Essential Information

Type Events and festivals
Queen's House
Date and Times Friday 8 March 2024 | 10am - 4.30pm
Prices Free

Free entry for members. Not a member? Join now

This International Women's Day, join us at the Queen's House for a day of storytelling, performances, talks and workshops, in collaboration with South Asian arts collective, CommonGround&.

Curated by the organisation's founder, Mehala Ford, this creative retreat honours the spirit of boldness and courage in women.

It takes inspiration from the life of Zeenat Mahal, the last Empress of the Mughal Empire and wife of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor. Royal Museums Greenwich has recently acquired a miniature of Zeenat Mahal (pictured below), which is on display in the Queen's House.

The event also includes contributions from the women featured in our photographic display, Pioneers: A Renaissance in South Asian Creativity at the National Maritime Museum.

a cameo with a painting of a Indian Queen with gold surround
Miniature of Zeenat Mahal, about 1840 (ZBA9549)

Event programme


10.10am: Welcome

Great Hall

Given by Mehala Ford, founder of CommonGround& and the Royal Museums Greenwich team.

10.15am-11am: Sound bath with Farzana Ali

Great Hall

Experience the healing power of sound therapy with a sound bath provided by Farzana Ali. Known as 'The Sound Therapist', Farzana is a qualified sound practitioner, wellness expert and author of Sound Healing: How to Use Sound to Beat Stress & Anxiety. Her commentary has been featured in publications including Vogue, Women’s Health, Harper’s Bazaar and Stylist.

Come as you are, cushions and seating will be available or standing. 

* Please note if you are attending the sound bath, please bring something warm to wear.

11am-11.15am: Kathak dance performance with Akademi

Great Hall

purple curtain background with two ladies dancing Kathak
Image: ANKH UK

Regarded as one of the eight forms of Indian classical dances, Kathak originated in Northern India over 2,000 years ago. The form is characterised by strong footwork, pirouettes and facial expressions.  

The dance style has survived and evolved over many centuries, but it particularly flourished under the royal patronage of Mughal emperors.

For a day, the Queen’s House will be transformed into a Mughal court. Renowned South Asian dance company, Akademi, will present two Kathak dance compositions evoking the period of Empress Zeenat Mahal and Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. The pieces will be performed by artists Jesal Patel and Seema Patel.

11.25am-12pm: Courage, bravery and beauty – the forgotten story of Zeenat Mahal

The Van de Velde Studio

Learn about the story of Zeenat Mahal and the Museum's acquisition of her miniature portrait in this discussion with Mehala Ford and Victoria Lane, Senior Curator, Art and Identity at Royal Museums Greenwich.

12pm-1pm: Pioneers: A Renaissance in South Asian Creativity panel discussion

The Van de Velde Studio

A group of three women stand looking towards the viewer
Image (from left to right): Katy Wickremesinghe, Pritt, Priya Khanchandani

Hosted by entrepreneur Katy Wickremesinghe, founder of The Wick and KTW, this panel discussion celebrates the courageousness of South Asian women working in diverse fields.

Katy will be joined by Pritt, an Eelam Tamil music artist from south London and a radio presenter on BBC Asian Network, and curator and writer, Priya Khanchandani. The Head of Curatorial and Interpretation at the Design Museum and previously the Editor-in-Chief of ICON magazine, Priya is passionate about connecting audiences with visual culture.

Katy, Pritt and Priya are just some of the women featured in our photographic display Pioneers: A Renaissance in South Asian Creativity.

Images of Katy Wickremesinghe and Pritt taken by Nishant Shukla. Image of Priya taken by Alia Romagnoli

1.15pm-1.30pm: Kathak music performance with Akademi

Great Hall

Watch dancers from Akademi perform a Kathak piece inspired by the time of Empress Zeenat Mahal and Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.

1.40pm–3.30pm: Heirloom – honouring our heritage through jewellery and sari

The Governor's Parlour

Two women discuss jewellery

Anisha Parmar, jewellery designer, and Mehala Ford, founder of Friday Sari Project, host a storytelling and sharing circle, inviting participants to share their jewellery, clothing, ornaments, sentimental objects and photographs that tell their story.


"The 'heirlooms' of jewellery and saris still hold great importance in South Asian culture. Our jewellery and the stories they tell connect us back to our heritage, families and traditional rituals, which enrich our sense of belonging and community," they say.

"We will be encouraging you to speak about your journey and photograph some of your objects that will be part of the session. In order to truly create a safe space for us to share our stories, please come with an open heart and mind, take the time to listen to each other and also have fun!"

Participants will be seated on cushions, with seats available.

Image: Mathushaa Sagthidas

3.15pm–3.30pm: Kathak music performance with Akademi

Great Hall

Enjoy the final Kathak performance of the day.

3.45pm–4.30pm: Finale sound bath with Farzana Ali

Great Hall

woman using crystal instruments on a beach

We close our International Women's Day retreat with a sound bath. Experience the healing power of sound therapy with Farzana Ali.

* Please note that we can't guarantee that a ticket will enable entry to every activity. 

About the event


Curated by Mehala Ford

Mehala Ford is the founder and curator of CommonGround& and the Friday Sari Project – platforms that showcase South Asian contemporary creative arts.

With a background in the fashion industry, Mehala is passionate about researching, observing and platforming emerging creative culture from South Asia and the diaspora through fashion, design, art, music, food and writing.

In 2018, Mehala launched the Friday Sari Project store, which showcases fashion, design and homeware from South Asia, alongside a programme of exhibitions, talks and workshops. In 2020, she created CommonGround& as a summer exhibition for South Asian artists.

Image: Mathushaa Sagthidas

Women's History Month 2024

From trailblazers to lifesavers, join us to celebrate the lives and achievements of pioneering women

Main image: Nishant Shukla