British Council's Festival Connections
Through its work in the arts, British Council supports arts initiatives in the UK and India bi-laterally and seeks to encourage cross-cultural knowledge exchange and conversation. As part of the organisation's arts strategy of 2018 - 2022, one of the key focus areas that has emerged for their work in the country, is the cultural festivals sector. Festival Connections is an annual programme of expertise, knowledge, and networking between India and the UK. It is a series of thematic hub events linked to Festivals for the Future and the Festivals Academy, across British Council areas in India.
Festival Connections was initiated with an aim to fill a gap in the space of knowledge sharing and learning about the management and administration of cultural festivals in India. The brief was to create a ‘creative hub’ of sorts for the festivals and festival managers to engage in high-quality conversations, discussion, and dialogue about their festivals and operational concerns.
In 2019, the series was conceptualised as live sessions across four cities in India – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Bengaluru – that brought together presenters from each region. In March 2020, the series was one of the first cultural sessions that pivoted to digital platforms. The Art X Company's programming approach was aimed at curating sessions that offer deep insight into aspects of festival management, while being relevant to the changing scenario that the COVID-19 pandemic presented.
Festival Connections sessions each followed a strong theme relating to one aspect of cultural festivals. The sessions took varied forms, from presentations, to panel discussions, and roundtables. In the 2019 leg, topics covered included Audience Development Insights for the Arts, Diversity and Inclusion in Indian Art Festivals, Leadership and Governance, while the 2020 leg included Financial Health Management, Gig Workers and COVID-19, Fundraising for Festivals, Digital Formats and New Business Models, and Health and Safety for Future Festivals. A total of 11 sessions till date has been organised with more than 20 festivals represented, and generating a cumulative engagement of nearly 1 thousand interested audience members.