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Diversity charity launches new social heritage project

ArtsEkta founder Nisha Tandon and Board member Anna Lo with special guests Mrs Doyle and The Mad Hatter.

Northern Ireland cultural diversity charity ArtsEkta has launched a new social heritage project, You, Me and Tea. The National Lottery Heritage Fund has invested £89,600 to support the project, which will explore Northern Ireland’s long association with tea and investigate connections with China and India, mapping important cultural and trade links for two of our longest residing migrant communities.

The project was officially launched in the grand, heritage surroundings of the historic Ulster Reform Club, where 100 invited guests gathered to feast on afternoon tea and experience tea tasting, blending and glimpses into their futures with Eileen, the tea leaf reader.

Tea mocktails were served with a flourish by the Mad Hatter and guests were coerced into a top up by walkabout waitresses styled on leaf legends, Mmes. Doyle, Overall and Brown. The audience was entertained by 1950s musical trio the Swingtime Starlets and after tea had been taken, dancing followed.

This tea party marked the beginning of the You, Me and Tea project, which will include arts and craft workshops, tea tours, interactive tea talks open to the public, online resources, a physical touring exhibition and schools’ activities. Celebratory tea emporium events will take place across Northern Ireland, over the next two years and tea will, of course, be featured at ArtsEkta’s flagship festival the Belfast Mela, Botanic Gardens this August bank holiday.

“We are delighted to support this project which explores the connections between the tea that we drink and China and India, the countries where our tea comes from,” said Paul Mullan, director of National Lottery Heritage Fund NI.

“We drink a lot of tea, but perhaps do not fully appreciate its fascinating heritage and how it connects cultural heritage across the globe. This project will help explore the local connections that connect those migrant communities who have now become an important part of our local community.”

Nisha Tandon, founder and executive director of ArtsEkta, said: “This new funding will enable us to continue outreach work by providing crucial funding for participation programmes specifically designed and delivered in target communities throughout Northern Ireland. We are extremely grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for believing in our work and providing us with the opportunity to create significant social impact and legacy over the next two years.

“ArtsEkta will be working with seven community groups, bringing people from Chinese, Indian and indigenous backgrounds together, building relationships through sharing tea and tales. We anticipate reaching over two and a half thousand participants and audience figures exceeding twenty thousand, across all age groups.”

ArtsEkta has a variety of volunteering roles including assisting arts activity, interviewing and recording oral history accounts. No previous experience is needed as full training will be provided.

If you would like to get involved as a project volunteer, have tea tales to tell or would like to donate any tea paraphernalia such crockery, tea pots to the project please email [email protected]

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