The UK India Year of Culture follows the joint announcement in 2015 by Prime Minister Modi and then-Prime Minister David Cameron of a bilateral initiative to mark cultural ties between the UK and India; as well as Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India in November 2016, which further strengthened the relationship between the two countries.
The launch took place on 28th February 2017 at the British Film Institute (BFI) where, as a highlight of the India programme in the UK, a classic Indian silent film, Shiraz, will premiere at the Archive Gala of the 61st BFI London Film Festival in October. Shiraz tells the love story of the 17th century princess who inspired the construction of the Taj Mahal. Later in the year the film which has been preserved by the BFI National Film Archive and not seen in India since 1928, will be screened on an outdoor stage in front of the Taj Mahal itself. Both screenings will be accompanied by a live performance of a specially commissioned score by the Indian composer and sitar player Anoushka Shankar. Subsequently Shiraz will screen at festivals and cinemas across India as a powerful symbol of the partnership between India and the UK.
Preceding this event, the 2017 Year of Culture was officially launched by Hon’ble Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace on 27 February. British Council was invited to project an image onto the façade of Buckingham Palace. The peacock, both regal and dramatic, is the perfect metaphor for a year of incredible cultural events connecting UK and India. This was specially created by Carrom, a design company with roots both in India and the UK. The peacock, India’s national bird, offers an iconic motif which on a larger level arguably stands for both India and the performances the Year of Culture will host in both the countries. It encompasses different people and traditions that make India such a diverse and unique country. The peacock’s plumage display is reminiscent of the Indian fireworks, a symbol of celebration and festivities.
The Year of Culture will include programmes celebrating India’s heritage and contemporary culture through events held across both the countries. A slew of new digital initiatives, aimed specifically at engaging young people in both countries and focusing on collaboration and interactivity, are being launched to mark the year. These will include ‘Mix the City’, an interactive digital platform, designed by the British Council that will showcase the diversity of sound, music and cultural influences of 4 Indian cities. It will feature 12 Indian musicians and four UK curators (music producers Boxed In, Django Django, Anna Meredith and Kutiman). The app celebrates British digital innovation, a joint love of music and provides an interactive digital environment where the user feels empowered to create her/his own music track.
Alan Gemmell Director British Council, India said, “I am delighted to announce the launch of the ‘2017 UK-India Year of Culture’. The great partnership between India and the UK goes beyond economic partnerships. With a rich cultural heritage and some of the most iconic cultural exports to the world, both the nations have a reason to celebrate this cultural pairing and reiterate their positions as the cultural epicentres of the world. The new initiatives will further strengthen our ties and deepen our understanding of the past as well as help us appreciate the contemporary faces of both UK and India.”
He further added, “It isn’t every day that you have the opportunity to project an image onto the façade of Buckingham Palace. The peacock, both regal and dramatic, is the perfect metaphor for a year of incredible cultural events connecting UK and India. By using traditional motifs in a cool and contemporary way, Carrom have come up with a stunning image for one of the world’s most iconic facades. We hope it will delight Londoners and make them curious to find out more.”
Studio Carrom: “We wanted to ensure people knew this was about India, but which would also surprise and intrigue people, encouraging them to follow the UK/India Year of Culture. It needed to be cool and contemporary as well as referencing India’s rich cultural heritage. We were drawn to the idea of performance and dance as it encompasses different people and traditions that make India such a diverse and unique country.”