the Fellowship of the Royal Television Society and Fellowship of the Institute of Leadership & Development.
Paresh currently works with various corporate and charitable trusts. His recent roles have included photographic assigments for magazines; film making for Government’s Near Neighbours programme; Assistant Director of the Inter Faith Network which developed the National Inter Faith Week; Media Expert for the Council of Europe’s Intercultural Programme and website and social media development for specialist clients. Paresh was previously a Senior Executive at the BBC where his roles included Managing Editor, Lifestyle & Features; Chairman of the Board, BBC Relocation; Editor, Asian programmes; Executive Producer and producer/director of international documentaries, events & media campaigns.
Paresh is a Trustee of the Media Diversity Institute (MDI), which works in conflict areas around the world in campaigning and training for responsible media coverage. He is Trustee of Sandford St Martin Trust, which awards for excellence in faith related broadcasting. He is a member of BAFTA; British Psychological Society; International Journalists Federations and a judge for the National Faith through a Lens Photo Awards. Paresh further works with individual clients on life skills development and mentoring.



Kiran Sonia Sawar

Kiran is a Pakistani Scottish actress and graduate from The Oxford School of Drama and her theatre credits include: BRIDESHEAD REVISITED (ETT UK Tour), ALADDIN (Oxford Playhouse), THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE (Unicorn Theatre) and MY NAME IS.. (Tamasha Theatre UK Tour).
Other TV/Film credits include: LEGENDS (FOX 21/TNT), GOOD KARMA HOSPITAL (ITV), THE EDUCATOROR (Channel 4) and BBC's MURDERED BY MY FATHER (dir. Bruce Goodison).



Kalpesh R Solanki
Managing Editor
Asian Media & Marketing Group

Kalpesh is group managing editor of the Asian Media & Marketing Group (AMG). Kalpesh graduated with a law degree (LLB Hons) from Queen Mary College, London, and qualified as a barrister from the Inner Temple. Kalpesh is responsible for the strategy and growth of AMG operations over three continents USA, UK and India.
Asian Media & Marketing Group provides route to market services with specific focus on the Asian community.



Shailesh R Solanki
Executive Editor
Asian Media & Marketing Group

Shailesh is executive editor for AMG, he has over 25 years' experience in journalism and oversees a raft of titles, including Asian Trader, Pharmacy Business, Asian Hospitality and AAHOA Lodging Business, as well as GG2, gg2.net, Eastern Eye and easterneye.eu.
As economics graduate, he has chronicled the Asian community in the UK and the UK where the group publish from their base in Atlanta, Georgia.