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Rethinking Re-Imagine: The Edinburgh Youth Summit

Contributor: Maherunesa Khandaker, participant at the Edinburgh Youth Summit Re-Imagine: India-UK Cultural Relations in the 21st Century  

Before the ReImagine Edinburgh Youth Summit, I admittedly was not entirely sure about the project’s aims. After listening to the keynote address on the India-UK relationship given by speakers from the British Council and Edinburgh University however, I started to comprehend why we do need to think about the relationship, my understanding of which grew over the time of the summit.

With a history spanning over 400 years, the relationship between India and the UK is full of intricacies; there have been many victories and failings along their journey together. The relationship has seen many shifts of power, from being partners in trade to the deeply troubled Colonial relationship; from the long awaited independence to the eventual emergence of India as a power, with Britain slowly becoming a supplement. One cannot deny that the UK-India relationship has seen periods of reinvention and rethinking.

Now the question remains – where is their shared journey taking them through the 21st Century? When rethinking the future, one must celebrate what has been achieved. This is what the British Council’s ReImagine Project is all about – it’s looking at the relationship between the UK and India in the past, and where it is in the present, to inform where it is going in the future. The project involves research, publications and debates, with input from 12 participants at the Edinburgh Youth Summit providing the youth perspective to the project, after all it is our generation that will be living the future relationship between the UK and India.

Looking at the present relationship, it cannot be doubted that so much of India is ingrained in British culture, and so much of the UK’s culture is intertwined with Indian culture – from food (after all chicken tikka is the UK’s national dish), to language (hands up if you put shampoo in your hair this morning) or to sport (cricket anyone?) and so many other countless areas of life. The relationship has produced some crucial elements of who we are in both cultures.

Nonetheless there remains potential for both cultures to continue benefitting from a relationship – perhaps the most straightforward reasons for a stronger collaboration in an increasingly globalized world include that it is vital to have strong relationships between countries for economic growth and working jointly towards advances in science and technology. Though perhaps one of the most overlooked and important reasons to consider UK-India cultural relations and their future is because there are plenty of people from an Indian heritage living in the UK and vice versa. Although we have a wonderfully diverse and multicultural society, the truth is that prejudices, apathy and hate do still exist in some parts of society and therefore must be challenged. Once these obstacles are fully broken down, the relationship between India and the UK will bring countless more benefits to all aspects of society and culture.

The ideal relationship would be a mutually beneficial one, essentially a diverse, informed, integrated, open society that cooperates for the overall betterment of both countries’ societies.

We explored a variety of different routes into achieving the vision we aspire to – the key routes including history, education and soft power. I’ll dedicate a section to each of these areas in which I will combine a summary of our discussions with some of my own points of view.

ReImagine Education: “Education, education, education changes mindsets”

(For our world café discussions on education, click here)

Whilst speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival, A.C. Grayling highlighted that education is about relationships with other people. In a way, the more we learn, the more we want to learn, the more you learn, the more you think – this sums up why education can play a key role in rethinking India-UK relations – after all to fight prejudice and nurture openness we must be direct in the way we teach India-UK relations, how else can people rethink India-UK cultural relations if they are taught nothing about it, if they have little to no awareness of how the two cultures interweave and share a long history together?

There is no doubt that education changes mindsets, and indeed mindsets do need changing. For instance, the amount of people that asked me whereabouts in India I come from the moment they met me troubled me, then in response to informing them I’m from the UK, the usual response is “No really where do you come from?” I was born here, I’ve lived here my entire life and want to grow old here – how can someone think its acceptable to tell me directly I’m “really from” somewhere else? This is a mild example, but it shows that preconceptions do exist in people’s mindsets. Preconceptions and prejudices are enemies to a successful relationship.  By reminding each other about either the UK or India’s influence and importance in the other’s culture in an honest and unbiased way we can celebrate how far relationship has travelled, our diversity and accept openness.

Language is also an effective way of understanding another culture. In the UK,  few places teach the Sanskrit languages. Though English is one of many Indian official languages, surely we can have greater access and understanding of the great Indian philosophers if we could speak some Hindi for instance.

The importance of study exchange programmes was also highlighted – whilst many Indian students come to the UK to study, very few British students will travel to India to study, and this is something we felt needs to be explored.

It is important that cultural education starts with the youngest in society, but it cannot end with the youth either. The importance of celebrating our shared culture and history needs to be reinforced throughout education, and needs to reach the greater society.

Reimagine history: “You have to look back to look forward”

(For our world café discussions on history, click here)

The problem with the way history is taught in both countries, and most likely all over the world, is that it is biased – essentially the educator will teach their version of events (or at take the stance they have been told to teach). The Indian delegates at the summit said there is too much focus on Gandhi for instance, though there were many other vital figures that played a strong part in India’s independence and that there are political motives underlying the current curriculum. In the UK, it is important to have an education about the UK’s relationship with India, yes it may be uncomfortable, but after all that history was made by the actions of different people of a different time, there needs to be open discussion of it to it so there is a mutual respect and understanding between cultures. For instance, few school children in the UK learn about the soldiers of the Commonwealth nations who died fighting for the Crown, and this is something that must be highlighted.

Reimagine Soft power: “To watch us dance is to hear our heart speak”

(For our world café discussions on culture and sport, click here)

One cannot deny the importance of soft power when it comes to working on relations – this describes a nation’s power to attract people through a variety of mediums including through culture, political values and foreign policy for example.

Soft power primarily through traditional cultural mediums, is something we considered very carefully after our visits to the Scottish National Museums and to the Edinburgh Book Festival. Museums indeed provide a distilled snapshot into the culture of a country, and we felt UK-India cultural relations could indeed benefit if there was an exchange of museum exhibitions from the UK to India to which the wider public should have access, arguably it is difficult to accurately portray culture in a confined space.  The director of the Edinburgh Book Festival suggested that, “each book, like a small mirror, reflects a small facet of the world” and we felt that British school children should be encouraged to read the literature that Indian schoolchildren read, and vice versa. The director also highlighted that most Indian literature that is widely available and popular in the UK tends to be written by authors with privileged backgrounds, so suggested encouraging a greater diversity of Indian authors should be introduced to the wider market. Being in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festivals demonstrated the importance of drama, music and literature festivals in offering the opportunity to express often unspoken issues.

It was suggested there should be an exchange of museum exhibitions from the UK to India – to which school children and teachers, as well as the wider public should be provided.

Sporting culture is a key area that was discussed at the summit as now, more than ever, is the perfect time for sport to be used as a medium to place the focus on UK-India relationships. Between now and the next Olympic games, the Commonwealth Games will be coming to Glasgow and it is in these games that India have traditionally excelled. The group discussed the possibility of “sports exchange” programmes, similar to study exchange programmes, as well as increasing access to opportunities to participate in culture specific sport, for instance Bollywood dancing in the UK, and perhaps Gaelic football in India.

Whilst we discussed many innovative ways of rethinking and strengthening the relationship between India and the UK, one cannot deny that there are major obstacles to be faced. Some of our biggest challenges include the practical issue of funding and the more complex problem of apathy.

Though there are obstacles, even where we can’t face them head on, there’s nothing to stop us trying to, or moving around them and finding alternatives. For instance, when it comes to Study Exchange programmes, in our connected world there should be nothing stopping us from participating in study programmes using the Internet.  When tackling apathy however, there is a need for a paradigm shift, with education (particularly of history) playing a key part in this. Additionally, this may be where soft culture can come into play, by highlighting the aspects of each other’s culture in every day life and increasing opportunities to access sport, art or food in each other’s every day culture, perhaps we can start turning the wheels of appreciation for culture in society. For our discussions on apathy, do have a readhere for more in depth details.

This is a mere summary (albeit, still a long one) of what we touched upon during the Edinburgh Youth Summit 2012, however whilst reading this you might have come up with your own thoughts, which you’re invited to share and inform the ReImagine project. So come join the dialogue at http://reimagineyouth.posterous.com/ or by emailing reimagineyouth@posterous.com.

Something to remember from the summit -

“We start with ourselves, we move together, learn from each other and form a dialogue”

 

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UK speaker’s at Publishing Next conference

CinnamonTeal Publishing, a division of Dogears Print Media Pvt. Ltd, is organizing Publishing Next, a two-day Conference on the future of publishing on 16 and 17 September 2011 in Goa. 

Publishing Next is being supported by the British Council who is actively involved in promoting creative entrepreneurship (www.britishcouncil.org.in/yce) in India through programmes that share the UK’s expertise and experience of developing the creative economy and by supporting ecologies within which it can flourish. 

The UK speakers at the conference include:

Elin Haf Gruffydd, Director, Mercator Centre University of Aberystwyth

Elin is the Director of the Mercator Institute for Media, Languages and Culture, a research institute based at the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies at Aberystwyth University that specialises in the fields of media, publishing, communication and translation, with a particular expertise in multilingual contexts. Elin is Senior Lecturer in Media and Creative Industries (undergraduate and postgraduate studies) and Director of Knowledge Transfer and Enterprise at the same department. Digital Creative Economy, is currently a strong research focus for Mercator and Elin is supervising several PhD projects in this field. Mercator is coordinator of the Minority Languages Media Research Network and is home to the Wales Literature Exchange (http://www.walesliterature.org) and Literature Across Frontiers (http://www.lit-across-frontiers.org/) and is one of the key partners in Mercator Network of Language Diversity Centres www.mercator-research.eu.

James Bridle, Owner and Director, Bookable

James pushes the boundaries of literature through creative technology. He is the director of Bookkake, a technology-led publisher of classic transgressive literature. He is also the developer of bkkeepr, a social reading application, and London Lit Plus, an open-source literary festival. He writes about literature and technology at http://booktwo.org, and has edited and written for numerous publications, online and off. James was one of the finalists of the UK YCE Publishing Award 2009.

Michael Bhaskar, Digital Publishing Director, Profile Books

Michael (www.michaelbhaskar.com) is currently Digital Publishing Director at leading independent publisher Profile Books (www.profilebooks.com). He is responsible for spearheading their digital strategy, ebook program and digital business development in creating new products and platforms. Whilst there he has produced games, apps and created a commercially successful digital publishing program. Previously Michael was Digital Editor at Macmillan, where he worked on their large and profitable ebooks program, a Facebook app and several iPhone apps amongst other innovative projects, and wrote for The Digitalist blog. Over the past few years Michael has written extensively on digital publishing. He regularly lectures at publishing university courses around the UK and has recently completed a paper for the journal Logos.  He has worked at the literary agency Rogers, Coleridge and White, reviewed books at The Daily Telegraph and worked for an economics research firm, as well as building websites like www.quikqr.com, a 2-d barcode generator. 

Oliver Brooks, Co-founder, Completelynovel

Oliver is the co-founder of a team made up of web technologists working in the book publishing space. They work on the following two projects: ValoBox.com (www.valobox.com) is a pay-as-you-go eReader powered by social commerce.  The pay-as-you-go micro-purchase system means any part of a book can be accessed with a single click. The system is 100% HTML5 so can be used from any device with a web browser and the content can be anything you can put on a website (audio, video, games, and interactive elements). Social retail (peer-to-peer selling) eliminates the traditional expensive retailers. This means if a user shares a link or embeds a ValoBox in their website/feed or mobile app they will receive 25% of proceeds. The direct link means publishers get live analytics such as which parts of their books are most popular. CompletelyNovel.com (www.completelynovel.com) is a unique publishing hub combining a publishing community with powerful publishing tools such as print-on-demand and social media promotion. Authors and publishers can create, distribute and promote books and interact with their readers. The system is designed to make the complicated publishing process simple and affordable enough for anyone to use.

Gavin Summers, Digital Services Manager, Hodder Education

Gavin is the digital project manager for Hodder Education (www.hoddereducation.co.uk), a leading educational publisher in the UK working on a wide range of digital products, including online applications (e.g. Dynamic Learning and Practise Every Question), ebooks, interactive whiteboard materials and smartphone applications. As a side project, he is the founder of BookMachine , which in addition to building a valuable network of publishing professionals, is also an experiment in how movements can be created around a brand through creative use of social media tools.

Titash Neogi, Founder, Sievelogic Software

Titash won the India YCE Interactive 2011 award. He built Bibkosh (www.bibkosh.com) a knowledge curation platform that allows academics, students and professionals to create, curate knowledge and collaborate. He will be discussing the potential of http://themeefy.com as a marketing tool for publishers.

Prathibha Sastry, Head of Publications, Jinibooks (www.jinibooks.com) and Co-founder of JiniLabs (www.jinilabs.com)

Pratibha won the India YCE Screen award in 2008. At that point she was the Managing Director, Editor and Publisher of South Movie Scenes, a platform for the film and entertainment industry. She will be participating in the panel discussion Where is Digital Books Headed?

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Publishing Next

CinnamonTeal Publishing, a division of Dogears Print Media Pvt. Ltd, is organizing Publishing Next, a two-day Conference on the future of publishing on 16 and 17 September 2011 in Goa. 

Objective
Driven by factors such as the Internet and readers’ and authors’ need for instant gratification, the publishing industry today is witnessing seismic shifts in its profile. The changing landscape, one filled with technological innovations that occur with alarming regularity and one that, in turn, fuels large expectations from readers, makes it imperative that the publishers’ community not only move with the times but even bet on the future.

Almost all aspects of the publishing cycle, including the creation, development, production, distribution and marketing of books have been affected by new phenomena such as social media marketing, “enhanced” books and business process outsourcing.

Targeted towards authors, illustrators, literary agents, publishers, librarians, policy makers, online bookstores, social media marketers the conference intends to understand this changing environment, where the industry might be headed in the future and help those involved meet the challenges that these changes might pose. 

The conference will include the following sessions:
·       Where are Digital Books headed?
·       The Impact of Alternate Publishing
·       Book Marketing in the age of Social Media
·       Publishing Houses of the future
·       Managing the translation market
·       Copyright Issues in Publishing

Publishing Next is designed to be a networking platform to facilitate the trade of publishing rights, encourage dialogue between publishers and vendors and organize workshops on the technical aspects of social media marketing and digitization of content.

Speakers at the conference from India will amongst others include:

- Kiruba Shankar, CEO of Business Blogging. Ambassador at TEDx
- G. R. Raghavender, Director (Copyright & Book Promotion), MoHRD, Government of India
- Nilanjana Roy, Literary Critic and Columnist
- Kailash Balani, President at Federation of Booksellers & Publishers Associations in India
- Kinjal Shah, COO of Crossword Bookstores
- Ramu Ramanathan, Editor, Printweek India
- Rubin D’Cruz, Director, Kerala State Institute of Children’s Literature

Speakers & participants at the conference from the UK will include:

- Elin Haf Gruffydd, Director, Mercator Centre University of Aberystwyth
- James Bridle, Owner and Director, Bookable
- Michael Bhaskar, Digital Publishing Director, Profile Books
- Oliver Brooks, Co-founder, Completelynovel
- Gavin Summers, Digital Services Manager, Hodder Education

Publishing Next
is being supported by the British Council who is actively involved in promoting creative entrepreneurship (www.britishcouncil.org.in/yce) in India through programmes that share the UK’s expertise and experience of developing the creative economy and by supporting ecologies within which it can flourish. 

CinnamonTeal Publishing (www.cinnamonteal.in), established in 2007, pioneered the business of providing publishing services to authors and trade publishers in India. Located in Goa, they have catered to customers in 18 countries and have published books across genres and in 9 languages. In 2010, Leonard Fernandes, co-founder of CinnamonTeal was awarded the British Council’s YCE Publishing Award for being “grounded and well aware of the practicalities of [the] business, well researched and open to ideas.”

The award, Leonard says, “was timely because  it endorsed the fact that self-publishing is indeed a legitimate form of expression at a time when the idea of self-publishing is itself hotly debated.” Following that he participated in the panel discussion, Digital Publishing Innovation in New Markets at the London Book Fair in April this year.

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