Theory Opera | Sharing Stories: with author Shrabani Basu

Talk + outdoor cooking workshop

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Join us for this unique closing event that sets out to discover the personal stories of soldiers and others during the First World War. Presented by Shrabani Basu – author of Victoria & Abdul: The True Story Of The Queen’s Closest Confidant, the inspiration behind the movie starring Dame Judi Dench and Bollywood star Ali Fazal.

Shrabani Basu delves into narratives buried in villages in India and Pakistan, as well as British archives, to recreate the War through the eyes of the Indians.

She tells, for the first time, the personal stories of some of these Indians who went to the Western Front: from a grand turbaned Maharaja who fought for Empire to the peasant from Garhwal who was awarded the Victoria Cross; from the cooks and sweepers who accompanied the troops to the dashing young pilots who brought down German planes.

She tells the untold story of how curries reached the frontline, how Muslims soldiers prayed to Mecca in the fields of France, and how bonds were forged in the mud and blood of the battle fields.

The talk will be followed by a traditional Gurkha-style outdoor cooking workshop, led by members of Colchester’s Nepalese Society. You will then be able to enjoy what you have prepared. (Meat, vegetables and rice cooked in separate pans, with meat optional. Dishes are dairy and egg free.) Please note: this workshop will be outside and exposed to the elements – please wear warm layers.   

Shrabani Basu is an author and journalist, born in Calcutta and now living in London. She combines journalism with her love of history, with all her books having evolved from her observations about the shared histories of India and Britain. Shrabani has been interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Woman’s Hour programme and appeared on BBC Television’s Saturday Kitchen and The One Show. She is soon to appear with celebrity chef Heston Blumental in his series Great British Food. In 2010, Shrabani set up the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust to ensure that the World War II British Agent’s story and sacrifice were preserved for the next generation. The Memorial was unveiled in London’s Gordon Square by Princess Anne in November 2012. It was followed by the release of a Royal Mail stamp in honour of Noor in March 2014. Shrabani’s work to preserve the memory of the World War II heroine has been commended in the House of Lords.

Theory Opera is a fascinating series of public events that brings together different stories, ideas and experiences in response to Firstsite’s exhibition Not Yet At Ease – a major commission by internationally renowned Delhi-based artists Raqs Media Collective exploring the interlinked histories of war, poetry and mental health.

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‘Not Yet At Ease’ is co-commissioned by Firstsite and 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, with support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The exhibition forms part of Firstsite’s programme theme of ‘Conflict and Culture’. 

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