Sabra Khan

Up close with Sabra Khan, the executive director of SAMPAD South Asian Arts and producer of BEDLAM Arts and Mental Health Festival


I started my career straight out of university as an administrator with Women and Theatre in Highgate, Birmingham. I worked with three incredibly talented women there – Janice Connolly, Polly Wright and Jo Broadwood and this gave me the foundations of my work to date. From there, I was freelance for a long time working in London and Birmingham for organisations including Queerfest (the precursor for Fierce Festival), Moving Hands Theatre Company, Warwick Arts Centre, world renowned dancer Nahid Siddiqui, Town Hall Symphony Hall and ACE Dance and Music.


Alongside my day job of executive director of SAMPAD South Asian Arts, I’m the producer of BEDLAM Arts and Mental Health Festival for Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust. I pull the programme together with our partners and make sure the festival is on course and on budget with my very small team! At a time when awareness of mental health is increasing, BEDLAM is one of a handful of festivals focussing on creativity and mental health and we are fortunate to have the support of the Arts Council, those have who have mental health experiences and a range of partners.


I’m doing some very exciting work both as part of my day job at SAMPAD, where I’ve produced the new BEDLAM theatre commission for this year’s festival, No Bond So Strong, by local playwright Olivia Winteringham and at BEDLAM itself. I’d love to see BEDLAM continue to become established as a leader in this area, both regionally and nationally, increasing awareness of mental health issues and reducing stigma.


I’m very proud to have done lots of learning as an adult. Learning to swim and learning to play piano, both of which I love. Professionally, I’m delighted to continue to work on festivals as I enjoy the momentum and teamwork involved. From co-ordinating Birmingham Artsfest for a number of years, producing the outdoor spectacular Bollywood Steps (part of the Town Hall’s 175th celebrations), to ArtSoak, a very small arts festival in Selly Oak and BEDLAM.


I’d allow myself more lead-in times for festivals or projects to secure funding and artists. However, it’s not always possible and I’ve learnt that it will come together. After many years of working in Birmingham I know if I come across something that I need to call on help or support for – I’ll find someone who knows someone who can do it.


My favourite thing about Birmingham is the collaborative nature of the industry I’m in. I’ve found that large organisations, small companies and independent creatives work well together and are generally supportive of initiatives such as BEDLAM. There is such diverse talent in Birmingham and I’m very proud of that.


Right now, I’m working my way through Derry Girls and Stranger Things 3! After BEDLAM I plan to get back to improving my piano playing.

BEDLAM Arts & Mental Health festival runs from 1 to 12 October and coincides with World Mental Health Day on 10 October which this year focuses on suicide prevention. For festival details, tel: 0121 446 3232 or visit