Birmingham Weekender appoints artistic directors as a host of sponsors are confirmed

Photo: Dance artist Devika Rao in Yakshagana costume by Rajendra K

  • Graham Callister (Birmingham Hippodrome) and Piali Ray (Sampad) confirmed as Birmingham Weekender Festival Directors.
  • Birmingham Retail BID, Colmore BID, Bullring, Mailbox, Bullring Markets, Birmingham City University and Midland Metro confirmed as sponsors.

Birmingham’s biggest arts festival, the award-winning Birmingham Weekender, which returns from Friday 22 to Sunday 24 September 2017, will be led by newly appointed Festival Directors Graham Callister (Director of Creative Programmes, Birmingham Hippodrome) and Piali Ray (Artistic Director, Sampad South Asian Arts).

The wider artistic programming team includes Aaron Wright (Fierce Festival) and Tim Hodgson (Freelance Producer). The festival will be produced by independent arts producer Caroline Davis, on behalf of Culture Central, the development organisation in the city.
In addition Birmingham Retail BID, Colmore BID, Bullring, Mailbox, Bullring Markets and BCU have confirmed as event sponsors alongside funding support from Birmingham City Council and Arts Council England. Midland Metro are Travel Partner and What’s On are Media Partner for Birmingham Weekender 2017.

Birmingham Weekender promises a packed weekend of free outdoor theatre, dance, music, art installations and hidden performance across the city-centre, from Broad Street to Eastside, including the city’s retail heart, with a South Asian focus as part of Utsav, Birmingham’s Year of South Asian Culture.

Graham Callister, Festival Director said: “Birmingham Weekender is one of the biggest events in the city’s calendar. We have outstanding support from the city’s retailers and it’s fantastic to see so many sponsors coming on board at this early stage of planning.”

Piali Ray, Festival Director added: “2017 is Utsav, Birmingham’s Year of South Asian Arts, and so we plan to bring an Asian flavour to this year’s Weekender. We’re expecting well over 100,000 people to visit Birmingham city centre for Weekender and we have many exciting plans to bring outstanding arts and performance into our shopping centres and streets.”

Birmingham Weekender is the chance to see Birmingham’s major arts organisations alongside shining lights from the city’s independent scene, plus invited international artists and a number of significant new commissions. The city’s streets, shops and squares will come alive with free events across the weekend, with something to entertain and delight all the family.

The first programme announcements for Birmingham Weekender 2017 will be made in the spring.
Twitter: @BhamWeekender


For more information, contact Helen Annetts, PR on behalf of Birmingham Weekender, on 07779026720 or email

Notes for Editors:

Graham Callister – Director of Creative Programmes, Birmingham Hippodrome

Graham is Director of Creative Programmes at the Birmingham Hippodrome, which is an independent, not-for-profit registered charity, and one of the UK’s busiest theatres averaging over 500,000 visits per annum.

Graham oversees all Hippodrome CREATIVE activity, from major city festivals such as Summer in Southside and B-SIDE Hip Hop Festivals, to unique events and projects that include 1418 NOW Furious Folly, Curtain Raiser and Relaxed Performances, and work with local schools, vulnerable children and young people. Over the past three years Hippodrome CREATIVE has reached over 300,000 people through the delivery of major outdoor arts festivals and events.

Graham has been working in the UK cultural sector for nearly 20 years on a diverse range of national and international projects including major capital projects, delivery of London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and EU funded projects, heritage regeneration, tourism and creative industries initiatives, and was the Event Director for Birmingham Weekender in 2015.
Graham is also a Trustee for Sense – a national charity that supports people who are deafblind, have sensory impairments or complex needs, to enjoy more independent lives.

Piali Ray OBE – Director of Sampad

Bengal-born Piali has been a dance performer, teacher and choreographer in the UK since 1982. She is well-known for her excellence in these fields and has toured extensively throughout the world with organisations such as Birmingham REP, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), The National Gallery, the National Theatre and the British Council.

Her formidable energy and vision led to the setting up of Sampad in 1990. The dynamic, forward-thinking arts and heritage organisation continues to flourish under her leadership, playing an influential role in creating and promoting opportunities for South Asian arts and artists in Birmingham, across the UK and beyond.

Piali has a strong track record of collaborating and connecting with organisations at an international level and continues to take a lively interest in the cultural influences and experiences of people of South Asian heritage across the world.

She was awarded an OBE in 2002, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Central England in 2006, Outstanding Business Person of the Year by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce in 2009 and the British Indian Award for raising arts and culture awareness in 2015.

In 2012 she was commissioned by the Cultural Olympiad to produce two large-scale shows; Moving Earth, one of Sampad’s biggest dance productions to date, and Mandala, the dazzling multimedia finale of the prestigious London 2012 Festival.

Piali is currently chairing the advisory group for Utsav 2017: Birmingham City Council’s Year of South Asian Culture and has joined Birmingham Weekender 2017 team as an Artistic Director with a focus on the South Asian programme.

Aaron Wright – Fierce Festival

Aaron Wright took up the role of Artistic Director of Fierce in April 2016. He is a curator and producer of Live Art and formerly worked as Programmes Manager at the Live Art Development Agency (London), following an initial traineeship funded by the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries scheme in 2010. At LADA he co-curated international programmes of Live Art and spoke regularly on the subject. Aaron has also worked as a guest curator and consultant programmer for the National Theatre, The Arches and Cambridge Junction, as well as co-producing club night Knickerbocker at The Yard Theatre. Aaron also worked with performance artist The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein and is a member of the Steakhouse Live collective. He is a trustee of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

Timothy Hodgson – Freelance Producer

Timothy Hodgson is an independent Birmingham-based Producer specialising in the built environment. His work uses found and neglected spaces, encouraging the public to engage with urban areas in new ways. He was Performing Arts Producer at mac Birmingham until 2016, has previously worked for the Royal Court, Birmingham Rep, SHOUT festival of Queer Arts & Culture and co-founded the Birmingham Architecture Festival in 2013. He was Creative Associate for the Birmingham Weekender 2015 and the forthcoming iteration in 2017.

About Culture Central:

Culture Central is the collective voice and development organisation for culture in the Birmingham City region. Culture Central has been created by a founding group of cultural organisations with the purpose of placing culture and creativity at the centre of economic and social future of the region. Culture Central work closely with a growing range of anchor institutions including universities and the business sector alongside an increasingly wide group of cultural and creative organisations.

Culture Central members include:

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Birmingham Hippodrome
Birmingham Museums Trust
Birmingham Opera Company
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Birmingham Royal Ballet
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Ex Cathedra
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
mac Birmingham
NEC Group
Sampad South Asian Arts
Town Hall Symphony Hall

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