Persian Culture in London
With more than 40,000 Iranians living in London, it is no surprise that Persian culture is alive and kicking in the capital. Although less visible than the shops along Kensington High Street, it is a thriving scene that spans everything from stadium pop concerts to poetry readings in cafes and the back rooms of pubs.
Established festivals like the Iranian Film Festival and Persian Theatre Festival are now a regular fixture in London’s cultural calendar and many of the stars of Persian comedy and music include London in their international tours. Around Nowrooz, the Persian New Year, a whole host of unique events take place as part of the celebrations. Our guide to Persian culture in London takes a look at the scene in more detail and reveals some of the interesting performances that take place.
As familiar as we are in the UK with Persian comedians such as Omid Djalili and Shappi Khorsandi, there is a rich pool of comedic talent from Iran that is well worth exploring. With sharp-witted cultural observations and fearless improvisation, Iranian stand-up is best witnessed live.
Born in Tehran, Maz Jobrani is an Iranian-American stand-up comedian and actor whose observational humour explores the experiences of Iranians in the US and the ups and downs of family life. Below is his Ted Talk where he explains about his Axis of Evil comedy tour:
Having cut his teeth in the LA improv scene, American-Iranian comedian and actor Max Amini now sells out international tours delighting audiences with his storytelling, social commentary and tangental musings. 20 Bedford Way have been lucky enough to host Max at our flagship Logan Hall venue on more than one occasion.
SAAM Theatre Group
Established in 2000, the SAAM Theatre company have written and performed experimental productions and ran workshops in London. They have also championed Iranian Theatre with a varied programme of performances at the annual London Persian-English Theatre & Art Festival. In September 2015, the festival triumphed in its third year.
Iranian playwright and theatre director Parvaneh Soltani lives in London where she formed the Nina Theatre Company. Her works are performed around the world but be sure to witness her direct in London if the opportunity arrises.
Mehr Theatre Group
Mehr are an Iranian theatre company that tour the world with plays written by Amir Reza Koohestani, the first director to win two consecutive awards for the Best theatre production of the year in Iran.
Persian Music and Performance
Persian music spans everything from traditional folk performance to classical music right up to pop superstars like Googoosh, Ebi and Moein that pack out arenas worldwide. There are virtuoso and innovative musicians that are well worth a listen:
Born in Wales with Iranian parentage, Roshi Nasehi creates ambient electronica, combining various textures with dramatic effect. She has played many of London’s venues. Here is her track Nightswimming:
A talented singer-songwriter and political campaigner, Dairush has toured the world gracing stages everywhere from Wembley to Carnegie Hall.
Mazyar Fallahi is an Iranian pop sensation known as much for his lyrical skills as putting on an impressive live show with his band. 20 Bedford Way are lucky to welcome him in October.
Based in London, Somaye is a singer and percussionist that brings together jazz and Persian elements in a politicised fusion of world music and poetry. Follow her on Facebook for the latest performances. Here she is at the 26th Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation Conference:
Traditional and Classical
Some of the main figures in Classical Persian music include:
Motebassem is an Iranian composer and classical Persian musician having mastered both the Tar and Setar instruments. He tours the world inspiring audiences wherever he goes. Here he is performing:
An impressive Soprano, Darya Dadvar was born in Iran in 1971 but now lives in Paris. She has a successful career both as a performer and through her own music which combines Iranian influences with various other musical styles.
Toos Foundation & Jamil Kharrazi
Jamil Kharrazi is the founder and director of the Toos Foundation, a charity dedicated to celebrating and preserving all aspects of Iran’s rich culture through dance and music. In the past she has tackled Iranian mysticism with her show Love Came and Set the World on Fire. Guided by Kharrazi’s passion for dance, the Foundation puts on sensational events around the world, including our own Logan Hall in London which hosts Memories in Exile in November.
London Iranian Film (http://www.ukiff.org.uk)
The 6th incarnation of this festival of Iranian cinema takes place in October and November with screenings and special talks across the city.
Persian Event Listings
For the latest Persian events in London check out Kodoom
For worldwide Iranian events try http://www.persianevents.net
This meetup is a great place to meet Persians in London and keep up to date with Persian cultural events in the capital.
A corner shop in Peckham offering a taste of Persia as well as occasional cultural events and exhibitions, including storytelling events around Nowrooz.
Iranian Association was established as a registered charity in 1985 providing information and advice. It is also involved with art and culture, working with the British and Victoria & Albert museums to improve Iranian participation in London’s cultural life.
Iran Heritage Foundation
A non-political charity promoting the history and culture of Iran. It organise everything from lectures and talks to poetry recitals
Fans of Persian Music should check out Radio Javan.
Kayhan London is a publication for Iranian expats in London and beyond
Performance Venue London
20 Bedford Way have had the honour of hosting numerous performances and shows from Iranian performers. With a central London location in Bloomsbury, close to several tube stations we are perfectly located. To find out more about hiring our 910 seater Logan Hall venue call us today on 020 7612 6143.
Header image via Max Amini’s Facebook Page.