Indian dancers in traditional Rajasthani attire performing at the Belfast Mela, Northern Ireland
Rhythm and Ragas performing at the Belfast Mela ©

Belfast Mela

Connections Through Culture is a grant scheme by the British Council to support artistic collaboration and exchange between creative professionals and arts organisations in India, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

A part of British Council's Festivals for the Future programme in India, the grant scheme enables cross-cultural practice and development of new artistic work, providing opportunities to selected artists and organisations to experience arts festivals in the three regions over the longer-term.  

There are two strands to the programme:

1. India-Northern Ireland 

The programme supports artistic collaboration and exchange between creative professionals and arts organisations in Northern Ireland and India. The grants are for artists, arts organisations and festivals to enable the development of cross-cultural practice and new artistic work between the two regions.

Structure-wise, the grants are designed to provide support to successful applicants for a period of three years, where year one is for research and development, and years two and three will include production and festivals touring.

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2. India-Wales

Supported by Wales Arts International/Arts Council of Wales, the Connections Through Culture programme is designed to embed creative skills and develop capacity for artists and festivals in both India and Wales, and to develop long-lasting relationships between these regions. Celebrating the diverse cultural expression in the two regions, grantees from Wales and India benefit from the inspiration gained from exchanging ideas and sharing their cultural history.

The grant scheme builds on the success of India Wales – the joint funding programme between the British Council and Wales Arts International/Arts Council of Wales, and Wales’ involvement in the UK-India Year of Culture in 2017. 

Aims and objectives of the programme

The programme offers opportunities for:

  • mutual and equitable collaboration between India-Wales and India-Northern Ireland, with research and development grants for emerging and established artists and independent festivals or arts organisations in the partnering countries
  • sharing the rich cultural heritage of India, Wales, and Northern Ireland through innovative, new artistic works that have been co-created for touring to festivals in the three countries
  • artists, arts organisations, and festivals in both countries to benefit from the inspiration gained from exchanging ideas and sharing their cultural history through development of new arts products.

Meet the grantees 2021: India-Northern Ireland

1. Derry-Delhi Electronic Connections (Music)

Derry/Londonderry electronic music festival Celtronic partners with Indian online radio station Boxout.fm to create new music through artistic collaboration. In year one, 18 acts – ranging from a mix of ambient, house, electro and techno – from both Derry/Londonderry and India, have taken part in a two-day livestream showcasing up-and-coming music from both parts of the world. The ambition is to create a selection of new music with curated events in Derry/Londonderry and India.

2. Shiva meets Medbh (Theatre)

Arts Ekta – the cultural charity responsible for the Belfast Mela – joins forces with Rhythm and Ragas, a traditional performing arts group in Rajasthan, to develop new outdoor street theatre performances. Building on a body of work by Arts Ekta in 2010-2012 which studied Celtic and Indian traditions and the broader cultural relationship between India and Ireland, the project will explore the commonalities between Irish and Indian myths and legends drawing on common themes and traditions, involving dancers, musicians and storytellers.

3. Citadels of Sun (Music)

Musician Marty Coyle, together with Donegal's Earagail Arts Festival, will work together with the Jodhpur RIFF festival to create a new touring show. In 2019, Martin collaborated with Rajasthani and Irish musicians commissioned by Earagail Arts Festival. Phase one of this grant will build on that partnership to enable the composition of new works that will be showcased in both countries, facilitating a growing collaborative relationship between the two cultures.

4. Translations in Mumbai (Theatre)

The Lyric Theatre partners with Rage Theatre in Mumbai to explore themes of colonialism, communication, and language to work on a theatre collaboration along with online workshops.

5. Beyond Borders: Kolkata, Delhi, Belfast, Derry (Theatre)

Through the grant, theatre company Kabosh together with Creative Arts India are developing work around women’s rights and gender violence across Kolkata, Delhi, Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. By placing these issues in a global context, the R&D phase aims to develop a knowledge of each other’s creative drive, social and political context for creating work, interacting and inspiring local artists and students by exploring participatory practice and skills development for positive social change.

Meet the grantees 2020: India-Wales

1. Diffusion Festival and Chennai Photo Biennale

A collaborative project between Diffusion festival in Wales and Chennai Photo Biennale in India with five commissioned photo artists from Wales and India who will explore the theme of 'Nation State' and the surrounding socio-political intersectionality responding to the crises of our time through lens-based art interventions, installations, discussions and talks. The photo-artists are Dipanwita Saha, Palani Kumar, Tarun Bhartiya, Sebastián Bustamante and Huw Alden Davies. Aiming to build collective consciousness towards both countries’ histories and cultures, the works will be showcased at both festivals.

2. Festival of Voice and Jodhpur RIFF

Cardiff’s international arts festival Festival of Voice and Jodhpur RIFF join hands for a collaborative project led by women artists from Wales and India. The lead artists are Laura Tofarides, a stop motion animator based in Cardiff, and Mahima Dayal Mathur (professionally known as Bawari Basanti), a Hindustani classical and folk singer-songwriter from Delhi. The co-developed piece will explore themes of representation and issues directly related to artists’ lived experiences through music, spoken word, animation and language.

3. FOCUS wales and ZIRO Festival 

Ziro Festival of music partners with Wrexham’s FOCUS Wales for a music exchange programme to develop new collaborative work between Welsh and Indian artists across art forms. Through an online festival, workshops, and a residency programme focused on knowledge and skills exchange, collaboration, dialogue and showcasing, it aims to build strong cultural relationships and inclusive spaces that celebrate diversity and promote independent music.

4. Gareth Bonello and Jodhpur RIFF

Singer-songwriter and Welsh Music Prize winner Gareth Bonello will work with Jodhpur RIFF roots music festival to develop a three-region collaboration with musicians from Wales, the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, and Rajasthan. The project will develop a new piece of music through online collaboration, and a short film that will be shown at Jodhpur RIFF.

5. Theatr Iolo and Hyderabad Children’s Theatre Festival

An artist collaboration and development project with Wales-based Theatr Iolo and Hyderabad Children’s Theatre Festival that will engage Indian and Welsh theatre artists through research, mentorship, and co-development of a children’s theatre piece. The project will encourage theatre groups and individual practitioners in Hyderabad, India to create high-quality children’s theatre productions and establish a model for collaboration.