Tag Archives: Kolkata

David Leddy writing workshops in India

Being a writer is wonderful in many ways and frustrating in many ways. Words are very literal things. As Bjork says “words are useless, especially sentences.”  You can stretch language and manipulate it, that’s what I love to do. But it falls off a cliff pretty quick. The more obtuse your writing becomes the more it turns into linguistic soup. I often feel rather envious of visual artists for the freedom and ambiguity that the non-textual affords. It’s so much easier to be elliptical, indirect, atmospheric.

In November 2016 I came to Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata to lead workshops for writers and to have a series of meetings with artists who I might collaborate with in the future. The British Council asked me to write a blogpost about it.

So, bearing in mind what I’ve described above, I decided that I would give you a visual essay, a series of atmospheres that sums up my trip in an indirect way. I hope you enjoy it.

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

 

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

Welcome home biscuits © David Leddy

 

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A Cultural Shift: Dan Daw of Candoco Dance Company on disability in dance

Dance artist, Dan Daw, recently spent 10 days touring India with Candoco Dance Company, performing Studies for C supported by the British Council. In this blog, he captures his thoughts, feelings and observations of his first trip to India

Studies For C performers, Dan Daw and Mirjam Gurtner in Chennai

Studies For C performers, Dan Daw and Mirjam Gurtner in Chennai

Incredible India. Before experiencing India for myself, I’d look at that slogan plastered to the entire surface of a London black cab with a cynicism asking, “How can an entire country be described as just ‘incredible’?” It is a slogan our taxi driver in Delhi would exclaim proudly as we’d stop, patiently waiting while a holy bull sauntered nonchalantly across a road in rush hour, or as we’d swerve out of the way of vehicles coming toward us in strategic attempts to expedite their journey.

Having been, I can now answer my own question of doubt and unknowing by saying, “Because that’s exactly what it is. In every sense of the word, India is incredible.”

It is indeed a difficulty to pinpoint the very thing that makes India so incredible, but if held to task, it would absolutely be the people. This would be confirmed as I departed Chennai, departed Kolkata and departed Delhi on our 10-day tour, finding myself thinking back to moments shared with new-found friends.

Connected to each performance of Studies for C by Javier de Frutos, a work we have been touring with on and off for almost four years, was a post-show discussion, which revealed just how sincere and genuinely interested in Candoco Dance Company’s work, approach and legacy the people in each of the three cities actually were.

Artiste Dan Daw (middle) in a post-show discussion with Dr Ambika Kameshwar (second from left) in Chennai

Artiste Dan Daw (middle) in a post-show discussion with Dr Ambika Kameshwar (second from left) in Chennai

Although clear that dance therapy was the broader understanding of inclusive dance practice, there was a sense of wanting to move beyond the notion that dance for disabled people was simply to ‘fix’ them.

How did our audiences respond? Our performance sparked debate and raised some interesting and key questions from within the Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi audiences and arts communities about how a cultural shift might be able to occur to allow perceptions to expand. As an artist and producer, I am interested in the traces my practice leaves behind; the ripples that remain long after the pool closes.

Studies For C in Delhi

Studies For C in Delhi

It is my hope, rather than expectation, that these traces provoke a shift in artistic and social consciousness.

How do we, as foreign artists, facilitate this shift in artistic and social consciousness?

In 10 days it is impossible to know what this shift is, let alone how to facilitate it, but with the foundation a series of performances, post-show discussions, press engagements and community workshops provides, a structure can now be built and I suspect construction will begin soon.

 

About Dan Daw:

Dan Daw

Dan Daw

Dan danced with Candoco for four years from 2010 until 2014 and worked as Assistant Creative Producer in 2013. He still performs with the company in Studies for C and Imperfect Storm.

He completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts at the Flinders University Drama Centre in 2004. And joined Restless Dance Company in 2002, performing in works by Ingrid Voorendt, Kat Worth, Daisy Brown, Michael Whaites, Garry Stewart, and Billie Cook.

In early 2006, Dan danced with UK company FRONTLINE dance in their 5th Anniversary Tour and in 2007 he performed with Scottish Dance Theatre as Guest Dancer in Adam Benjamin’s Angels of Incidence for their Spring Tour. In 2007/2008, Dan worked with Kate Champion’s Force Majeure performing in The Age I’m In for the 2008 Sydney and Adelaide Festivals.

READ: For more information on the Studies For C India tour, click here: 

 

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Building bridges through dance

Vanessa Mirza, Director, Dance Bridges Festival, Kolkata, India 2015, writes about her experience of organising a multi-dimensional dance festival in Kolkata. The British Council was one of many partners of the festival, which concluded recently. 

The Dance Bridges Festival. Photo by Tanaya Bhattacharya

The Dance Bridges Festival. Photo by Tanaya Bhattacharya

The Dance Bridges Festival is a new initiative for dance and the performing arts in Kolkata by Dance Alliance Kolkata. The theme: “Talking Points in Choreography; Dialogues Across Cultures” emerged from a personal curiosity as a choreographer to know more about the creative process of different artists and how cultural influences affect choreographic works.

In curating performances for the Festival, I selected works that highlight this individuality and specificity, sometimes in subtle ways in others more overtly. Artists for the Festival included Van Huynh Company (UK), Anarchy Dance Theatre (Taiwan), I-Fen Tung (Taiwan), Sydney Skov (USA), Janet Reed (USA),Tomas Danielis (Austria), Rocio Berenguer (France), Prasanna Saikia & Buoyant Performing Arts (India). There were also special presentations and workshops by Waileth & Bardon (Sweden) & Meghna Bhardwaj (New Delhi).

Every artist and piece carried a different flavour that is a result of a personal history of dance training, choreographic style, creative decisions but also a reflection of cultural perceptions, thinking and infiltrations. It has been a great pleasure to network with different artists and provide for their needs creating an international experience for performing arts right here in Kolkata.

Artists in residency with members from Van Huynh Company

Artists in residency with members from Van Huynh Company. Photo by Tanaya Bhattacharya

A very special part of the Dance Bridges Festival, was a three-week residency with artists from the Van Huynh Company in Kolkata with local dancers. Choreographer, Dam Van Huynh created a beautiful work titled “Resonance” with a company of five local artists and dancer Ieva Navickaite for the Festival. The 20-minute piece has original music accompaniment by Martyna Poznanska created from environmental sounds she recorded live in Kolkata.

Along with performances, the Festival included a section of film screenings with 20 dance films from over 14 countries. The dance films were curated in collaboration with Screendance Festival Sweden, Goethe Institut Kolkata, Gati Dance Forum and other independent artists. This was a truly unique part of the Festival and brought audiences insights into choreographic developments in dance as an art in the medium of film from across the world. During the Festival there were also several workshops in eastern and western styles of dance at different studios in the city providing another platform for sharing knowledge, connection and exchange.

Artists in residency with members from Van Huynh Company Tanaya Bhattacharya

Artists in residency with members from Van Huynh Company. Photo by Tanaya Bhattacharya

As the artistic director and producer for the Festival, it has been a long process of connecting with sponsors and partners. The Festival was possible due to the support and collaboration of Swar Sangam, ITC Ltd.,Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan, the Austrian Embassy & Austrian Cultural Forum New Delhi, The Swedish Arts Grants Committee (Konstnärsnämnden), Alliance Francaise du Bengale, British Council, Screendance Festival( Sweden), t2 Telegraph, 91.9 Friends FM, Soni Power, Add Life Caring Minds, Rhythmosaic Dance Company, Buoyant Performing Arts Centre, Sparsh Studio for Performing Arts, The Calcutta School of Music aHotel Nest International, Chaitown Creatives and Berger Paints.

It is my intention to host this Festival as a biennial event and the next edition is due to take place in 2017. I hope the Dance Bridges Festival grows from this first edition to continue in building artistic bridges and cultural exchanges within creative communities across the world.

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Inclusion key to museum success

Indian Museum Kolkata

The Indian Museum Kolkata is celebrating 200 years

Who is the museum for? Is it for scholars or students, for historians or curators, for out-station visitors or those living in the city? And casting the net a little wider who should run a museum? Is it the domain of a historian, a curator, an educator, a marketer or a designer?

Just some of many questions around people and inclusion that kept arising at the two-day conference on Strategic Transformations: Museums in 21st Century held in Kolkata. The conference coincided with the bicentennary celebrations of the Indian Museum in Kolkata.  Representatives of UK museums who took part in the discussions shared their perspectives on people and their role in museums, and museums and their connection with people.

For museums to transform it was essential for them to involve a range of professionals and not just curators, said Mark Taylor, Museums Association Director. “It is individuals from a range of professions, from accountants to PR to education, retail and marketing. And even the curators have to adapt, have to develop a greater range of competencies over and above simply academic knowledge of the collections.” His talk on Transforming people to transform museums can be downloaded here.

To attract a range of people to museums it was important for them to connect with people, highlight and discuss issues that were relevant to them. “Museums can highlight contemporary issues and trace their history. At the V&A we have even developed a rapid response collection, which allows us to raise debates on contemporary issues,” said Martin Roth, at a panel discussion. The strategy is to collect objects as soon as they become newsworthy, to reflect the way global events influence society.

Technology was also responsible for transforming museums, making them more accessible to people, even those outside their walls. Carolyn Royston, digital head of the Imperial War Museums spoke at length about attracting audiences online. “Many visit us online and then come into our museums. We’ve seen a massive change in online activity in the last five years, and we are now open 24×7 through our online presence. People interact with us commenting on our online collections, contributing comments.”

A museum is no longer a collection of artefacts and objects lined up for display. Collections now have to be curated to speak to people, be relevant to contexts local and global, and allow people to form a close connection with what they experience. And museums in the 21st century seem to be gearing up to that challenge — to be of the people, by the people and for the people.

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Kick-off for Kolkata Goalz

On a hot and rainy July afternoon inKolkata,UKForeign Minister Jeremy Browne kicked a football into a muddy field at Shibtala community ground in Topsia, one of Kolkata’s more deprived neighbourhoods. For the three hundred youngsters who had gathered there, it marked the beginning of a chance to change their lives through the game.

Minutes later, Madan Mitra, Hon’ble Sports Minister, Government of West Bengal, Sovan Chatterjee, Hon’ble Mayor of Kolkata and Rob Lynes, Director British Council India took turns to kick balls to the coaches and young people on the ground, signalling the launch of Kolkata Goalz, an inspirational initiative by the Premier League and British Council to encourage young people from across Kolkata to aim for a more positive future.

Kolkata Goalz is a new strand of the Premier League and British Council’s hugely successful Premier Skills programme, which uses football as a tool to engage with and develop the skills of young people. It is inspired by and modelled on the groundbreaking Kickz programme in theUK, a partnership between the Premier League and Metropolitan Police that targets youth at risk in deprived parts ofUK.

In Kolkata, the project has been launched by the Premier League and the British Council with the Kolkata Police, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, All India Football Federation and Indian Football Association (West Bengal) in association with six Kolkata Premier League Football Clubs, who will directly be involved in the delivery of the project. The six Premier League Clubs are Mohun Bagan Athletic Club, East Bengal Club, George Telegraph Sports Club, Mohammedan Sporting Club, Police Athletic Club and United Sports Club. Children’s charity Future Hope will support the project in an advisory capacity.

This is a project for young people in difficult areas. Youngsters in the age group of 12 – 18 years will join the programme. The youth, identified by the police, are those at risk, and in some of the most deprived parts of the city.

Kolkata Police have selected six neighbourhoods in Kolkata where the project will be piloted and helped in selection of the youths. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation is providing the ground and infrastructure for the project in these areas.

The clubs have provided their most experienced coaches who will train the young people in the neighbourhoods, thrice a week round the year in the evenings in football and engage with them in a range of other constructive activities.

The coaches involved in the programme underwent a three-day Induction training with Rubel Ahmed from the Active Communities Network and Michael Nyarko, the Social Inclusion Manager of Crystal Palace Football Club, both of who work with the Premier League.

In this intensive but fun training programme the coaches focussed on the essence of community sports, worked on a delivery plan, learned through role play about engaging, challenging and mentoring hard to reach young people and techniques of developing volunteers. The trainers also stressed on the importance of monitoring and evaluation to measure success.

“In this room we are all experienced football coaches but you have opened our eyes to social inclusion through community sports. We will try our best to apply the learning in the training sessions with the young people,” said Kalyan Chaubey, former Mohun Bagan and India goalkeeper, speaking on behalf of the Indian coaches while thanking the trainers.

Speaking at the launch, Rob Lynes, Director British Council India thanked the partners for joining hands to achieve the key objectives of the project.

R K Pachnanda, Commissioner of Kolkata Police thanked the British Council and Premier League and reiterated Kolkata Police’s support and commitment for the project.

Kushal Das, General Secretary, All India Football Federation, speaking on behalf of the football fraternity, wished the project all success and committed their support.

Sovan Chatterjee, Hon’ble Mayor of Kolkata representing the Kolkata Municipal Corporation lauded the Kolkata Goalz initiative and said he was happy to support the project by providing the infrastructure.

Madan Mitra, Hon’ble Sports Minister, Government of West Bengal commended all the partners and stated that the Government of West Bengal was delighted that the project was being piloted in Kolkata and that his department would extend all possible support to make it a big success.

Speeches over, dignitaries took turns to demonstrate their skills in football and kicked the ball to the coaches and young people in the ground. The coaches then gave a mini-demonstration of their coaching techniques with the young people.

The training will begin soon at the six venues. As the young people wait excitedly to join the programme, we at the British Council wish the project all success. Our endeavour will be to set up a sustainable model in Kolkata which could then be potentially replicated across India in collaboration with other police departments, municipal authorities and football clubs. We hope that in the future we will be able to encourage young people from across India to aim for a more positive future.

Partners celebrate the launch with football balloons

Partners celebrate the launch with football balloons

UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Browne kicks a football into the Shibtala community ground in Topsia at the launch of Kolkata Goalz

Rob Lynes, Director British Council India, kicks off the programme in the presence of West Bengal Sports minister Madan Mitra, Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and Commissioner of Kolkata Police RK Pachnanda

Premier League trainers Rubel Ahmed from the Active Communities Network and Michael Nyarko, the Social Inclusion Manager of Crystal Palace Football Club

Premier League trainers Rubel Ahmed from the Active Communities Network and Michael Nyarko, the Social Inclusion Manager of Crystal Palace Football Club

Children from different areas who will be participating in the programme in club jerseys

Children from different areas who will be participating in the programme in club jerseys

Children from different areas who will be participating in the programme in club jerseys

Children from different areas who will be participating in the programme in club jerseys

Children from different areas who will be participating in the programme in club jerseys

Children from different areas who will be participating in the programme in club jerseys

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When Library became College

It was John Keats’s birthday when I became a member of British Council Library, Kolkata, in 1996. I had tried to become a member of the British Council Library earlier but the library officials stated that I had to be at least a graduate student to become a member. It was a haloed turf for me because the library had a great collection of English Literature books, which were of great interest to me. Located in Shakespeare Sarani (formerly Theatre Road), the library had an old world charm to it if a telescopic view into almost fifteen years past is taken from now. The wooden interiors, the manual catalogues, the lending of audio cassettes, the blue-covered notes on literature, all had become an integral part of my life.

As years passed by the interiors became plush, the audio cassettes gave way to CDs, computers took over cataloguing and issuing, the notes on literature got neglected, the cafe became in-house, a kids’ section was added, film DVDs were compiled, subscription of academic journals diminished, internet and photocopying facilities were introduced, and the library itself  shifted from its Shakespeare Sarani address to Larsen and Toubro Chambers in Camac Street. But my attachment remained undeterred.

It is so because when I didn’t have a college to go to, the British Council library became my college. When I didn’t have a university to go to, the British Council library became my university. When I didn’t have a professor to consult with, the British Council library became my professor. When I didn’t have a peer to lift my mood, the British Council library became my peer. I treasure the Pictorial Retrospective of V. S. Naipaul that I won at the V. S. Naipaul quiz organized by the British Council library. The six Best of Bookers shortlisted books, which I won in another British Council organized quiz, adorn my bookshelf. The library still provides me with books for sustenance and a space to cherish. It has been a constant in my life and will always remain so. I believe there are many people who have had intimate associations with this or other libraries in their lives.

Post by – © Amit Shankar Saha

Amit Shankar Saha

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