Arts Derbyshire


Derby Season of Light Spotlight Shines On Dazzling Diversity

Derby Season of Light (DSOL) 2023 returns between October and December – the annual celebration of our city and county’s dazzling diversity and creativity, spearheaded by South Asian arts organisation, Surtal Arts.

The annual festival’s goals are to unite communities and countries, embracing various festivals including Diwali, Rabi’ Al-Awwal, Hanukkah, Bonfire Night, Christmas, and the upcoming Chinese New Year which all share the common theme of light.

Highlights of this year’s festival include an international exhibition at Déda; story telling sessions; dance and music performances; and a host of family and school workshops in the city and county ahead of the spectacular Derby Lantern Parade through the city.

Surtal Arts’ chair and celebrated South Asian dancer, Nisha Nath, explained: “Derby Season of Light 2023 is a testament to the vibrant tapestry of our city’s culture.

“Through art, music, and festivities, we’re weaving together the threads of our community, celebrating the rich traditions that make us who we are.

“This year, we’re also delving into the captivating world of rural Indian textile art and the art of recycling, further igniting the spark of creativity.”

An exhibition entitled ‘The Hidden Story of Kantha’, in partnership with Déda, will open on October 6 until December 30 at the venue in Chapel Street.

It will showcase the traditional art of Kantha (running stitch) which is used to create wall hangings using on sustainable fabrics that intricately weave stories of village life and mythological tales. This work focuses on the festival’s themes of preserving and celebrating South Asian arts and the art of recycling, whilst empowering the women producing these beautiful works.

On October 20, Indian artist and social entrepreneur Malika Dudeja Varma, who is the artistic lead behind the exhibition, will be the guest of honour at an exclusive ‘Conversation with the Artist’ event at Déda between 7pm and 8pm.

Following the footsteps of her mother Shamlu Dudeja, Malika has expanded the work of the social enterprise SHE-Kantha Foundation – empowering women in rural villages in India to earn a wage by creating exquisite artwork and saris using Kantha, the traditional heritage craft of Bengal, which are now sold around the world.

The evening will finish with a catwalk of some of the unique saris that the women artisans of She-Kantha have created.

Next in the Festival programme is a two-hour online workshop on October 22 in partnership with the MITHILAsmita Trust in Delhi when participants can learn to create a traditional Madhubani painting – one of the most popular forms of Indian folk art.

The focus during the October half term break will be on a series of family lantern making workshops at Artcore in Osnabruck Square and QUAD in the Market Place where people of all ages will make their own sustainable lanterns using willow and tissue paper. The lanterns use energy-efficient LED lights and will be held up on biodegradable bamboo sticks.

Further workshops will be held with pupils at schools across the city who will all make lanterns in preparation for the Derby Lantern Parade on December 2 (see below). The schools involved are Brookfield Primary, Akaal Primary, St Claire’s, Griffe Field Primary, Bemrose Primary, Firs Primary, Lees Brook Academy, Asterdale Primary and Ivy House School.

On Saturday November 4, in partnership with Déda in Chapel Street, Surtal Arts will welcome families for a day of workshops and performances.

As well as the chance to make shadow puppets to take home, there are also interactive Bollywood dance workshops where families can learn a captivating but simple routine using hand gestures and hip movements with colourful props.

The artforms will also come together in two daytime intriguing storytelling performances of ‘Apple ‘N’ Spice’ by Sanskruti Dance – a specially written fairy tale – with the chance to join the cast on stage at the end for an Indian party.

On Saturday November 9 at Kedleston Hall, the mythological story of Diwali will be brought to life with an Indian classical dance performance by artist Priya Sundar – showcasing how a solo dancer can transform into multiple characters through intricate rhythmic footwork, movement, facial expressions and hand gestures.

The Diwali celebrations will continue with an evening of Indian classical music on Saturday November 25 at Strutts Community Centre in Belper, in partnership with Fleet Arts, with rising stars on Britain’s Indian classical music scene – Akash Parekar on sitar, Sandeep Singh Kandola on sarangi and Harkiran Singh Sahota on the tabla.

The climax of DSOL will again be the Derby Lantern Parade in partnership with Derby City Council and Derby LIVE on Saturday December 2.

Starting from St Peter’s Church, participants at workshops will be joined more than 350  pupils at local schools as well as Derby College who have all made their own sustainable lanterns.

They will be joined in the parade by Chinese dragon performers, Bollywood dancers as well as the mighty Dhol drumming sounds of Dhol Frequency and rhythms of African drummers by Blue Alchemy who will weave their way into the Market Place.

Nisha Nath concluded: “Derby is a vibrant home to 182 different cultures and we have reached out to many other communities to make Derby Season of Light and particularly the Lantern Parade a wonderful celebration of our city’s diversity.

“With the different performances and activities and involvement by a wide range of people of all ages and from across the city, our aim has been to shine a light on how we all share common themes in the different cultural and religious festivals that we celebrate at this time of year.”

Although DSOL is spearheaded by Surtal Arts, it has only made possible with the financial support of Arts Council, National Trust, Derby City Council, Derby Live, Fleet Arts and Belper Town Council, as well as venue partners who host the various events.

For more information and to book places and tickets for events, please visit

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