Vaisakhi celebrations

Learn about Sikh culture at Vaisakhi at City Hall

This year’s Vaisakhi celebrations take place at City Hall on 11 April. Two of the festival organisers give us their top tips on what to expect and what you can learn about on the day.

Indy Hothi, EY Sikh network

I am an economist at EY and lead the firm’s Sikh network. I’m passionate about the arts and culture, and how it can transcend human barriers. Here are my three tips for what not to miss at Vaisakhi at City Hall.

  • Photography: Number one for me is The Singh Project. It’s a stunning photographic exhibition that celebrates the diversity of British Sikh men – in terms of turban style and beard. These are the most powerful and recognisable symbols of the Sikh male identity. These striking images show that their beards and turbans are just as unique as they are!
  • Art: I also recommend the work of Kiranjeet Kaur, a 23 year old artist from Bristol who has a huge passion for Indian and Afro-Caribbean culture. Her paintings are so colourful and vibrant, they have a fresh and care-free quality that I find very liberating.
  • Film: You definitely can’t miss out on the hourly film screenings. We'll be featuring short films from independent artists. They cover topics in the Sikh community, London culture and also prominent Sikh individuals. The production quality of these films really is superb. I’d definitely recommend taking some time out of the day to check it out (there’s even a film on Sikhs saving the cheese making industry in Italy, who’d have thought!)

Mankamal Singh, Gurdwara Singh Sabha London East

I belong to a gurdwara in Barking and Ilford. It’s a Sikh place of worship, and the word literally means ‘the gateway to the guru’. I’m really delighted that this year’s Vaisakhi has more of a community and spiritual focus. Here are my top three tips.

  • Music: Shabad Kirtan (or spiritual music) is a core part of the Sikh gurdwara. Vaisakhi is a great opportunity to showcase some traditional music with London. Some of the string instruments we’ll be using are 300 years old and designed by the Sikh gurus themselves! We also have a very modern form of Kirta to show how it’s evolved, using western instruments – guitar, violin and percussion. I think the mix will be really exciting.
  • My second tip is turban tying. It’s a brilliant way of sharing the Sikh identity and is very visible and distinctive. It will be great for other people to experience how it works for us. The turban represents a crown, a common identity amongst us. It will be very uplifting for people to tie a turban, and for all the Sikhs to see it. The turban represents solidarity, it also represents gender equality – indeed many women wear the turban.
  • Food: If you get hungry, come and try a delicious Langar chapati flatbread with a filling inside and wrapped in a roll. Free vegetarian food is part of every gurdwara anywhere in the world. It’s a tradition that’s been passed down from the Sikh gurus. Cooking and feeding, uniting with other people through the platform of food. We thought sharing that with London is a great idea.

Vaisakhi at City Hall is on Saturday 11 April, from noon-5pm.