Actor Navtej Singh Johar performing in Tanashah (2018)
Navtej Singh Johar performing in Tanashah (2018) ©

Simrat Dugal

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-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.

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2. 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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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-Wales

1. Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Dream a Dream

A Thriving Future for Us is a creative collaboration between Aberystwyth Arts Centre a multi-use arts space in west Wales and Dream a Dream in Bengaluru India who work with young people to develop their skills. The project will give a platform for young people age 12 - 18 from both countries to collaborate on a digital art project focusing on creating a sustainable and thriving future.  

2. Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and Science Gallery, Bangaluru

This project will explore art and industry in India and Wales. The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea, South Wales will collaborate with organisations and individuals in India; the Science Gallery Bengaluru, a space for engaging young adults with science and the art, as well as the Museum Society of Mumbai (under the stewardship of Pheroza Godrej) and art historian Zehra Jumabhoy.

This project will explore the enmeshed industrial histories and contemporary concerns through interdisciplinary digital events.

3. Jonny Cotsen and Access For ALL

Deaf performer and creative consultant, Jonny Cotsen based in Wales and arts accessibility consultancy Access For ALL based in India will collaborate to develop a manifesto for accessible art (MAAF) where accessibility is at the apex of planning an all-inclusive arts festival celebrating artists and audiences with disabilities.

This collaborative bipartite project focuses on a digital artists’ residency for six artists with disabilities from both countries. Together they will create a toolkit about the complex issues around scouting disabled talent, provide a platform and representation of artists with disabilities, and design accessible spaces (physical and digital). 

4. Kaite O’Reilly and Navtej Singh Johar

Kaite O'Reilly a playwright, radio dramatist, writer, and dramaturg who works in disability arts and culture and mainstream culture based in Wales will collaborate with award-winning choreographer Navtej Johar based in India.

The Land is calling through the body is a sharing of practice, traditions, and processes, exploring the connections between culture, body, voice, tradition and the wounded land. Two central concepts will be the Welsh hiraeth; a deep longing and yearning for the land and the Punjabi biraha; the call of the heart in separation. 

Artists from India and Wales will explore these concepts with stimulus arising from the sharing of Punjabi Sufi poetry/song and traditional Indian instruments; the sarod and tabla, and traditional Welsh instruments; the harp and the crwth, alongside song. 

5. Professor Marc Rees and the Pickle Factory Dance Foundation

CRO | PAN is a creative collaboration between installation artist Professor Mark Rees based in Wales and the Pickle Factory, a dance venue in Kolkata India. They will work in partnership with the National Eisteddfod of Wales.

CRO | PAN is a conversation between artists in two temporary structures to reflect and comment upon our hybrid times and imagined futures: CROMEN in Wales and PANDAL in India. The CROMEN structure will be located at the Eisteddfod site in Tregaron West Wales, where Welsh artists will respond to an immersive digital journey to the Pandals of Durga Puja in India. 

The project will culminate with an installation designed by multiple artists across Wales and India that will become a pop-up venue at a park in Kolkata during the Durga Puja festival, hosting a mix of live and digital programmes involving artists and audiences in both countries. Subsequently CRO | PAN will be created as a venue for the Pickle Factory’s Season three: Take the City, hosting artists and audiences.

6. Wales Arts Review and Meta Arts  

Intercut labs is a 10-month research initiative between Wales Arts Review, an arts review website and Meta Arts in India, a cultural organisation who specialise in international work. The project will pair six artists from Wales and India, who will collaborate through three virtual culture labs and create an inter-disciplinary arts production for young people to tour key arts festivals and venues in both countries. 

The labs are presented with Indian project partners Kaivalya Plays, Delhi (theatre) Littlei, Kolkata (music) and Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation, Leh (Literature).

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 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.