Bengal Heritage Foundation in association with London Sharad Utsav and British Council organised their second year of “Fagun Fest” with an objective of bringing the soul of Bengal to the heart of London. On Saturday, 22ndFebruary, Bengalis from India and Bangladesh settled in the UK gathered at The Bhavans, London to celebrate the magnificence of “Poush-Falgun” which brought burst of freshness amidst the current London weather. Different forms of Baul folk music, Pithey Utsav and Kantha embroidered items brought the “dui-bangla” together in London, supporting the “living bridge” project of British Council.
"It gives us immense pleasure to present the second edition of the Fagun Fest that brings the Poushmela, one of the most colourful festivals of Bengal to the heart of London. This festival will provide a rare insight into the creativity, artistic innovation and cultural celebration of both the Bengal’s traditions including music, handicrafts and a variety of cuisine. The British Council and the Government of West Bengal are working together to showcase the range of community-led cultural innovations from India to the UK audience, and we hope that the coming together of the Indian and Bengali diaspora at the Fagun Fest will lead to a cultural collaboration of the arts, crafts and cultural sectors of the two counties, now and in the future." said Debanjan Chakrabarti, Director East and Northeast India, British Council.
The focal point of the evening was soulful folk performances by eminent Baul and Bengali folk artists from Bangla Natok who travelled all the way from Bengal. The artists Arpan Thakur Chakraborty, Kangal Khyapa, Pranes Som amused the audience with their folk songs and melody streaming through indigenous instruments like dotara and ektara. “London is a like a dreamland for me and beautiful arrangements were made by BHF members in spite of their busy schedule. I feel overwhelmed to see how people here are putting all efforts to preserve and promote Bengali culture in a global platform and to their next gen. I have been in many places, but the love I have received from BHF and London audience is amazing. I now look forward to the Fagun Fest performance in Wales and Dublin”, said Pranes Som.
Supporting the artists from Bengal were also melodious performances by prominent UK artists of India and Bangladesh origin who staged together, a day after “Bhasha Dibos – 21stFebruary” and celebrated folk music at a global platform through Bengali language. The UK artists were Tanusree Guha, Gouri Choudhury, Amith Dey and Arunava Bardhan. “After last year’s performance when I was returning back, I felt like I was leaving behind a family. It amazes me how BHF has now become a global family for me and I am happy to support their initiative towards promotion of Bengali culture in a diversified platform. Thanks to Bangla Natok, British Council for supporting this cause. More such initiatives should happen so that Baul musicians, Handicraft artisans get more exposure, opportunities and global recognition” said Arpan Thakur Chakraborty, after a fantastic musical performance.
Another key attraction of the evening was “Pithey Utsav”. There were various forms of Pitheys (similar to pancakes) and Bengali sweets like Patishapta, Nokshi Pithey, Gokul Pithey, Dudh Puli, Malpoa,Gurer Sandesh,Baked Rosogolla prepared by members of Bengal Heritage Foundation and other baking enthusiasts from London. “For me this is a splendid experience to be part of the organizing committee of the Pithey Utsav. We have been planning this for weeks. I can never imagine being able to enjoy so many wonderful varieties of pitheys and Bengali sweets, while in London. This year, we also conducted a Masterchef in Mishti to encourage baking enthusiasts. There were 2 winners who bagged gift vouchers from Darjeeling Express and Posto, very popular Indian restaurants in London” said Eliza Acharya, new member of Bengal Heritage Foundation and part of the Pithey Utsav Organizing Committee of Fagun Fest. There were delectable food by Posto – Indian Bengali restaurant in London.
However, the female crowd was mainly seen to be around the Kantha stall put up by Kantha artist Afroja Khatun from Nanoor who has been into this art for 25 years and has been doing exhibitions in different cities in India. The various items which were on sale and display were Kantha Stitch Sarees, Dupattas, Stoles, Sujni kantha,Shwals, Punjabis and different other accessories.
Tania Ray, member of BHF and Senior HR Executive from Cognizant said,“This form of art is any woman’s weakness however Afroja’s collections made the men crowd at the stall too. She had fantastic collections of Kantha stitched Punjabis, stoles and shawls apart from the obvious Kantha stitched sarees. There was a huge footfall at the stall and at one point me and Debasri Sengupta, another BHF member had to really struggle to manage the crowd while Afroja was displaying her artistic creations.”
“There are so many commonalities between ‘Dui Bangla’ – starting from food, music, fashions, literature. If we start focusing on the beauty of the commons shared by the Bengalis of India and Bangladesh, then we can spread more positivity especially for the Bengali children from both the countries growing up in the UK and that is what BHF aims for through initiates like Fagun Fest,” said Sourav Niyogi, President of Bengal Heritage Foundation who was seen felicitating Abdul Gaffar Choudhury for his outstanding contributions to Bengali Heritage, commemorating his contribution to the immortal lyrics “Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano”.
Other prestigious figures who were felicitated were Biman Mullick,a Philatelist and stamp designer of international repute made the designs of stamps for Bangladesh and British stamp commemorating Mahatma Gandhiand Mrinal Choudhury, first Bengali Mayor of the London Borough of Harrow.