A Timeline of some of the key events to take place in the history of British South Asian theatre


1964 – A Passage To India, directed by Harbhajan Virdi, performed at the Commonwealth Institute

1967 – Immigration Act in Kenya restricts rights of South Asians, forcing many into exile

1968 – Community Relations Commission established in UK



1970 – To Anchor A Cloud by Dilip Hiro, directed by Harbhajan Virdi, performed in London. A group of schoolboys from Southall saw the production, and asked Virdi to work with them on their theatre group. This youth theatre group went on to win national competitions.

1971 – War of independence of East Pakistan (Bangladesh) displaces population; Immigration Act severely limits migration from the Commonwealth into the UK

1972 – South Asians expelled from Uganda by the dictator Idi Amin

1976 – The publication of Naseem Khan’s report The Arts Britain Ignores

1976 – The murder of Sikh schoolboy Gurdip Singh Chaggar in Southall, prompts group of men to start making theatre together, leading to the forming of Tara Arts.

1977 – Tara Arts perform their first production, Tagore’s Sacrifice.

1979 – 21 April, protests about the National Front being allowed to hold a ‘political meeting’ in Southall Town Hall turn violent due to heavy-handed police presence, resulting in the death of Blair Peach.


1980 – HAC (Hounslow Arts Cooperative) formed by Poulomi Desai and Hardial Rai.

1981 – Uprisings and unrest across the country.

1981 – Borderline, by Hanif Kureishi, produced by Joint Stock, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, performed at the Royal Court, London.

1983 – Asian Co-operative Theatre formed.

1985 – Tara Arts theatre building opens in Earlsfield, London

1986 – Bhasa’s The Broken Thigh, adapted and directed by Jatinder Verma for Tara Arts, with Sudha Bhuchar and Kristine Landon-Smith; Shudraka’s Little Clay Cart, with Sudha Bhuchar and Ayub Khan-Din, choreography by Shobana Jeyasingh, co-production by Tara Arts and the National Theatre

1989 Tamasha theatre company formed by Sudha Bhuchar and Kristine Landon-Smith. The opening production was Untouchable, which had been performed in India the previous year.

1989 – Salman Rushdie publishes The Satanic Verses, leading to a fatwa issued against him by Ayatollah Khomeini, resulting in debates about censorship and fundamentalism, and unrest amongst the communities.


1990 – Molière’s Tartuffe, co-production by Tara Arts and the National Theatre, adapted and directed by Jatinder Verma, with Ayub Khan-Din

1991 – Kali Theatre formed by Rukhsana Ahmed and Rita Wolf.

1992 – Hardial Rai appointed Cultural Development Officer at the Watermans Arts Centre

1996 – The premier of East Is East by Ayub Khan-Din, produced by Tamasha with Birmingham Rep and the Royal Court.


2000 – Ramayana, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, music by Kuljit Bhamra, produced at the Birmingham Repertory theatre and the National Theatre; Tanika Gupta’s The Waiting Room, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, produced at the National Theatre

2001 – 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, New York

2001 – Publication of the Eclipse Report, addressing strategies to combat racism in theatre

2002 – Bend It Like Beckham, film directed by Gurinder Chadha, starring Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley; Journey to the West  trilogy, directed by Jatinder Verma for Tara Arts; Bombay Dreams, music by A.R.Rahman, book by Meera Syal, produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber in London

2003 – Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, directed by Tim Supple, starring Zubin Varla, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

2004 – Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti is forced to close at the Birmingham Rep due to protests by members of the Sikh communities.

2007 – 7/7 attacks on London

2008 – Ayub Khan-Din’s Rafta, Rafta,,, an adaptation of Bill Naughton’s play All in Good Time, directed by Nicholas Hytner, starring Harish Patel and Meera Syal, produced at the National Theatre

2012 – Indu Rubasingham appointed artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre, London (now the Kiln Theatre). Madani Younis appointed artistic director of the Bush Theatre, London. 2013 – Kristine Landon Smith steps down from being artistic director of Tamasha, as did Sudha Bhuchar in 2015, replaced by Fin Kennedy.

2015 – Bend It Like Beckham: the musical, directed by Gurinder Chadha and adapted from her film, opens in the West End.

2016 – Kully Thiarai appointed artistic director at National Theatre Wales. Jatinder Verma steps down from being Artistic Director of Tara, replaced by Abdul Shayek.

2018 – Madani Younis appointed as Creative Director of the Southbank Centre, London.