Growing up in the province of Hubei in China Li Li would listen to her mother singing around the house and it sparked in her a passion for performing.

She began studying opera singing at the age of 15 and in 2008 travelled the hundreds of miles to the UK to continue honing her talents at the Birmingham Conservatoire.

When she arrived in England Li was surprised to discover it lacking in an event to celebrate the many cultures of the continent of Asia, despite more than four million people of Asian descent living here and an idea was born within her.

As she went on to tour the world as an opera singer, performing leading roles in productions such as Madame Butterfly, the seed of that idea stayed with her and began to grow as she met more and more fellow performers.

She moved to London in 2010, but it wasn’t until last May that she finally decided to further her idea and make it a reality.

Now, after 12 months of hard work, the 28-year-old's dream is about to come true as FestivalAsia bursts into life in the centre of London, bringing together hundreds of performers, artists, chefs, business people and more to celebrate the brightest and best that the world’s largest continent has to offer.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Lila Bhawa dance group

“I came to the UK in 2008 and was actually quite surprised a festival like this didn’t exist,” says Li who has spearheased the organisation of the massive event almost singlehandedly.

“Obviously we have other festivals, huge ones, and I admire them very much, but they are specific to one or two countries together. One that puts the whole of Asia together doesn’t exist, so I thought I wanted to do something – and now I’m doing it!“

She organised the festival under her company name Lilisan Ltd, beginning work on the event in May, 2014 and quickly teamed up with Barley Arts International Ltd, a renowned promoter of live music and producer of family shows, musicals and festivals in Europe.

“I was touring in the UK in January and February with a show Magical Mozart by Candlelight, 23 dates, and working on a computer at the same time and calling the office to see how things were going.

“It’s like you work 40 hours a day, but you don’t feel tired,” laughs Li.

The pioneering festival embraces the diversity of all Asian cultures from many of the 29 countries making up this fascinating continent and visitors can expect an inspirational mix of music, dance, food, fashion, martial arts and more under one roof. The main stage will boast more than 90 acts and feature an exotic selection of highly acclaimed music, performance and dance acts.

Li says: “Our idea was to invite authentic Asian artists to perform so the visitors can experience the original beauty of Asia. Also the Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Moldovia and Philippines Embassies have recommended groups and artists to us. It’s fabulous to have all this support.”

Musical highlights include sitar player and composer extraordinaire Jonathan Mayer, who has appeared with artistes from Paul Weller to the BBC Concert Orchestra; duo KAYA playing a concert of traditional Korean music on the 25-string Kayagum, a traditional harp, and acoustic guitar and Akari, the only Enka (Japanese blues) singer in the UK, who will be accompanied by Hibiki Ichikawa, the only professional player in the UK of the Japanese stringed instrument tsugaru shamisen.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Fleur Estelle Dance Company

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Tai Ji Circle 

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Visitors can delight in the sumptuous costumes and sultry moves of Fleur Estelle’s belly-dancing troupe, and Li says they also shouldn’t miss Orientalya’s exciting Bollywood dance fusion, with Sunny Singh-renowned choreographer of more than 50 Bollywood films making a guest appearance.

“Their superstar Sunny is so attractive,“ she laughs. “I can’t wait to see him dancing.”

You will also get the chance to see Li herself perform on the stage as a singer and as one of more than 40 demonstrations on the martial arts stage as she is a keen student of Wing Chun.

“Singing was absolutely something I always wanted to do from a young age,” she says. “My parents are huge music lovers and I was always inspired by my mum. She couldn’t sing very well but she always loved singing and that made me want to sing.”

There will also be 150 exhibitors, offering jewellery, massage, henna and more, a cultural room, a spiritual room where masters will give demonstrations and talks, children’s entertainment and a food court with 22 stalls serving up a huge variety of mouth-watering dishes.

“We want the visitors to experience the whole of Asia in one go,” says Li, who moved to Gillingham in Kent two months ago.

“I hope it will bring lots of people together. We want it to happen in London every year and to develop it to other cities and countries.”

Tobacco Dock, E1W 2SF, May 15 to 17. Details: