Did you know there is an online Ballet Festival of India? Started in 2017 by Mumbai-based ballet teacher Ashifa Sarkar Vasi, the festival is a great exposure to the Western classical dance form as leading practitioners from the Indian ballet community come together to showcase their craft and devise ways to make it more affordable and accessible. Visitors can take classes or attend seminars or watch films in this biennial event which is slated to return in July. Or how about a boutique music festival called Bloomverse, held in April right on the edge of Guwahati in Assam, featuring some of the finest independent acts in the country? In February, every house in the village of Naya in Pingla (part of the paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal) comes alive as an exhibition space for the works of Patuas or scroll painters in a festival called POT Maya.
Several other noted and lesser-known festivals are now listed in the newly created platform Festivals From India, an India-UK initiative for arts and culture. The digital platform has been created to showcase hundreds of Indian arts and culture festivals for culture-seekers across the globe. Initiated by British Council, and designed and developed by ArtBramha (a sister concern of the Art X Company) the platform went live on April 20. Festivals From India hosts festivals from across a range of genres including arts and crafts, design, dance, film, folk arts, food and culinary arts, heritage, literature, interdisciplinary and/ or multiarts, music, new media, photography, theatre and visual arts amongst others, across locations and languages.
From the India Art Fair to Chennai Photo Biennale, Jaipur Literature Festival to the Dharamshala International Film Festival, festival audiences will find easy access to India’s key cultural experiences across urban and rural locations with updates on artist line-ups, locations, facilities and information to know before leaving for their destinations. The platform also hosts a range of hidden gems, select LGBTQIA+ festivals as well as online versions of festivals live streamed for audiences worldwide. Guided by research, the new platform is also aimed at festival organisers, curators, artists and arts managers to find jobs, assemble resources and seek information. The last two years of the pandemic saw several independent and emerging festivals from the creative industries take a major hit by losing more than 50 per cent of their income. The platform is launching at a time when the arts and festival sector is reopening for physical events around the world.
The launch of the platform was also accompanied by a report on the business of arts festivals within a larger framework of cultural economies. "In India, there's such limited work happening on cultural economics. There's little understanding of the sector. So while let's say there are 85 books on the history of Indian art, you will find practically nothing on the history of the Indian art market. And that's where the big gap lies. We have also got a section on the needs of the festival sector," says Rashmi Dhanwani, partner at ArtBrahma, and founder and CEO at Art X Company, citing impact analysis studies of festivals like JLF, Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa and the Durga Puja in West Bengal in the way they fire up the tourism industry of the respective states.
The platform will provide festival professionals with reading resources including industry research, news and opportunities. Festivals From India will also host a series of events, workshops, and speed networking sessions with the UK and beyond under their 'Festival Connections' banner. The portal will also host free online business skilling courses. "We've mapped about 800-900 festivals, of which we've got 161 already listed on the site. It'll take another six weeks to upload the rest," says Dhanwani.