Saturday Jan 15, 2022
BIRMINGHAM: Iqbal Khan, the artistic director for the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, has urged young British Pakistanis living in Birmingham and the West Midlands region to step forward and avail themselves the once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the opening and closing ceremonies of the games.
Khan, who is in search of 2,000 volunteers for the ceremony, told Geo News that although the Pakistani community living in Birmingham have helped develop this city; however, they often don’t step forward and get involved in activities like this.
Born in Birmingham, Khan is a renowned theatre director who is known for his skills in narrating modern versions of classics and has worked in the UK and abroad on the world’s most high profile stages.
Iqbal told Geo News that his father was from Pakistan's Jhelum, who immigrated to the UK in the late 60s to make a better life for his family.
“I want to let everyone out there know, particularly the young Pakistani community, that this is an opportunity for them. We will take care of them, treat them sensitively, but we want to showcase their experience," Khan said.
The opening and closing ceremonies will require around 2,000 volunteers which include performers, musicians, singers and backstage support staff.
“If they want to perform they can perform, if they are musicians and they want to sing there’s going to be a mass choir, they can participate in that," he said, adding that if they’re slightly nervous about being in front of the camera then there are opportunities to work backstage and take care of the athletes who will be coming from 72 countries.
"So there will be lots of different opportunities for them all," Khan reiterated.
Khan emphasised that the occasion is a huge opportunity for the younger Pakistani generation which is "enormously confident and vibrant".
“They have immense experience and I want that to be showcased in our show. From a personal point of view, I feel like I have a responsibility to be open to them and include them," he said.
The opening and closing ceremonies will take place at Alexandra Stadium, which once fully renovated will have a seating capacity of 30,000 people.
Khan said that he can’t share all the details about the opening ceremony now, assuring people, however, that he will tell the story of the commonwealth and certainly of Birmingham.
“So many different traditions have made this city (Birmingham) and I really want to honour all of those things. I am what I am and I am trying to make this happen so my DNA is in the show," he said.
"Around 30,000 people will be watching it live in the stadium while more than a billion will be watching it on TV around the globe. I hope they all find something that kind of reflects them and celebrate the fact that this place (Birmingham) is one of the most extraordinary commonwealth cities in the world,” he added.
Khan said that to show all the cultures and people living in Birmingham is absolutely central to the ceremony and central to the volunteers too.
“We can create a beautiful show but ultimately the show and this place is going to be about the volunteers, so it is very important that everybody from all the different kinds of backgrounds, particularly the young Pakistanis, who are such an essential part of this place, apply."
Khan said that the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be a great occasion for everyone to get together and share in the joy as this will be the first massive international sports event happening in what is being viewed as a post-COVID-19 pandemic era.
“All of us have been kept away from each other. So it’s a real opportunity for us to just meaningfully share space again together and enjoy each other as it’s the biggest event of its kind that ever happened in Birmingham. So please come and get involved in it,” Iqbal requested the Pakistani community in Birmingham.
In a separate statement to mark the occasion, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries said: “The opening and closing ceremonies will be fantastic highlights of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. This is a unique opportunity to play a special role in the biggest sporting and cultural event ever staged in the West Midlands so I would encourage anyone in the region with an interest in performance to get involved."