Tuesday, 19 July 2016


British Council library in Hyderabad transforms into a cultural convening space

Announcement of new initiatives to promote cultural exchange between India and the UK

Hyderabad, July 19, 2016: Mr. Alan Gemmell OBE, Director, British Council India, today announced the transformation of the British Council library into a cultural convening space with its new premises. On his maiden visit to the ‘City of Pearls’ Hyderabad to launch the 2017 UK-India Year of Culture, the new Director India emphasised the need to promote cultural exchange for stronger ties and bring about a better contemporary understanding of India and the UK.

Broadening horizons

With new premises from April 2016, the British Council library will move a step further from being a repository of knowledge with books, magazines and newspapers, and aim to become an epicentre of cultural activity in the city with regular events and activities for all ages. The Library will host Film clubs, book groups, organise activities for children, workshops, book launches, arts events, performances, debates.  It will also serve as a hub for partners and visiting UK institutions.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Alan Gemmell OBE, Director, British Council India, said, “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 British Council has launched several initiatives across the country to create new linkages between the youth of the two countries. “We are enhancing our network of nine centres in India, making them vibrant, exciting focal points for our cultural relations work, and helping our Indian audiences to better engage with our full range of products and services. The transformation of the British Council library in Hyderabad will not only make it more relevant for all age groups but also serve as a platform for bring people together and appreciating art and culture”, he added.  

As part of the new outlook, members will be enjoy free Wi-Fi and new technology that will facilitate self-service for issuing and returning of books The physical collection will now be complemented by a new digital online offer that gives instant access to over 50 of the top UK magazines, streaming movies, access to over 4000 local and international newspapers, e-books and journals, new content commissioned from the UK from cultural organisations featuring articles on topics like Fashion in South Asia and Shakespeare,  as well as access to The Selector, the British Council’s weekly radio programme featuring the best of new and underground UK music.

Year of Culture

The year 2017 marks the culmination of four years of Re-Imagine: a programme in the Arts designed to build new 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 long-standing 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.

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.

Mix the Play

‘Mix the Play’, a special edition of the popular ‘Mix the City’ platform (www.mixthecity.com), which will launch later this month to promote the Shakespeare Lives, was launched by Mr. Alan Gemmell OBE, Director, British Council India. This project is being 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 will be able given a range of elements to control, including a selection or all of casting, setting, direction of the actors, background music etc. Audiences will 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.

Notes to Editor

British Council in Hyderabad
Through its various projects in English, Arts and Education, British Council connects young people with learning opportunities and creative ideas from the UK. The Library in Hyderabad caters to more than 2000 members through its physical and online library collection.

The new Opportunity UK collection will help users access content to open up new professional opportunities through English teaching and learning, enrich your professional life in the Arts, develop new understanding and partnerships related to UK Education, and engage with the Contemporary UK.  They will have access to 10,000 books, DVDs, and audiobooks, and 50 of the best UK periodicals and 4000 e-newspapers, covering our four core areas of English, Education & Society, and Arts. In addition, they can access a vast collection of online resources covering a wealth of subject areas, including 125,000 e-books and 14,000 e-journals.

The Young Learners zone will continue to provide interactive books for our young learners. In the new premises, British Council will be introduce exciting new programmes for kids in 2016, including kids’ films, workshops, and a wider range of kids’ books.

Mei-kwei Barker, Director, British Council South India said, “We are committed to working towards creating opportunities for young people to develop new skills for better employability, introduce an international dimension to their learning, and develop a mutual understanding and appreciation of India and UK cultures. We expect the British Council library in Hyderabad to play a greater role in helping its users enhance their skills as it moves beyond books.”

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 migration 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.

For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.in.

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. Our 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.