Celebrating Asian talent in the arts

ACCLAIMED musician Nitin Sawhney won the top award at Eastern Eye’s annual Arts, Culture and Theatre Awards (ACTAs), which recognise the achievements of Britain’s south Asian community in the arts, creative and media industries.

Sawhney, whose latest album Immigrants examines the complexities of identities in modern Britain, was presented with the Eastern Eye Outstanding Contribution to the Creative Industry award. He said, “My last album was called Immigrants for good reason. We live in a country which is guilty of endemic racism – you may not admit that all the time. But that’s everywhere, we’ve all grown up with it. And it exists out there. “The constant challenge is to make music that is relevant, that speaks from the heart, and is true and goes with what you believe. And you never let yourself down or what you create.”

Launched in 2016 by Eastern Eye’s publisher, the Asian Media Group (AMG), the ACTAs celebrate the diverse talent among Britain’s south Asian communities.

Prominent figures from the film, music, theatre and the entertainment industry attended the sixth edition of the event, at the May Fair Hotel in central London on Friday 3 February 2023.

India’s deputy high commissioner, Sujit Ghosh, paid tribute to the artistic community and its efforts in uniting different cultures and countries. He said, “Arts foster connections and conversations about human civilisations… between people and societies across geographies and time. “Arts equip us with essential templates to interpret, negotiate and navigate our way through the challenges of contemporary times.”
MPs and peers as well as arts organisations and business leaders were among those who attended the celebration. It was originally due to be held in September 2022, but was postponed following the deaths of the Queen as well as AMG co-founder Parvatiben Solanki, both of whom passed away on September 8.

Actress Anjana Vasan, artist Chila Burman, director Indhu Rubasingham and author-columnist Sathnam Sanghera were among other winners on the night, when a total of 18 awards were presented.

Eastern Eye’s editor at large, Amit Roy, called for British Asians to become decision makers. Addressing the 250-strong gathering, he said, “ACTA was set up partly because we felt that British Asian artists were not getting the recognition they deserved. “We know there has been progress. But perhaps we need to go a little beyond British Asian artists waiting to be given commissions by other people. Maybe the time has time for British Asians to move into commissioning roles themselves.”

From arts and music to books and the theatre, the ACTAs recognise talent across a variety of fields and the awards followed previous virtual celebrations due to the pandemic.