Author Archives: Shonali Ganguli

Shakespeare-India connect: expect emotions galore on screen

Writers, directors and producers from the UK and India were put through a week-long intensive training workshop in July 2015 by Film London in the UK to develop projects influenced by the works of William Shakespeare. They share their experiences here 

Indian writer / director Rajat Kapoor (right) at the workshops

Indian writer / director Rajat Kapoor (right) at the workshops © Film London / Anna Gordon

Deborah Sathe, Film London
My team and I were delivering a Microschool with the British Council when the idea to work with India came about. Independent film suffers the same challenges here and there, but with The Lunchbox setting the world alight, it felt now was the right time to join forces with India, train the most promising talent together and see whether forming international feature film teams would help serve two domestic markets. Two years later, and with the help of William Shakespeare, I find myself on day four of Microwave International: Shakespeare India. We have 16 exceptional filmmakers working on six contemporary Shakespeare stories, world class mentors and speakers, and lots of coffee. At the end of this week the projects will take all their learning away and resubmit their projects for pitching. One of these will be greenlit into production with our partners Cinestaan and Bob & Co, and the ensuing film take part in the big Shakespeare celebrations in 2016.

To get to this point has taken an unbelievable amount of work, as is so often the case when delivering something new. However, looking at these incredible storytellers and the ‘arranged marriages’ they have formed with their UK/Indian counter parts, I am beyond delighted with the results.

Ashish Ghadiali, writer/director for Realism (based on Macbeth)
If this was ordinary Microschool I’d still be counting my lucky stars. Lectures from stalwarts like Peter Buckingham, Tristan Goligher, Mick Audsley, mentoring from a producer of the calibre of Andrea Calderwood: I see myself waving my script at her in some festival bar while she runs for her coat, but here the engagement is direct, the feedback free-flowing and with every minute in her presence I feel the project and my own self raised to a whole other level of performance. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg because this isn’t ordinary. It’s Microschool India. I’ve been seeking this space, where professionals from India and the UK could really take the time to learn from one another and create something new for nearly a decade. It’s dreamy to have found it and I feel like the future is being seeded here in these collaborations. It’s a visionary scheme.

Indian Writer/Director Bornila Chatterjee

Indian Writer/Director Bornila Chatterjee © Film London / Anna Gordon

Bornila Chatterjee, writer/director for The Crorepatis (based on Titus Andronicus)
This is storytelling bootcamp. The days are packed and the mentors are relentless. They ask us the difficult questions we want to avoid, they do not provide all the answers and they challenge us to think hard about the essence, the core — the actual story we want to tell. Tough? Sure. Which is why these first two days have been way better than film school ever was, and more insightful that any screenwriting class I’ve ever taken.

Andrea Calderwood, producer mentor (films include The Last King of Scotland and A Most Wanted Man)
Love, passion, murder, betrayal, revenge —  it’s all going on at Microschool India this week. [Six combined Indian and British writer/producer/director teams have six ambitious projects to make a Shakespeare-inspired Indian-connected feature film, and the full range of human emotion is in play.]

What’s special about the Microschool project is that it’s not simply a theoretical training exercise – out of the six projects, the funding is available to make one of the films, with the possibility that others might be helped to finance their films too. This very real prospect of production sharpens everyone’s minds. An intense timescale of one week of workshops leading to the final pitch in six weeks time means the entire development process is accelerated, and it’s inspiring to see the huge development leaps — which would normally take months of agonizing and debate — which can be made with total focus in 24 hours.

The combination of Shakespeare dealing with the fundamentals of human emotion, and the mentoring process dealing with the fundamentals of filmmaking in a week leads to a no-holds-barred atmosphere, which should produce some explosive and attention-grabbing films.

Sharmila Chauhan, UK writer for The Heart of the City (based on The Taming of the Shrew)
Some might say being almost 38 weeks pregnant and then having an arranged marriage may be the wrong way of doing things. So far this week I have been introduced and married to the intelligent and artistically-sensitive Pratyusha Gupta (director) and the inspiring, warm Ameenah Allen (producer) as part of what I hope will be a long-term commitment. And who says assisted introductions don’t work? Having faith in the process and your partners is something integral to the creative experience — and the Microschool has definitely has accelerated that process.
My wives and I have had an intense week: a full on holistic look of film from script to editing, together with one-to-ones with mentors and many a late night working on script.
There has been an outpouring of ideas and many seeds of ideas have been uprooted and then replanted in new ground. But now this ground has been fertilised by all three of us.
I’m excited to see how our film will grow. And I’m glad that she has now has three mothers, watching to see what she will become.

Microschool in progress

Microschool in progress © Film London / Anna Gordon

Rahul Merchant, distribution mentor from India (India’s FAME cinema chain, Bubble Motion Pte Ltd)
Microschool is an outstanding and earnest initiative, combining great talent from India and UK and enabling great stories to come to life. The sessions with industry leaders are insightful, and thought-provoking enough to empower producers with enough knowledge and power across all disciplines of film making. I sincerely believe the film that does come out of this initiative will be the one the world will sit up and take notice of, and a purist outcome of a well defined, well articulated and mentored program. I wish for this initiative to grow and become the leader on Microschooling across the world and for more film makers and producers to get encouraged to make their dreams come true on celluloid.


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Museums as civic spaces: Insights from UK at global museums meet

As part of the eighth international conference on the Inclusive Museum, the British Council has partnered with International Council Of Museums (ICOM)  to present two speakers from the UK for the ICOM 2015: Charles Landry and Emily Pringle. They will be presenting their talks on the concept of museums as civic spaces at the National Science Museum in New Delhi and then travel to Kolkata for a discussion on inclusive cultural leadership.  They share their insights from their talk.

About the speakers:

Emily Pringle

Emily Pringle

Emily Pringle, is the Head of Learning and Research Practice at Tate Britain and Tate Modern, UK.  She has an interest in the role of the artist in education contexts and in developing creative and sustainable research and evaluation models.
About Emily’s talk: Titled ‘Reflecting on museum practice: Values-led research and collaboration at Tate’, Emily’s talk will address the importance of implementing research and reflective practice in order to raise the quality of the work that museums do with communities and key collaborators. Emily says: “Drawing on the experience of Tate Gallery’s Learning department in London I will describe how we have established a values-led approach to our practice, highlighting the benefits (and the challenges) that this has brought to our work.”

Charles Landry

Charles Landry

Charles Landry is the Director, Comedia and Inventor of Creative City and Creative City Index.  He is an international authority on the use of imagination and creativity in urban change. He invented the concept of the Creative City in the late ’80s. This became a global movement and changed the way cities thought about their capabilities and resources.
About Charles’ talk:
Charles’s talk will give an overview on the importance of the museum in our daily lives, as places of connection; places of possibility; and places of inspiration. He says, “The challenge for museums and galleries is to harness their physical assets – artefacts, pictures or documents – with their imaginative resources which lie with museum workers.” Charles stresses on the nature of museums and their free spirit and the potential of learning.

The speakers will be part of the Inclusive Museums Conference between August 7-9, National Science Centre, New Delhi . They will also be part of a discussion on “Inclusive Cultural Leadership being held at the Indian Museum in Kolkata on 12 August. More information is available here.

Post by: Debesh Banerjee

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‘I reflect upon the role of a dancer’

Marina Collard

Marina Collard

Dancer and choreographer Marina Collard has been involved with dance for over two decades. Her main interests lie in collaborating with artists from other disciplines. Still Going is her solo performance in collaboration with filmmaker Tom Paine.  Her 20-minute dance piece infuses film projection, by Paine, which honours and at the same time poses questions about her life in dance. Marina shares her insight on the piece and her style. Excerpts:

What is Still Going about?
Still Going captures a particular time in my life when I was making it. Which is true of all the works I make. I had for a long time been interested in and actively engaged in oil painting. The nature and materiality of the paint, the approach to working on a large canvas, the mixing and layering of colour etc. There are, of course, undertones of a more personal nature where I am playing with the possibility of retiring from performing and the idea of ‘should’ within this context. There are also some reflections in there about the role of a dancer that are not necessarily explicit and don’t need to be.

How did it evolve?
I don’t ever feel that pieces get made in isolation. They are part of a bigger narrative of making work and an investment in an art practice that is ongoing. What we don’t access easily in dance – unless we follow a choreographer’s development closely – is the same perspective of the work as you might if you were to see the work of a painter exhibited.

How does the film projection become a character in your piece?
I don’t see it in this way. It is a whole work. The whole visual and aural field is the work and the two elements, film and body are integral to the coherence of the work along with the sound/sonic image. I cannot remove one from the other. The solo wouldn’t have become what it is without the film. There is a relationship, of course, which is concerned with saturation, immersion and this hovering uncertainty.
I remember when I first started working with Tom and he made a passing comment saying ‘film is about light’. This may seem very simple but for me that was a transformative moment because it made me see things differently. The way I perceived, viewed and noticed things was focused differently.

Is your personal identity reflected through the performance?
From my perspective, it is impossible not to have some autobiographical element making work. I don’t know that I can honestly think of anyone who can remove themselves from their work. This doesn’t necessarily mean it as to be autobiographical, but it might be about the way they think or perceive things, or things they are interested and keep them curious.

How was it collaborating with Tom Paine?
I have been working with Tom for the past 15 years. We have made a number of short films as well as working in this capacity. That is, developing a projection as an integral part of the work. So you could argue that it is not really a solo. We are both present in the work.

You can watch a video of Still Going here.

Post by: Debesh Banerjee

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Perspective from the northern periphery

Curator and writer Matt Packer visits Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai

Curator and writer Matt Packer visits Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai

Matt Packer, a Curator and Writer based in Northern Ireland, presents a lecture on the theme of ‘Future North: curating in the periphery of Northern Europe‘ at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum City Museum in Mumbai on 28 July. After successful presentations in Kolkata and Delhi, he shares his experience of dealing with artists and individuals across borders and contexts.  


How are galleries in Northern Ireland different from those in Norway?

Northern Ireland and northern Norway are very different contexts, with very different geographies, economic opportunities, and of course political histories. What they share is that they’re ‘marginal’ contexts, both in a European context, as well as within their respective national context. Northern Ireland or Northern Norway also share a lack of an art market and the lack of other artistic infrastructures such as large collecting-based institutions and native critical art press.

What  has been your experience from curating for these two countries?
In fact, many of the conversations that have developed in one context have extended to another. Artists such as Anna Adahl, Ciaran O’Dochartaigh, Katja Novitskova, have all been part of Centre for Contemporary Art’s, Northern Ireland, recent exhibition programme, but will also be producing new work for Lofoten International Arts Festival 2015, Norway. Some overlaps across contexts, is important; just as it’s important to maintain close working relationships with artists over time. Of course, CCA and LIAF have different mandates, so in CCA you’ll regularly see artists with a connection to NI, and at LIAF you’ll see a prominence of Scandinavian artists.

How important is geographical location of countries on their impact in the Arts?
I think geographical context still plays a large part in defining the opportunities and possibilities for artistic and curatorial practice, despite increasing internationalism. For me, the geographical contexts of Derry~Londonderry or the Lofoten Islands provide essential points of connection and application to the discourses and practices of contemporary art. The international art world is often evoked, but it needs to be remembered that there is no such place. Instead, it’s a world that is built by many different geographies and many different voices.

What has been your experience of curatorial practises in India?
I am new to the Indian context, so I am certainly not qualified to determine what India needs to learn. I am aware that the art market is developing at a rapid rate that is out-of-pace with the institutional practices and powers of the public institutions in the country. I think that efforts like the Experimenter Curator’s Hub in Kolkata are ways to re-address that, building a more critical and curatorial ‘ecology’ for contemporary art in the country, which will ultimately benefit both artists and the public.

To register for Matt Packer’s talk on 28 July at Bhau Daji Lad Museum City Museum in Mumbai, from 6.30 p.m. onwards, please RSVP with us by email at

For more information visit our website.

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Six tips for learning a new language

Know where you want to go
Unlike children, adult learners often have clear reasons for language-learning. Try to identify exactly why you want to learn the language as this will help you to plan your learning.

Develop an effective storage system
Learning any language involves learning hundreds of new words: keeping systematic notebooks or computer files will help you store what you have learnt.

Exercise your memory
Our brains are tightly connected networks – making use of these connections will help our learning. Think about where you learnt new words, the images they create in your mind or connections with other words you know to develop your memorisation techniques.

‘Float’ through listening input
Access to the Internet, software and international media mean that we have much more access to sources of listening input than ever before. Try to ‘float’ through this input – do not worry about understanding every word or detail but try to get the main idea.

Maximise your language use
Make maximum use of email and social networking to use the language with native speakers or other students of the language you are learning. If you can interact with native speakers, getting your message across is more important than grammatical accuracy.

Self-regulate but do not stress
Listen to yourself and identify any errors you hear – correct yourself aloud or in your mind. But do not worry too much about making mistakes: being confident and taking risks is an important part of language learning!

Contributed by Andy Keedwell

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Naipaul’s House

The Jaipur Litfest 2015 got off to a rousing start on 21st Jan. Diggi Palace was overflowing with the young and not-so thirsty for the intellectual fare on offer. A House for Mr Biswas was one such. Chaired by Farrukh Dhondy the panel consisted of Paul Theroux, Amit Chaudhuri and Hanif Kureishi. Dhondy praised House as one of the most truthful novels he had read along with Area of Darkness. It was, as he noted, the book’s 53rd anniversary and yet it was a truly modern novel.
The audience awaited Paul Theroux’s comments as his fabled friendship with Naipaul was as legendary as their subsequent falling out. But Mrs Naipaul indicated a thumbs up when “ups and downs” was mentioned. Theroux harked back to Kampala 1956 when he read House at a bus stop and broke into laughter at its humour. He said it was the most complete novel he had ever read, culturally whole. It was the rebel trying to find his place in society patiently working and waiting. He compared it to James Joyce’s Dubliners.
Hanif Kureishi claimed that reading House made him want to be a writer. Said it reminded him of his own father, a failure. He also felt all brown and black authors in the ’60s were referred to as Commonwealth writers, but Naipaul transcended the label and was truly international in stature.
Amit Chaudhuri came in on a witty note and said that Naipaul, along with maps of Kashmir and works of Nirad Chaudhuri, were considered contraband in his formative years.
In summing up, Dhondy felt that for Naipaul literature was his nationality. Theroux felt there was a great resemblance between him and Chekhov: ennui, despair, dynamic, helpless. Finally words applied to Narayan also to Naipaul’s hero: big talk, big dreams, limited means. Naipaul was then wheeled on stage by popular demand and thanked all panellists for being so kind and received a standing ovation.
Contributed by Dickoo Nowroji

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Quality at the core

It was a day-long conference dedicated to raising standards of quality in education. The speakers and audience — some of the best teachers, trainers, heads of schools and representatives from expert education bodies like NCERT, Quality Council of India, CBSE, IATEFL, AI-NET, NCTE, Accreditation UK and English UK — made it an unforgettable experience.

Organised by the British Council as a part of a week-long series of programmes around schools, the Quality Standards in Education conference held in Delhi on 29 November aimed to advance the debate about quality standards in education, to look at current thinking and practice in relation to quality in schools and what currently is happening to ensure that quality.

ELT expert George Pickering addresses a session the Quality Standards conference in Delhi

ELT expert George Pickering addresses a session the Quality Standards conference in Delhi

Presentations looked at the factors that can influence quality in the classroom: our teachers and the way they develop professionally; our examinations and attainment targets; the role that teacher associations play; we are particularly interested in discussing how professional associations for schools can be influential in supporting school development and in setting standards. They looked closely at the English Language Quality Standards Programme and the benefits it brings to participating schools.

There were discussions around institutional capacity building and the importance of quality being embedded in a school’s systems.

Experts from various organisations spoke about their experience in the area of quality in education and how they contributed to it. Discussions revolved around continuous professional development for teachers and forming associations for schools as a means to further quality.
The audience participated enthusiastically and many interesting questions were posed to the speakers. An audience member passionately asked about what could be done to raise the profile of teaching as a profession to encourage more talented people to aspire to become teachers.

Ashok Pandey, Principal, Ahlcon International School, while presenting a session on a roadmap for an Indian professional association for English medium schools, stressed on the importance of knowledge sharing among peers and said that only schools that share their knowledge and expertise can remain competitive in today’s day and age.

More information on the English Language Quality Standards Programme is available at

Or you can write to

Contributed by Shivangi Gupta

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Schools of the future: digital, inclusive and empowering

Action Research success stories by accredited teachers were in focus on the second day (3 December 2014) of the Teacher Accreditation programme organised by the British Council in Delhi .

The first session chaired by Dr Angela Cook included discussions on International Learning and Global Education where action researchers addressed global issues in the education domain prevalent in most countries and how they are being addressed internationally. The researchers experienced that kids learn better when they are empowered and given responsibilities, whereby they can interactively mix with other children, be more confident and innovative in their thinking and actions. Not only children but this serves as a learning process for teachers as well.

The other simultaneous session chaired by Arijit Ghosh focussed on discussing digital Innovation in the classroom to enhance learning capacities. Action researchers through their experience learned that digital games are a smart way to teach, learn and map what is being taught to the curriculum. This is not only true for higher achievers but covers children with all abilities. Smart and digital media component attracts students easily and ensures complete involvement as children are always enthusiastic about playing games and in turn learning playfully.

After informal discussion and exchange of opinions over refreshments there were two simultaneous and engaging sessions for mentors and mentees. The former chaired by Karanam Pushpanadam focussed on challenges and opportunities for mentoring Teacher Researchers. The mentors came up with concerns which they face while guiding their mentee for the action research projects. They believe certain level of flexibility in the completion timeframe, regular face to face interaction with mentees for better understanding and communication, multiple review stages, restricted submission size are some aspects which if included as guidelines in delivering the 2 3 4projects would facilitate the mentoring process and enable achieving better and more result oriented outcomes.

The other concurrent session featured action research success stories which centred around projects aimed at inclusion and mainstreaming students and learners with special needs. This session chaired by Rittika Chanda Parruck featured some truly interesting cases where it has been observed that exposing children with special needs to activities is one of the best ways to assess their strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly. This is a positive and good practice of inclusion which makes children happy and gives them a direction. Susan Douglas mentioned a very interesting practice followed in the UK which is a more social rather than medical model of inclusion of children with special needs where a school adopts to the needs of a child rather than the other way round. She emphasized that every child is educable provided they are placed in the right settings which they deserve. The presenters acknowledged British Council’s support and effort to bring a positive change in the lives of children with special needs through their work in action research projects.

The final session of the conference featured a keynote speech from Andy Buck on Schools of the future: Time for change. He pointed out that as teachers their prime responsibility lies in instilling aspirations, resilience and confidence in children to face challenges to be successful as a human being and as a professional. A favourable climate is what he referred to in terms of the learning
environment in a class can immensely impact children to feel included. Teachers should
give their student a voice so that they may take charge and work together towards inclusive
growth. Andy acknowledged the work of all action researchers and their contribution towards
making a positive change in schooling for children.

The Teacher Accreditation Conference concluded with closing comments by the chairperson Susan Douglas who acknowledged the participation of all teachers, teacher researchers and all those who supported to make the conference a success.

Contributed by Ruma Roy.

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Teacher researchers – the agents of change

The Teacher Accreditation Conference being held in New Delhi as part of a week-long series of events around school education began on 2 December at with participants from all over the country enthusiastically contributing through various sessions in the field of action research not only in English but education system as a whole.

Susan Douglas who chaired the conference  and briefed the participants on the context of this  event.

Susan Douglas who chaired the conference
and briefed the participants on the context of this

The programme began with a welcome note from Susan Douglas who chaired the conference and briefed the participants on the context of this event. This was the first time that an electronically operated voting pad was distributed for participants to key in their opinion on Q&A polls held after each session. Instant statistics were generated and displayed, which ensured complete involvement. The result of these polls will eventually feed into a high level roundtable of policy makers to be held on
4 December.

Sam Freedman, Director of Research, Evaluation and Impact at Teach First

Sam Freedman, Director of Research, Evaluation and Impact at Teach First

Sam Freedman, Director of Research, Evaluation and Impact at Teach First spoke about the value of research in education system. He emphasized on the importance of creating research based professionals, the steps that leads to research based profession and the positive changes that teacher researchers may bring about.


A session on action research success  stories

A session on action research success

Next was a session on action research success
stories chaired by Rittika Chanda Parruck
where accredited teachers presented stories of
their successful research for Improving
Mathematics and Science Teaching. The other
parallel session chaired by John Shackleton featured presentations from ELTReP recipients and Connecting Classrooms researchers on English Teaching. There were interactive Q&A rounds after each session for the audience to share their experience and views on action research.

Dr Angela Cook spoke on the GTA programme in India

Dr Angela Cook spoke on the GTA programme in India

Dr Angela Cook, an independent consultant
in the education sector spoke about the
Global Teacher Accreditation (GTA) programme
in India. She pointed out the GTA model is adaptable for all students and this can develop a new level of professionalism and motivation in individuals associated with teaching at various levels.


The morning and noon sessions were followed by a round of informal interactions and knowledge sharing over tea while the participants viewed poster exhibition of research submissions by themselves and their fellow researchers. 


An engaging session by John Shackleton

An engaging session by John Shackleton

After a round of evening refreshments and discussions was an extremely engaging session by John Shackleton who interactively explained Continuing Professional Development (CPD) framework and how this could help a teacher develop as a professional and evolve into a Teacher Educator to contribute to the teaching profession in a meaningful way.


A teacher an award for research

A teacher an award for research

The day concluded with a lot of enthusiasm and positivity over certificate distribution to successful Global Teacher Accreditation Awardees as a token of appreciation and acknowledgement of their meaningful contribution through their research efforts. Participants said they found the sessions engrossing and look forward to many more such effective engagements as this experience enabled them grow as professionals.

Contributed by Ruma Roy.

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Delegates from Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Taiwan visit Indian schools

The British Council is holding a week-long series of programmes around schools education in Delhi which began on 28 November with the international launch of its global publication Innovations in Continuing Professional Development for English Language Teachers followed by a conference on Quality Standards in Education on 29 November.

On the third day of the Schools Week, 27 Inward Study Visit Delegates from Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Taiwan visited Indian schools to observe the Indian curriculum in schools systems. The delegates were first taken to the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) at Karnal which is a government-run residential school. This school, where 75% students are from rural and underprivileged backgrounds, is run by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.

Schools Inward Study Visit Delegates from Taiwan, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia at the JNV School, Karnal.

Schools Inward Study Visit Delegates from Taiwan, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia at the JNV School, Karnal.


The delegates were taken on a tour of the school and were explained various aspects the school system and the curriculum being followed through interactive sessions with the school authorities who also acknowledged the Connecting classrooms programme by British Council and its positive impact. The Connecting classroom programme is also a part of their annual report.

Next, the delegates were taken to the DLF School at Ghaziabad which is a recipient of the Global School Enterprise awards. This is a privately-owned school and markedly different from JNV Karnal. The principal of this school presented to the delegates the ways their association with British Council in the last five years has enabled them gain international exposure and build their capacity.

The contrast between the schools covered in the visit gave the delegates a view of the socio-economic range that Indian school system spans and of the adaptable model that runs equally well for rural and urban set-up of the education system.

Contributed by Ruma Roy.


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