The British Council, the Indian High Commission and the UK government today officially launched the UK India Year of Culture, a celebration of the long-standing relationship between the UK and India which will see cultural events, exhibitions and activities taking place in both countries throughout 2017. Audiences will have the chance to experience innovative and exciting creative work from some of the best UK and Indian companies, artists and institutions.
The UK India Year of Culture follows the joint announcement in 2015 by Prime Minister Modi and then-Prime Minister David Cameron of a bilateral initiative to mark cultural ties between the UK and India; as well as Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India in November 2016, which further strengthened the relationship between the two countries.
The Year of Culture will include programmes celebrating India’s heritage and contemporary culture as part of the dynamic India@UK2017 festival. The India@UK2017 programme will blend artistic traditions from the UK with a wide spectrum of Indian cultural and literary traditions across multiple venues in the UK.
The launch took place at BFI Southbank, where the BFI National Archive’s restoration ofan Indian/British/German co-production Shiraz was announced. The film will premiere as the Archive Gala at the 61st BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® on 14 October at the Barbican. Silent film Shiraz tells the love story of the 17th century princess who inspired the construction of the Taj Mahal. Planning is now underway for the film, which has rarely been seen in India since 1928, to be screened in India once again with the Taj Mahal forming a backdrop to the event.Both screenings will be accompanied by a live performance of a specially commissioned score by the Indian composer and sitar player Anoushka Shankar. Subsequently Shiraz will screen at festivals and cinemas across India as a powerful symbol of the partnership between India and the UK. The BFI will present an extensive Indian film programme from April – December 2017, including the UK Premiere of Baahubali: The Conclusion on 27 April.
Arts Council England has invested more than £2.5 million in collaborations between artists in England and India, with over £1.8 million awarded from the lottery-funded Reimagine India fund to help English artists and organisations exchange ideas and develop partnerships with their counterparts in India. A range of grants schemes in collaboration with Creative Scotland and Wales Art International will also generate opportunities for younger organisations and companies.
Rt Hon the Baroness Prashar, British Council Deputy-Chair and Chair of the Board of Patrons of the Year of Culture said: “The UK-India Year of Culture marks the coming together of the world's oldest democracy and its largest democracy to celebrate long standing cultural connections and inspire new ones.UK and India are cultural epicentres of the world, with a rich heritage, similar outlook and much to share. Our aspiration is that this Year of Culture will further strengthen our old ties, encourage new encounters, inspire further creativity, spur innovation and ignite curiosity of the next generation to achieve great things together. Above all, we hope, lay the foundations for a new dynamic relationship between the two countries for the next 70 years."
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “The UK and India are deeply proud of our rich cultural heritages and our world class creative and cultural industries. In 2015, Prime Minister Modi declared that 2017 would be a Year of Cultural exchange between our two countries during his visit to the UK. I am thrilled that our cultural organisations, both here and in India, have worked together to now bring this vision to life. Through the year of culture we will celebrate modern India and the long standing relationship between both countries, rooted in our flourishing people-to-people links. I hope through this series of cultural events we can connect the next generation of Britons and Indians and inspire people to play their part in shaping UK-India relations over the next 70 years.”
Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said: "The UK and India have deep bonds, born of a shared history, and focussed on our close economic and cultural ties now and in the future. The diverse array of cultural events that will be held in both countries over the coming year will strengthen these bonds and raise awareness about contemporary British and Indian culture, encouraging tourism and trade between our two great nations. I am delighted to say that as part of this year of culture we will also help increase access to historic works in both countries, through the digitisation of the British Library’s South Asian collection and films in the BFI National Archive.”
HE MR Y.K. Sinha, Indian High Commissioner, said: “The Year of Culture assumes special significance in light of the 70th Anniversary of India's independence. These celebrations indeed offer our two countries a unique opportunity of renewing and revitalizing the common threads of our cultural heritage and to enhance our engagement at the people to people level. I am hopeful that the partnerships forged during the year between people and organisations in both countries will serve us well in the years to come.”
Amanda Nevill, Chief Executive of the British Film Institute, said “Film and storytelling has tremendous cross cultural power and India and the UK are two great filmmaking nations with thriving film industries and vibrant film cultures and heritage. The 2017 UK India Year of Culture programme gives us an incredible opportunity to exchange the richness and variety of our creativity and talent, deepen our understanding of each other and bring exciting and important work to new audiences.”
Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said: “International collaboration and exchange can transform practice, foster innovation and bring exciting work to audiences in England and India. Our support for UK-India 2017 will help artists and arts organisations across the country develop partnerships in India and attract new audiences in the UK. The role that English artists from the South Asian diaspora are playing in many of the projects is a particular cause for celebration.”
Programme highlights include:
India@UK2017, organised by the Indian High Commission, the Ministry of Culture, and Indian festival producer Teamwork Arts, in association with the Globe Theatre, British Library, Young Vic, Birmingham Rep, Barbican Centre, Sadler’s Wells, Tramway, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, and the Royal Festival Hall, will present five iconic strands in the UK to showcase the cultural diversity of India through the year. These will include ZEE JLF @ British Library, India @ Edinburgh, The Independence Gala @ Southbank Centre, a season of Dance & Theatre; and the UK premiere of the Freedom Symphony by Dr L Subramanium and the London Symphony Orchestra. In addition, India@UK2017 will be supporting several high profile events - notably Ravi Shankar’s Sukanya, the London Indian Film festival, Darbar festival this year.
"In late 2017, internationally renowned contemporary dance company Company Wayne McGregor will tour ‘FAR’, an acclaimed dance production which includes a stunning multimedia backdrop of 3,200 LED lights that dance to their own ‘choreography’, to cities across India. Studio Wayne McGregor is also working with the British Council, Flying Object and Roll Studio to create Mix the Body, an interactive platform in which users choreograph and direct their own short dance piece."
In August the BFI National Archive makes an unparalleled collection of 300 newly digitised films that were shot in India during the early 20th Century, including the oldest surviving footage of India on film from 1899 – travelogues, documentaries and home movies – available to audiences in the UK and across India for the first time, as part of India on Film. The collection Around India With A Movie Camera will be available both as a feature length highlights programme for cinema and community centre screenings, and available to view for free on the BFI Player.
Co-curated by BFI Head Curator Robin Baker, and writer and programmer Meenakshi Shedde, the BFI’s India on Film programme, will run at BFI Southbank, from April – December 2017. The programme will kick off in April at BFI Southbank with Bollywood 2.0, a focus on ‘New Bollywood’ films which have pushed the boundaries of conventional Bollywood filmmaking by combining song and dance numbers with more realistic stories which tackle issues such as caste, crime, homosexuality and feminism. The BFI will be working with the British Council and a range of festival and venue partners in India to showcase the works of British film-makers.
The British Museum will stage a landmark exhibition - India and the World: A History in Nine Stories - showcasing some of the most important objects and works of art from museums across India, in dialogue with iconic pieces from the British Museum collection. The display will be structured over nine stories, reflecting key chapters in India’s history. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalya (CSMVS) in Mumbai, the British Museum, and the National Museum in New Delhi, and its opening will coincide with the 70th anniversary celebrations of the independence of India in November 2017. The exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of our sponsors, the Getty Foundation and Tata Trusts. Also in November 2017, the British Museum will re-open its permanent gallery, The Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia as part of the wider activity across the UK that’s part of British Museum’s South Asia season. As part of the wider story of China and South Asia, the gallery will feature a new display that tells a story of India from pre-history to the present day.
The Science Museum will open a season of exhibitions and events in September this year dedicated to the people, culture and skills of India. Running from September 2017 to May 2018, the Illuminating India season will centre on two exhibitions celebrating the rich culture and history of innovation in India. One exhibition is an ambitious and unprecedented survey of photography in India from the 19th century to the present day, and the other will highlight the long tradition of scientific thought in India, celebrating the country’s expertise in observation, calculation and innovation.
The British Library will host the Jaipur Literature Festival in May, taking place at the Library for the first time. A series of special British Library events throughout the year will explore South Asian culture, and Two Centuries of Indian Print, a major digitisation project of rare Bengali books will continue in 2017. The British Library will also partner with the Library of Birmingham from July for Documenting Histories, a project celebrating the role South Asian culture has played in shaping British identity.
Arts Council England’s Reimagine India supports artistic exchange between artists and arts and cultural organisations in England and India, in collaboration with the British Council. Projects include a series of commissions and exhibitions/performances by mid-career Indian artists developed with Manchester City Galleries; a partnership between Asian Arts Agencyand Watershed, Bristol; and Outlands, aproject with female choreographers by 2Faced Dance.
The British Council and award-winning Aardman Animations are collaborating on a unique project as a part of UK India 2017: Saptan Stories is a giant game of consequences played out across the whole of India. Seven world-class artists, from both India and the UK, each illustrate a seven-part story, resulting in 7, different visual interpretations of one unique story. Via an interactive digital platform the public will be invited to contribute their story ideas and vote on how the story develops, before being illustrated by the seven artists.
A partnership between Film London’s Microwave programme and India producers Cinestaan has resulted in a new feature film, The Hungry. A contemporary remodelling of Shakespeare’s bloodthirsty Titus Andronicus, and realised by debut Indian director Bornila Chatterjee, co-writer and producer Tanaji Dasgupta and London-based producer Kurban Kassam, the film will premiere on the international festival stage in autumn 2017, before simultaneous premieres in London and Mumbai and a global rollout on Amazon Prime Video.
A significant Welsh presence in UK/India 2017 will be ensured through the India Wales Fund, a joint fund of £450,000 from Arts Council Wales and British Council India, which will fund 12 arts projects designed to enable Welsh and Indian creative professionals to collaborate and produce new works. Cultural organisations and institutions including the National Theatre of Wales, Chapter Arts and Cardiff Dance Festival will take part.
There will be continued celebration of the strong links between Scotland and India with projects across art forms. This includes a collaborative music programme with workshops and interactive activities by EXODUS & Paragon and Brian Molley Quartet; a new collaborative project by Glasgow-based Counterflows Festival, Littlei, EarthSync & Pepper House, a touring exhibition and digital photography exchange by Fòcas Scotland & National Institute of Design. British Council in partnership with Creative Scotland will support further projects as the season develops.
A new series of Random Acts – Big Dance Shorts jointly produced by Channel 4/Random Acts, Big Dance and the British Council. An exciting and high-profile platform for collaborations between film-makers and choreographers that will see four outstanding 3-minute dance-film ideas selected and commissioned for the Random Acts Programme. Each film will have at its heart an element of collaboration between UK and India.
Some of the finest works of art from the Royal Collection, presented to the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) during his grand tour of the Indian subcontinent in the 19th century will travel the UK in a new Royal Collection Trust touring exhibition, from March. Developed in collaboration with Cartwright Hall, Bradford, and New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, Leicester, Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince's Tour of India 1875–6, tells the story of the historic visit through a selection of exquisite works of art presented to the Prince throughout his tour.
The UK Department for International Trade (DIT) together with India On Track (IOT) and the Premier League will bring key British and Indian football clubs, sports organisations and businesses together at the second holding of ‘The Football Movement’ conference in Mumbai. This football conference, which takes place on 2-3 March, will give a platform to clubs, businesses and experts from India and the United Kingdom to interact and explore commercial opportunities in the sport. Premier League legend Alan Shearer will attend the conference alongside UK businesses and Premier League football clubs including Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City, Southampton, and Watford.
The British Council’s international radio station, The Selector, will be partnering with leading music festivals across India as part of Selector Live: showcasing emerging musical talent from the UK. Selector Live has previously partnered with festivals with an attendance of 25,000 people across three cities in India, with bands including Dinosaur Pile Up, Rosie Lowe, Eagulls and Django Django.
A number of new digital initiatives, aimed specifically at engaging young people in both countries and focusing on collaboration and interactivity, are being launched to mark the year. These will include Mix the City, an interactive digital platform, designed by the British Council that will showcase the diversity of sound, music and cultural influences of 4 Indian cities. It will feature 12 Indian musicians and four UK curators (music producers Boxed In, Django Django, Anna Meredith and Kutiman). The app celebrates British digital innovation, a joint love of music and provides an interactive digital environment where the user feels empowered to create their own music track.