Intern Blog: Zarah Alam On Her Sampad Experience

It would be an understatement to say that 2020 was a bad year. I had spent months at home, and I was starting to go crazy. Thankfully, I had my Sampad internship to look forward to!

As soon as I found out that I had been accepted onto the internship, I came up with a list of ideas to share with Director, Piali Ray and Executive Director, Sabra Khan (read about them here). They were both really supportive and encouraged me to pursue many of my ideas. I created an online content calendar for 2021, a South Asian Heritage Instagram quiz (you can see it here), and what became the biggest focus during my internship, the Sampad 30 for 30 campaign.

I attended the weekly team meetings on Zoom, which allowed me to get to know the Sampad team better and learn about what goes on behind-the-scenes in an arts and heritage organisation. The Zoom meetings had the classic case of “you’re on mute”, which always made me smile!

The Wishing Tunnel

In late August, I was so glad to experience an in-person (socially distanced) Sampad event! The Picnic with Sampad event took place at the Centre of the Earth Wildlife Trust. It was a relaxed day, full of India-Irish fusion music and storytelling accompanied by expressive dance. The performances were repeated in three sets for social distancing reasons – which meant I was fortunate enough to see the performances again and again! It was a beautiful, sunny day, and luckily for me, one of my roles was to document the day on the event’s Sampad Instagram story, which was so much fun. I also interviewed the performers and audience, which was something completely new to me but enjoyable and insightful.

I manned the Wishing Tunnel, which was a long, tunnel-shaped path surrounded by trees. I encouraged attendees to write their wishes for the future on tags and hang them anywhere they wanted in the tunnel. At the end of the day, it was wonderful to walk through this newly ornamented tunnel, to see the variety in wishes (from wanting a new dog to world peace, and, of course, for COVID to go away) – and to take lots of pictures along the way! The atmosphere was so serene, with rays of light shining through the gaps between the leaves.

One of my favourite parts of the day was during the last music performance of the day, when a family jumped up from the audience, compelled by the music, and started to dance – spinning, twirling, laughing – there was such joy!

Sampad 30 For 30 Campaign

Onto the Sampad 30 for 30 campaign, which you may have seen on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn). This was a month-long campaign where a Sampad memory was posted every day for the month of November. I started by asking friends and followers of Sampad to submit their favourite Sampad memories, via email and social media. I collated all the responses I received, put them into chronological order, and cut down the list to 30 (in celebration of Sampad’s 30th year). I found it very hard to cut so many wonderful memories (I did end up cheating by having a few ‘bonus posts’ during the month!) – I wish I could have included more. Once I had this list, I designed the template for the posts (using a new colour for each decade) and scoured the Sampad archive and folders for relevant pictures. This was one of my favourite things to do, as I was exposed to the variety of events and activities Sampad has led over the years, and I was able to see how it developed from 1990 to the present day. I found a picture of Piali with Indian film actor, film producer, television host and former politician Amitabh Bachchan – I was in awe!

It was hard to find some of the earlier photographs, but with the help of Marketing & Programmes Assistant, Buzby Bywater, and Piali, we were able to track them down. Looking through all the memories made me wish I could travel back in time and experience the performances in person. It was a big job, putting together over thirty posts, captioning them, and remembering to post them every day, but it was so rewarding to see them on social media and to see people engaging and reminiscing together. I’m so proud of the final outcome, and the fact that there is now a permanent and easy to access record of Sampad’s highlights over thirty years.

As part of the 30th year celebrations,  eager to hear from those who had seen Sampad from its earliest years, I interviewed Piali and Ranjit Sondhi CBE, Chair of the Sampad board (the interview is available to watch on the Sampad Facebook page). Admittedly, I was very shy on camera, but I was happy to be pushed outside my comfort zone, and I had the encouragement and support from Piali and Buzby. I did jumble up my words (a lot!), so I am grateful for their patience with filming more than one take.

Sampad Christmas Zoom Quiz

My internship ended on a festive note – the Sampad Christmas Bash! I created and hosted the Zoom quiz that took place a few days before Christmas. There was a Kahoot quiz, online Pictionary (who knew Zoom had an annotate feature?), emoji quiz (which I thought would be impossible, but the team did very well) among other rounds. The lightning Scavenger Hunt included finding the weirdest item in your house – I found Sabra’s Gary Barlow mask hilarious!

So, despite a terrible year due to the pandemic, I really enjoyed my internship. I’m proud to have been so involved in celebrating Sampad’s 30th year, a momentous achievement, despite the difficulties posed by the many lockdowns. I’ve learnt so many new skills along the way and had so many laughs – it was truly one of the high points of my year.

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