1 December 2020 / Grants and Awards

Report from RUMAHfest

Nur Khairiyah, Founder & Producer of RUMAHfest, applied in the summer for one of the STR’s Covid-19 Support Grants. She writes now about her experiences and ongoing thoughts arising from creating this festival and putting it online.

RUMAHfest is a festival to celebrate Asian diaspora artists based in London. The festival is to inaugurate the platform called RUMAH, which means HOME in Malay. The aim of the platform is to open up spaces for integration amongst the various Asian diasporas artists and to encourage cross collaboration.

I managed to programme a diverse and eclectic mix bag of artists from Spoken Word, Theatre, Music, Visual Arts and Improv-Comedy. All these artists took the plunge with me and challenge themselves to collaborate with one another remotely. Adapting this festival online is a creative risk all of us took collectively. The audience engagement is challenging, technical problems and buffering of large videos is a nightmare – but at the end of the day, having so much support makes it all worthwhile.

The artists and myself have worked so hard and tirelessly to make this inaugural festival to work online. And this is part of the process and growth for everyone involve. It’s a small team – just me and the artists. I have not physically met any one of them, so we have discussions and rehearsals online. What a time to be alive!

RUMAHfest has highlighted a diverse mix of artists to best represent the various Asian diaspora -(though I am sure there are more, so please holler at me) .When we look at Asian festivals in the UK, it tends only to highlight artists from the South Asian community. But since 2001, the census has seen an increase in migration of people from other parts of Asia, particularly the South East Asians like myself. In the recent 2011 Census, the data shows that from 2001, there is an increase in the Chinese heritage and the Asian Other. So there is a need to represent Asia accurately in Festivals because the festival landscape in the UK is continuously changing. And it will continue to change in response to how the public and the environment evolve.

To me, Festivals should be used as an opportunity to create awareness. I believe that festivals are able to reach out to a more diverse group of audience members as compared to just one specific performance or event. I think that Festivals have the ability to raise public awareness on specific issues like identity, representation, power, authority and even marginalization.

During the pandemic, I took the time to reflect on the current cultural landscape and I think while curating a festival, it first starts with what’s in a name. Festival producers have a responsibility to represent and programme a festival that lives up to its name – So RUMAH is a reflection of my producing practice. With this festival, it’s only a start to contribute to the change we should all want to see or be in. We’ve been in this pandemic for nearly 9 months now. We have so much time to reflect, be better and do better!

STR support has enabled us to purchase apps to caption, design and edit the overall footage of the festival, designing the festival identity, publicity materials and to finally get a domain for RUMAH.

Nur Khairiyah