Please share your background with us.
Currently, I am Director of Arts, India at the British Council in New Delhi. My profile includes managing the arts operations covering all the performing arts – dance, theatre, music – literature, visual arts exhibitions. It also includes the creative industries such as architecture, design, fashion as well as arts education – increasing and encouraging creativity in schools.
What is the purpose of the British Council in India?
British Council works in 100 countries and the Arts teams of the British Council in these countries create links between artists, both established and emerging of the UK and the country they work in. In our case, we encourage collaborations between UK and Indian artists and arts organisations. To share what is contemporary in the arts scene, to learn from best practices, to create and showcase new work together, to develop each others’ skills and capacities, and strengthen relations between our two countries through arts and culture.
Arts and Culture is the glue that really brings people together more than any other activity can.
Tell us about the BBC Scottish Symphony 2014 tour.
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra came to India in March-April 2014. They visited Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai with the support of the British Council.We advised them on their tour and partners, and helped facilitate their operations on the ground. It was a fabulous tour with the 55 member orchestra along with Nicola Benedetti, the world renowned British violinist. Over 10,000 people attended the shows. They also ran special workshops for children and young musicians in all these cities.
How do you manage with the pressure of delivering every project successfully?
I think being an artist myself helps. I am a theatre maker. Having directed large productions involving several departments, having been an actor myself on stage, dealing with last minute casualties and improvising, I think that has certainly helped me stay calm and focused. When the goal is to present the best art, whether it is to a live audience or a digital one, it requires patience and endurance. To bring several players, stakeholders, partners and sponsors together who may all have differing sensibilities and requirements requires people management skills, and hard work by everyone involved.
Why is Western classical music important for India?
India has its own rich tradition of its classical music. It now has a rich tradition of contemporary music which includes Bollywood and Electronic Dance Music. I think Western classical music is something that opens ups people’s minds. It influences our own compositions. Music is a language that transcends people, race, colour, gender, language. In urban pockets, there are several takers for Western classical music. Though not as popular as Bollywood, pop or jazz, I think there is a significant market for it. Not much is being done except by some musicians and schools in the metropolitan cities. A lot more could be done.
With the growth of the digital era in India, channels like yours can promote education and connect individuals in remote parts of the country who may not have access to live orchestral music. Young musicians like yourself who have trained and studied abroad and have brought in new networks and links need to keep those alive.
What can we hope from the British Council in future? Will there be other orchestras coming down?
The British Council has ramped up its work in all art forms including music. Over the next few years we will see a lot of collaborative work being produced by UK musicians working with Indian musicians. In the recent past we focused on the folk genre. Our flagship program called “Folk Nations” which facilitated folk artists from both countries collaborating and producing new work following their residencies was hugely popular and created a rich legacy.
We are now looking at electronic music, big scale orchestras, perhaps even opera. There have been funding opportunities for arts organisations in the UK such as those by the Arts Council of England. I believe some of the successful applications will result in orchestras coming to India to collaborate with Indian artists. Opera North in Leeds came down recently to work with Indian classical musicians to reinterpret and reimagine Shakespeare’s Sonnets through Indian traditional music compositions.
There is a lot in store. Very eclectic. Very exciting.
How do we stay up to date regarding the British Council Events?
There is a British Council India website. Everyone is welcome to subscribe to that. We are also active on our social media links –