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Sisters strike gold with Arts Awards

Talented sisters Ramsha and Sana Liaqat Kousar are celebrating after scooping Gold Arts Awards – made possible through a partnership project between Bradford Theatres and Bradford College.

The Gold Arts Awards, which carry lucrative UCAS points for higher education courses, will enable Ramsha and Sana to go forward in their chosen careers in mental health nursing and neurology.

The sisters joined Bradford College as ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students at the end of 2017 after arriving from Spain.

Ramsha (21) and Sana (19) were enrolled in the arts award programme through START – an engagement project of arts activity between selected cultural organisations and local schools and colleges that tackles inequality by working with young people who are deemed at risk of missing out on a creative and cultural education.

Ramsha, who is now going onto higher education at Bradford University to do a 3 year Nursing Mental Health degree, said:

“I’m so grateful to the Alhambra Theatre for being a partner of Bradford College and giving me such amazing life experiences and helping me to develop transferable skills that will be of benefit to me and my family for generations to come.

“To achieve my Gold Arts Award, I learnt from various practitioners including Dada Masilo, Carlos Acosta and the Matthew Bourne Dance Company in workshops at the Alhambra Theatre.

“The performances, workshops and Q&A sessions inspired me to develop my own style of ballet and infuse some Spanish flamenco into a routine that I choreographed.

“I then had to teach the ballet dance to a group of people to develop my leadership skills. This was quite challenging because of the current Covid-19 situation. I made it available for other people – but particularly for Muslim girls – to learn ballet dance through online lessons.”

Sana, who is in her second year of A-levels and aspiring to study neurology, explained:

“We had to form an opinion on a topic that affects the arts and share it. I feel that more Muslim girls should be allowed to experience the joy of dance and that it can be a celebration of their religion and an expression of their God -given talent.

“I posted this on social media and had an overwhelming response as many girls and women commented to say that they had either been touched by my words or had felt that their desire to dance should be acknowledged and permitted rather than forbidden.

“I hope that, in the future, more Muslim ballet dancers and audiences will fill our theatres and I am grateful that the Gold Arts Award gave me an opportunity to recognise and express this desire.

“This award is a great personal achievement as I worked hard alongside my academic studies and battled obstacles like Coronavirus. Participating in the Gold Arts Award has been a great opportunity for me to improve confidence to stand for what I believe, and my skills such as patience, teamwork and communication. In the future, the qualification and these transferable skills will support my university application and allow me to go on to a brighter future.”

Cllr Sarah Ferriby, Executive Member for Healthy People and Places, said:

“I would like to congratulate Ramsha and Sana on their exceptional achievement. They are proof that students who engage with the arts accelerate their ability to achieve in every aspect of their lives. I’m very proud of the work the team at Bradford Theatres and the students at Bradford College are doing as part of the Start programme.”

Esther Wilkey, ESOL tutor at Bradford College said that the Arts Award scheme had helped Ramsha and Sana to integrate into British society and to share this within their own ethnic community. She added:

“I am quite sure that the work that they have done with the Alhambra Theatre has underpinned their academic success and enabled them to achieve excellence in such a short space of time.”

START is a three-year engagement programme of arts activity between selected cultural organisations and local schools that tackles inequality by working with young people who are deemed at risk of missing out on a creative and cultural education. Bradford College is among Start colleges and schools participating in the Start scheme.

Children from participating schools and colleges have made visits to the Alhambra Theatre over the last three years to see a selection of shows as part of the Start programme, as well as working with the team at the theatre in workshops to develop their critical eye and have fun creating their own artistic work.