British Council announces 2017 Year of Culture, Patna

Monday, 8 August 2016


Patna: Alan Gemmell OBE, Director, British Council India announced a series of interesting new projects that the organisation will be working on in the next couple of years.Speaking on his ambitions for the Council in East India, the new Country Director launched the „2017 UK-India Year of Culture‟ campaign in Patna today. He emphasised the need to promotecultural exchange and to create educational opportunities for stronger ties between India and the UK. Speaking at the event, Alan Gemmell OBE, Director, British Council India, said, “I am thrilled to be in East India and learn about the brilliant educational and cultural ties that exist between the East India and UK. Also, the great work we do here and the opportunities for our work in the East and North East.”

He spoke about the British Film Institute‟s (BFI) Shakespeare on Film touring collection. The project is a collaboration between the British Council and the BFI and it celebrates Shakespeare on film, with films dating from 1899 right up to the present day. One of the films from the collection, All Night Long directed by Basil Dearden, will be shown at IIT Patna on 15 September. Patna is also set to host the famous trio of Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, an experimental group that includes Scottish singer-songwriter James Yorkston, sarangi player and vocalist Suhail YusufKhan and jazz double bass player Jon Thorne. The show will be presented in November 2016 in Patna in association with local arts organisation Artshila.

Alan Gemmell also announced the British Council will present five bands from the UK to perform at the NH7 Weekender festivals this year, as part of an exciting collaboration with Only Much Louder who organise this popular festival every year. The five bands participating in this collaborative project are: Natty and Wild Palms in Shillong (21-23 October); Dinosaur Pile Up in Hyderabad (4-5 November); Eagulls and one more band to be confirmed shortly in Pune (2-4 December). In addition, Django Django, a British art rock band, will also perform at the NH7 Festival in Hyderabad (4-5 November 2016). The British Council will also take these bands to other cities across India after their gigs at NH7. These bands are part of Selector Live. Selector is British Council‟s award-winning radio show that covers all styles of music from indie, dubstep, folk, soul, electro and everything in between.The show features interviews, mixes and exclusive live sessions from some of the most exciting British artists and is broadcast in over 40 countries.

Each week it brings to audiences the brilliance and diversity of British music, promoting the sounds, talents and musical culture of modern Britain to an international audience. Selector is available online on Sound Cloud – anytime, anywhere. We plan to bring Selector to Indian radio channels in the near future Alan Gemmell also announced that the British Council would work with local arts organisations and educational institutions in Patna and beyond to bring innovative digital projects on Shakespeare like Mix The Play to schools in the city. He added, “India and the UK have years of shared history and 2017 UK-India Year of Culture seeks to promote this spirit of cultural partnership. Our future generations must understand and appreciate our past and the path that we have travelled together to reach where we stand today.”

The UK-India Year of Culture was announced during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to London in November 2015. The aim of this campaign is to highlight the vibrant cultural history of the two countries and celebrate the best „cultural exports‟ together. The year 2017 marks the culmination of four years of Re-Imagine: a programme in the Arts designed to build creative connections in new ways between the people and institutions of the UK and India. It offers a chance to celebrate the achievements of the world‟s largest democracy, and consider how the future relationship between the UK and India might help both to address the challenges of the 21st century.

The purpose of UK-India 2017 Year of Culture is to increase the appreciation of contemporary UK in India, and vice versa, in order to give greater focus, depth and relevance to the longstanding relationship between the two countries. This will be done through events and projects, both face-to-face and digital in 2017, with a wider aim to reach out to newer audiences, not restricted to the metropolitan cities alone. UK-India 2017 will seek to challenge outdated perceptions of the UK with an inspiring programme that demonstrates the quality of contemporary British arts and culture.

Reflecting on the successful Bihar Language Initiative for Secondary Schools (BLISS) run by the British Council in partnership with the Government of UK‟s Department for International Development (DfID) and the Bihar Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad, which is now in its last phase, he said: “I am grateful to our partners for their support in this wonderful project. I hope we continue to support the Bihar government in the development of its education, the quality of its teaching and ultimately raise the level of English proficiency among teachers and learners in the state.”

For more information please contact:

Shonali Ganguli, Head Communications East India at or M: +91 (0) 98365 69944

Notes to Editor

New Director India at British Council

Prior to being appointed Director India at the British Council, Alan has served as the Director Israel where he ran a £10m stem cell research fund working with world-leading medical research foundations like the British Heart Foundation and Parkinson‟s UK. He launched the UK‟s first multi-lateral research fund in the Middle East, a platform for Israeli, Palestinian and British scientists to work together to tackle critical water challenges in the region, and a PhD programme for Palestinian scientists to study at Israeli universities - supporting a new generation of scientists to work together across borders.

In 2015, Alan commissioned mix the city an interactive digital art work with the BBC and Arts Council of England featuring Israeli YouTube artist Kutiman and British digital agency Flying Object. Over 500,000 users in 190 countries have taken part. Partnering with the United Nations and the British Film Institute, Alan created fiveFilms4freedom, the world‟s first global, online LGBT Film Festival. In 2016 fiveFilms4freedom became the world‟s biggest online LGBT Film Festival with 1.5m film views and a total social media reach of 140m people. In 2016 fiveFilms4freedom published a Global List of 33 inspiring people from around the world promoting freedom and equality. The 2016 List included Indian film-maker Sridhar Rangayan and actor and director Manish Gandhi. Alan has also worked in Mexico and Brazil. He joined the British Council in 2008 to head its Government Relations. Alan spent five years in the centre of the UK Government working on: 1. counter-terrorism and the crisis response to domestic and international terror plots; 2. developing the economic migration strands of the UK‟s points-based  igration system; and 3. as Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office Sir John Gieve. Before joining the civil service Alan established the Scottish Youth Parliament. He studied law at Glasgow University and piano and trombone at the Junior School of the Royal Scottish

Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Scottish Conservatoire). Alan was appointed OBE in the 2016 New Year Honours List for services to arts and science.From May 2016 he will take up his appointment as Director of the British Council in India.

Mix the Play

"Mix the Play‟, a special edition of the popular „Mix the City‟ platform (, was launched. This project is commissioned with The Old Vic theatre, London. Where Mix the City placed visitors in the role of a DJ working with Kutiman‟s music recordings, Mix the Play will offer digital audiences the chance to play director of one of Shakespeare‟s most loved plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Visitors to the Mix the Play website will be invited to make a short film from a scene in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The duration of a scene will be under 3 minutes. Using pre-recorded film samples and effects, locations, costume options, visitors are given a range of elements to control, including a selection or all of casting, setting, direction of the actors, background music etc. Audiences need to consider meaning, symbolism, tone, and storytelling, and will learn through trying and doing. The objective of Mix the Play is to engage audiences with Shakespeare and educate them about theatre direction in a fun way. In October, we will launch an Indian commission of Mix the Play with a different Shakespeare play.

 For more information Visit

Shakespeare on Film

The British Film Institute‟s (BFI) Shakespeare on Film touring collection is a collaboration between the British Council and the BFI and it celebrates Shakespeare on film, with films dating from 1899 right up to the present day. You can find the screening schedule for India here.

Bihar Language Initiative in Secondary Schools

The British Council, in association with UK Department of International Development (DfID) and the Bihar Department of Education, has been successfully running the Bihar Language Initiative for Secondary Schools (BLISS) since January 2012. The project was co-funded by DFID and the British Council and will come to an end in March 2017. The BLISS vision is to create a coherent, high-quality and sustainable model for English teacher development at secondary level in Bihar which will improve the quality of instruction and ultimately raise the level of English  roficiency among both teachers and learners in the state.The effort is to ensure that English language teachers and teacher educators will have the necessary language and practical teaching skills to achieve the NCF (2005) and BCF (2008) goals, working within a supportive and systemised professional development framework.

More than 200 Teachers Educators have been selected and gone through a foundation programme focusing on their own language skills, interactive and communicative teaching methodologies, and a trainer training programmer. They are in the process of delivering a newly designed teacher training programme (English for All in Bihar) to 3,200 secondary school English teachers across the state. A range of continuing professional development activities have also been developed to support teacher education, including the co-creation of teacher development films and networking opportunities for Teacher Educators and administrators.

About the British Council

The British Council is recognised across India for its network of 9 libraries and cultural centres.We offer a range of specialised projects in arts, education, exams, English language and society to audiences across India and more than 100,000 members. We also provide access to English language training and learning for both students and teachers, offer UK qualifications in India and enable opportunities to study in the UK. We also manage prestigious scholarships and training awards, including the Jubilee scholarships, the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan and the Charles Wallace India Trust awards. O ur English language centres in Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata provide a range of general and business English classes, specialised skills based programmes and young learner courses. We work with a wide range of Indian partners in cities all over India enabling British and Indian experts to meet and collaborate and to nurture mutually beneficial relationships.