Join us to mark the launch of a groundbreaking international digital talent development programme, which equips women of Pakistani heritage in Pakistan and Britain with the tools they need to develop successful careers in the creative industries. The programme is a collaboration between BLF and Adab Festival in Pakistan, and is backed by the British Council Digital Collaboration Fund.

The event will introduce the participants – five from Bradford district and five from Pakistan – who will curate and deliver a weekend of digital literature festival events for public audiences at BLF’s Words in the Winter in November. The women will put their questions to Syima Aslam, Director and CEO of Bradford Literature Festival, and Ameena Saiyid, Director of Adab Festival in Karachi, about their personal journeys towards creating innovative literature festivals.

About The Speakers

Haleema Ahmed

Haleema Ahmed is a published poet and undergraduate English Literature student from Bradford. With Pothwari as her mother tongue, Haleema’s discovery of Urdu literary classics began after she taught herself to read the language. Through a series of bilingual narrations, she wants to share her love of popular tragic romances of Punjab like Heer Ranjha and Sohni Mahiwal with mainstream audiences.

Madiha Ansari

Madiha Ansari’s introduction to the arts began in her formative years in Karachi surrounded by Urdu poets and mushairas. Her entrepreneurial initiatives in Bradford include the Cultural Ecology Project, which she established to drive multicultural engagement and aspiration for the arts. Madiha is currently developing skills to produce bilingual autobiographical monologues for the stage.

Dur Bibi

Dur Bibi’s mission is to establish a festival to celebrate the indigenous art, language and culture of Lyari. A locality of Karachi, Lyari has inspired many Pakistani poets and writers. It has produced some of the nation’s top footballers. Yet, Lyari struggles with media misrepresentation. Dur plans to use her degree in Strategic Studies from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, to dispel stereotypes.

Sana Khoja

Sana Khoja is from Jamshoro, a town in Sindh province renowned for its natural resources. Eight years ago, she invited local folk musicians to perform on her rooftop. The initiative developed into Lahooti Melo, an annual weekend festival attracting 80,000 visitors. Sana now plans to take Lahooti Melo to an international stage.

Wajiha Naqvi

Wajiha Naqvi is a Karachi-based vocalist and songwriter training in North Indian classical music, with an academic background in the anthropology of Sufi music from NYU. She is also a researcher and writer on South Asian music history and is passionate about bringing communities together through the healing and transformative power of music.

Zaynab Rasul

Of British Pakistani heritage, Zaynab Rasul’s upbringing in the deserts of Yemen has made her equally fluent in British and Yemeni Arabic cultures. As a student of Contemporary Art and Illustration, her boundary-pushing practice fuses Arabic calligraphy with graffiti to create the provocative artform calligraffiti. Zaynab runs art workshops for young people.

Kirran Shah

Kirran Shah graduated with a first class degree in the History of Art, with a specialism in Islamic architecture. She has a background in corporate governance, research, museums, policy, data analysis, and cultural strategy. She makes podcasts and narrative-led documentaries about arts and culture for the BBC and local radio.

Ishrat Shaheen

Ishrat Shaheen’s fascination with spatial cultural heritage began with her upbringing beside the Indus River in the Thal desert. During a visit to the Indus Valley Civilisation Museum she realised that the same materials, techniques and customs were still in use in her village. Ishrat uses her background in Architecture and Urban Design to connect communities with places through the revival of their heritage.

Nazhat Shakir

Nazhat Shakir was raised in Chitral which is located in Pakistan’s Hindu Kush mountain range. She struggled to find a form of expression for women’s personal experiences until she participated in a reading of The Vagina Monologues at university. Nazhat aspires to create a platform where women write and present their own stories.

Pakeezah Zahoor

Bradford-based Pakeezah Zahoor has held roles in community engagement and programming in several cultural and literary festivals across the North of England. With a Masters in Postcolonial Literatures and Cultures, her perspective and priorities are often formed around questions of race, culture and identity.