Photographed by Alia Romagnoli at the Queen's House

Find Priya Khanchandani on Instagram 

What does your work involve? 

I’m a writer, curator and storyteller at heart. You might find me on national radio talking about the politics of decolonising museums, or in my office writing a book about contemporary design. I’ve been lucky to have been able to channel my varied interests across the arts and humanities through different paths.

What inspires you? 

When I was growing up in Luton, my grandparents, who fled their home in India during partition and ended up coming to Britain, inspired me to work hard and to live a life in pursuit of knowledge.

My grandfather used to tell me stories of his dream to extricate his family from poverty by gaining an education, which is something he managed to accomplish out of sheer grit. It made me see that people didn’t need to be defined by their circumstances and encouraged me to mould a life and career I desired.

Around a decade ago, I experienced a life-threatening illness and had to undergo two operations and rigorous chemotherapy. In the aftermath, I didn’t know if I would ever be physically capable of working in a meaningful way again. Overcoming that experience made me all the more determined to succeed and made my values and purpose clearer than ever.

What message would you give to the next generation? 

My advice would be to be bold with your dreams and consider yourself a lifelong student of the Universe. I did three degrees in different humanities subjects, beginning at Cambridge University and finishing at the Royal College of Art. This has enabled me to have breadth in my career, which has kept me engaged and excited about what I do.

I’m not suggesting everyone spend that long in universities, especially not with the rising cost of higher education, but there are so many ways to learn – through reading, meeting people, travelling and taking on new experiences and challenges that push you to think beyond your comfort zone. 

See the full series

This profile is part of Pioneers: A Renaissance in South Asian Creativity, on display at the National Maritime Museum