Secretary of State visits India to strengthen cultural ties

Also pays homage to WWI veterans at a commemoration event

Rupanjana Dutta Tuesday 14th October 2014 06:53 EDT

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport visited India to promote business and tourism from 13-15 October 2014.

On Monday he addressed an audience made up of cultural entrepreneurs, media and arts people at the 'Culture is GREAT' reception.

On this trip he was accompanied by departmental heads of the British Library, various museums and galleries, who attended a roundtable as part of Mr Javid's official visit to Kolkata. 15 directors of leading museums in India also participated in this.

In a statement given to Asian Voice, Culture Secretary Mr Javid said, “Britain has a huge amount to offer as an exciting, cutting-edge place to visit, to work and to study. In 2014, British culture has been all about hi-tech innovation and creativity and our door is very much open to all those Indians who want to come and experience that for themselves.” With regard to tourism, Mr Javid went on to say that Britain would like to invite Indians to visit as tourists. In 2013, visits to Britain from India and the amount that was spent on them both reached record levels - 375,000 visits (more than 11% in 2012)- and these tourists spent £441 million (more than 32% in 2012) and average spend per visit being £1,174.

Through this business envoy, the government aims to build on this success, as figures show that 55,000 Indians have already visited Britain between January and March, compared to 41,000 visits for the same period in 2013; an uplift of 34%.

The Government’s tourism agency predicts that by 2016, Britain will be welcoming some 425,000 visits from India and later on this year VisitBritain will be launching a countryside campaign, an element that resonates strongly in the Indian market.

On Tuesday morning Mr Javid attended a commemoration service for the martyrs of the WWI and laid a wreath at the 'Cross of Sacrifice' in Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Bhowanipore, Kolkata. The Bhowanipore war cemetery in Kolkata contains 617 Commonwealth war graves of the Second World War and 95 war graves of the First World War.

Expressing his gratitude to the Indian army and Commonwealth War Graves Commission for organising the event, the Secretary of State reportedly said, "Whenever we speak of First World War, we should speak of one and a half million men of the Indian army who travelled thousands of miles to bravely fight for a country that was not their own. Thousands of them did not return home. The sacrifice of the Indian army deserves to be properly honoured and the British government is determined to make sure that it happens."

He added that a plaque bearing the names of those Indian soldiers who were awarded Victoria Cross will be unveiled soon.

The Secretary of State, also attended Goalz in Kolkata, a version of the Premier League’s successful Kicks programme that runs in the UK, encouraging young people in deprived communities to take part in football as well as providing them routes into employment and skills.

In the evening he attended a performance by Folk Nations at the Kamani theatre, in New Delhi. The organisation highlights folk culture from the UK and India- the project brings together musicians, artists, and the wider creative community to share ideas and explore new work. A concept that began in 2012, Folk Nations has now worked with over 60 artists from England, Scotland, Wales, and India in showcase performances, artist residencies, networking opportunities and outreach workshops. It continues to grow and embrace new and contemporary music with a folk core.

British Council and ACE jointly announced a new £1.5million lottery fund to build creative connections between the people of England and India. Re-Imagine India will provide English artists and art organisations with opportunities to develop collaborations and cultural exchanges with their Indian counterparts.

Museums Roundtable

The Secretary of State attended the Museums Roundtable at the National Library in Kolkata discussing the Societal attitudes towards museums and culture, attitudes to innovation through digital strategies, R&D and modernisation, opportunities for funding, partnership and sponsorship and International collaborations, attitudes and challenges.

Here, the British Council has been working with museums in India and the UK, facilitating training in everything from audience mapping, educational programming and communication to public engagement and collections management. To further develop new and sustainable connections between UK and Indian museums, the Council embarked on a research project that would inform and enrich museum thinking, policy and practice in both countries. The research is an opportunity to explore UK-India opportunities and partnerships looking at the best practices in collections, policies, strategies, HR, education programming, audience profiling etc. in the museums and galleries of the UK and India. The research was presented at the Roundtable and digital versions was shared and made accessible.

In 2010, the British Library along with a number of other UK institutions, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a group of Indian national cultural institutions, to cement what was already a strong set of partnerships in South Asia that had been developed over many years. Collaboration with these organisations remains at the heart of the partnership with India; they include the National Museum, National Archives and National Library of India, the Central Secretariat Library, the Archaeological Survey of India, and the National Gallery of Modern Art.

The combined collections stemming from the India office and the British Museum offer the largest single resource for the study of South Asia outside the subcontinent itself. Of particular significance for researchers of South Asia are the collections of the former libraries of the East India Company and its successor, the India Office, and the holdings of the British Museum’s Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books.

The British Library has worked to build strong partnerships with Higher Education institutions, including Jadavpur University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, and other cultural institutions, for example Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and Bhau Daji Lad Museum, in Mumbai. The British Library seeks to enable the widest possible access in India to material in British Library collections that originated in, or relates to, India.

Dr Catherine Eagleton, the Head of Asian and African Studies British Library, who accompanied Mr Javid, met with colleagues at many of the partner institutions, to update them on progress with current projects, as well as to discuss the possibilities for future collaborations across a range of areas. These included digitisation and displays, training and capacity-building, the possibility of internships and staff exchanges, and other initiatives to further strengthen these very productive partnerships.

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