Festivals are a niche in Pakistan that a limited number of people venture into or share a passion for. Hence, being a Festivals Manager in Pakistan can be a lonely profession. So, when presented with a chance to meet like minded people, I jumped at the opportunity to join the South Asia Festivals Academy bandwagon and I wasn't disappointed.
Within the first two weeks, I realised that the British Council and Edinburgh Napier University have managed to bring together a wholesome, inspiring and thoughtful set of people who share my passion to celebrate culture, art, diversity and the beauty of our world. Each session brought with it a new set of insights and opened my eyes to so many unique festivals taking place all over the world that I was unaware of. Some of the festivals that I got to know through my cohort and the instructors and that left a lasting impact on me are:
The Jodhpur Riff/Festival led by Dhivya Kumar Bhatia, who happens to be one of our tutors during this course. The Jodhpur Riff, a not-for-profit roots music festival that takes place each year in India and has gained a massive following over the years. It celebrates music, art and culture from sunrise to midnight guided by music that changes with the time of the day. I still remember how Dhivya left us with an important lesson on how such a large-scale festival which brings together millions still maintains its humility with everyone sitting on the ground or dancing together just coming together on one platform.
The other festival is the Frog Fest hosted by the WWF. Who could have thought that somewhere in the world people are hosting entire exhibitions dedicated to the importance of frogs in our ecosystem, religions and cultures. Discussing these unique and quirky festivals helped me realise how a festival celebrate various aspects of life and that's the reason why I really want to attend a Frog Fest.
But, out of all of these perhaps the highlight of the SAFA classes has been the in class discussions with festival managers where we not only get to share our own insights but also get insights from people from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The class has really become like a support group to share any dilemma or issue with each other and have other cohort members offer their advice, solutions and unconditional support that makes you feel safe and appreciated.
Therefore, so far my journey with SAFA has been a one of a kind experience and I am always looking forward to every Monday where I can get to have a session with my cohort. I really believe that this course is the perfect way to upskill and empower festival managers and creative leaders, to advance their festival businesses and networks.