Adab Fest 2021

Producers of the Future: From Keighly to Karachi

Supporting creative skills development for women, from Keighley to Karachi and beyond

November 2021 on Youtube (@adabfest and @bradfordliteraturefestival7196)

Congratulations to the selected curators: Haleema Ahmed, Madiha Ansari, Dur Bibi, Sana Khoja, Wajiha Naqvi, Zaynab Rasul, Kirran Shah, Ishrat Shaheen, Nazhat Shakir, Pakeezah Zahoor

To read or download the Programme Overview click here.

To read or download the Information for Applicants click here.

The Equal Opportunities form is here.

We believe in giving everyone an equal chance to succeed. We welcomed applications from people of all backgrounds and of all ages and abilities, regardless of religion or belief, race, pregnancy or maternity, sexual orientation, trans status, socioeconomic background or any other factor. We positively encouraged applications from people with experience of living in poverty and guaranteed that there would be no financial cost to participate in this programme.

About the Project

Producers of the Future: From Keighley to Karachi was a ground-breaking international collaboration between Bradford Literature Festival, UK, and Adab Festival, Pakistan. The project developed female talent and leadership in the arts and culture, through a digital exchange and development programme, bringing together women from diverse and disadvantaged communities, in Bradford and across Pakistan. The participants worked together to curate and deliver a weekend of digital literature festival events for public audiences, which will took place in November 2021. The project was supported by the British Council Digital Collaboration Fund, which supports UK and overseas cultural partnerships to develop digitally innovative ways of collaborating.

Inspired by the ‘glass-ceiling-smashing’ female leadership of BLF and Adab Festival – both festivals are female-led with Adab Festival Director, Ameena Saiyid, hailing from Karachi and BLF Director, Syima Aslam being of British-Pakistani heritage – the programme focused on the developing the cultural skills of South Asian women from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds in Bradford and Pakistan, who face gender-based, social, cultural, technological and economic barriers to careers in the arts and culture sector. This project will be a much-needed opportunity to tackle the under-representation of South Asian women in the talent pipeline and positions of leadership in the British creative sector.

The group of ten women – five from the Bradford District and five from Pakistan – worked collaboratively over 6 months to curate and produce a digital literature festival programme which was delivered online in November 2021. Participants received a monthly bursary, mentoring, specialised training and funding opportunities to attend arts and cultural events (digitally or live), structured around the curation of the November festival. Developing the confidence, practical skills and industry connections needed to underpin the continued development of their creative careers, this international group of women was equipped with the skills they needed to design and deliver cultural activity within, and informed by, their own communities and experiences long after the end of this project.


Bradford Literature Festival Director, Syima Aslam, said:

“At a time when the creative sector in the UK and internationally is paying – perhaps for the first time – proper attention to the woeful inequalities of representation in the arts and culture, I am delighted and grateful that we have been able to secure funding from the British Council for this project.

At BLF we have long understood and been frustrated by the lack of diversity evident in the creative sector talent pipeline in the UK, which is the result of complex systemic inequalities – and Pakistani British women are particularly under-represented. We believe that by exploring and understanding the cultural and social challenges faced by women in Pakistan, we will better understand the challenges and barriers to participation faced by women in Pakistani diaspora communities in Bradford and the UK.

For public audiences here in Bradford, in Pakistan, and around the world, we look forward to delivering excellent international cultural events at the November festival, curated by the exciting new talent we recruit for the project. I equally look forward to sharing the learnings from this project with our colleagues here in the UK and internationally and using this project as the springboard for further, meaningful change.”

Adab Festival Director, Ameena Saiyid, said:

“‘From Karachi to Keighley’ will be of great benefit to Pakistani female talent in the creative sector. Women in the creative sector in Pakistan, particularly in rural areas, face enormous challenges such as gender discrimination, segregation, exclusion from the public space, lack of mainstreaming, exposure and empowerment and an insistence on male dependence.

However, despite women treading a painful course, with every small victory snatched, with great effort and courage, from the teeth of hardened male prejudices, women are not discouraged and are moving ahead as pioneers whilst smoothing the way for those waiting in the wings.

This project will provide a wonderful opportunity for the brave, pioneering and struggling women artists and writers of Pakistan.”