Gurvinder Sandher, Artistic Director of the Cohesion Plus and CEO of Kent Equality Cohesion Council has been received recognition of his contribution towards the arts and communities of Kent in the form of an MBE. Mr Sandher was awarded the prestigious award as part of Her Majesty the Queens 2022 honours selection amidst the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Kent Equality Cohesion Council which was born from the North West Kent Race Equality Office in 1999 has been conducting vital work across serving under-represented communities, working to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination and to promote positive community relations between diverse communities. Mr Sandher has always stressed that the community lay at the heart of the work that the charity delivers, taking care to recognise the many diverse and nuanced needs each demographic has, championing difference and celebrating unity in the same vein.

In 2008 Cohesion Plus was created from the work that Kent Equality Cohesion Council was doing, using culturally diverse art forms to complement KECC’s mission of celebrating differences and using these differences to forge connections amongst disparate communities. Cohesion Plus’s delivers around 12 outdoor events annually, providing platforms for under-represented art forms, genres and artists. The organisation’s work is delivered across the length and breadth of Kent, with the diverse communities at the heart of every outdoor event and celebration. In 2018 Cohesion Plus won National Portfolio Organisation status as part of Arts Council England investment, ensuring that it was able to deliver its work consecutively for a four year funded period.

Mr Sandher has an extensive background in the arts himself and is a renowned Bhangra dancer having performed all over the world since 1985 and still performs to this day. He is the co-founder of Four by Four Bhangra, one of the leading and respected exponents of Bhangra outside of India. Mr Sandher is passionate about diversity and inclusion within the arts sector and champions increased visibility for BAME artists and organisations.

Mr Sandher commented, “This is an achievement beyond my wildest expectations and to say I am humbled is truly an understatement. I cannot accept this honour without paying tribute to the local diverse communities who I have had the privilege of working with for over two decades now. Having worked in the heart of local diverse communities for over 20 years now, I have been incredibly lucky to work with and learn from a great number of local champions and heroes. This honour is as much theirs as it is mine.

As an artist and deliverer of culturally diverse events, my dream has always been to give diverse art forms and artists a much needed platform and to be awarded an MBE for contributions towards the arts and communities is a sentiment I can’t quite quantify just yet. All I can do is express my sincere heartfelt gratitude to each and every individual who has helped, supported and mentored me to this position. I am also so grateful for the fact that my parents will be able to see me receive this honour. They came to the UK from India in the 1960’s and had to face countless struggles and barriers in order to make a life for their family. The expression that ‘it takes a village’ rings true now and I genuinely look forward to continuing my journey in promoting community cohesion through the arts over the coming years.”