What is ReImagine Arts?

Debesh Banerjee
Jan 28, 2016 · 5 min read

ReImagine is a five-year arts and culture initiative in India (2013–18) to build new creative connections between the people, and cultural institutions, of UK & India.

It is underpinned by an ongoing dialogue-cum-research project carried out by the British Council in India, attempting to explore the shape of the relationship between the UK and India in the 21st Century.

A number of key themes have emerged from the research:

1. The importance of the relationship being an equal partnership: this is as much about barriers of culture and attitude as infrastructure and resource. In India, the UK can be perceived as having “a ‘big brother’ attitude to collaboration”. Many Indians retain “a feeling of being patronised or expected to be submissive”. Stereotypes persist, on both sides.

2. The cultural relationship needs investment, of time and effort as well as money. “Cultural relations between India and UK are… certainly better than average but there is a lot more to be done. If this is a marriage, the couple needs to spend more time together”. A “deeper, more sustained interaction is needed to ensure connections are continued and result in a more purposeful collaboration”.

3. Opportunity to expand our work with grassroots creativity and making it more participatory. “Exchange programmes tend to favour established artists”… and “going beyond the metropolises is essential to reach to our talented people across strata of society”. “Opportunity beckons in India’s second and third tier cities” — but also, “the same is true of London and its dominance of the UK… Indian visitors should know there is a whole country out there!”

4. Digital technologies could transform the cultural relationship. “Mobile and other [digital] technologies will revolutionise entrepreneurship, skills and practice in the creative sector”. This looks at exploring emerging forms of digital practice in areas such as the Internet of Things, Makers Community, Open-Source digital practices, digital publishing, among others.

5. Mechanisms to enable collaboration with reciprocity at the core need to be strengthened. “A deeper, more frequent and more sustained interaction between artists in India and the UK is needed to ensure connections are made, continued and result in purposeful exchange.”

As a response to the key themes, project ReImagine works through five programme strands:

  1. Showcasing: enhanced and more frequent showcasing across all the art forms — including music, dance, theatre, film, literature, design and the visual arts — to bring the best of the UK arts to new audiences in India in partnership with cultural institutions and corporates in India. Showcasing will combine the large-scale and high-profile, along with the more experimental, artistically ambitious. Highlighting strengths and potential of growing cultures, digital making, and factoring in emergent open source internet technologies.
  2. Creative Collaborations: new work developed in collaboration between artistes and institutions of both countries, with a strong focus on the Creative Industries.
  3. Skills: developing cultural skills that give opportunities to young practitioners in both countries to work and learn in the creative industries for mutual economic and cultural benefit.
  4. Arts Education: developing the creative curriculum in educational institutions for global citizenship and trust

5. Research and Insight: on-going research to make Re-Imagine evidence-based; and to help identify and develop opportunities for the UK cultural sector through sharing insight, and by market testing and creating.

Meeting ReImagine goals

Drawing from the key research areas of the ReImagine strategy, the most significant aspect is Digital Showcasing. The British Council Arts team is very keen on learning and exploring new areas of research and technologies that foster arts & culture practices through digital solutions.

To that end the Arts team at British Council, India, is keen to develop associations with artists & organisations from UK-India who are working closely in the digital arts space to build upon sustainable models or projects that align with the five strands of the ReImagine strategy (Creative Collaborations, Showcasing, Skills, Arts Education, Research & Insight; and Creative Practice).

2017 is going to be the final showcase year for the UK-India Year of ReImagine. And as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of Partition, we would like to mark this occasion with at least two projects that can be experienced only virtually.

Lessons from the Caravan:

There was a palpable level of excitement and curiosity when Quicksand approached us with the idea of partnering for the Caravan.

We knew we were embarking on a journey of discovery, “connecting communities”, and uncertainty. And we were pleasantly surprised to see how the open floor spaces within NID campus were “taken over” and transformed into an organic platform for fostering ideas, understanding cultures, making and giving shape to those ideas.

The Caravan has been an enriching and enlightening experience for us as we witnessed how technology, communities and user interaction went hand-in-hand. These are exactly the kind of conversations that we want to support and develop in the coming months.

Having attended the Caravan, the British Council arts team in India is confident of working with some participants with a stronger resolve towards meeting the 2017 ReImagine goals of cultural exchange and digital communities.

We are keen on looking at the possibility of offering a grant later this year that offers participants a chance to develop projects for the digital showcasing element of ReImagine 2017.

This Caravan is just the start and we are hoping to continue these conversations with participants and other partners in upcoming events and digital meets through the year, such as the V & A Digital Weekend in September 2016; Mozfest in September 2016.

2017 as the Year of ReImagine in India for British Council Arts:

India-UK 2017 will feature a curated programme that gives audiences in India and the UK access to inspirational, engaging and diverse art, music, theatre, design, performing arts and more.

A programme of high-profile cultural activity (live and digital content), from 1 January to 31 December 2017, would be an exciting way for the UK and India to invest in the creative sectors, strengthen cultural ties and drive forward collaboration between both countries.

This initiative would lead to new inter-disciplinary collaborations between UK and Indian artists and producers, leading to strengthened cultural partnerships.

It would enable the UK to invest in cultural skills development in India through exposure and investment in cultural capital and content. Ultimately, we would like to celebrate the strength of the relationship between India and the UK, building a sustainable platform for future relations.

We would like the year to generate new digital content and utilise communication to allow a large number of people to access and participate in the programme and create their own connections.


The UnBox Caravan

UnBox LABS: CARAVAN invites participants across disciplines of creative technology, design, art, urban planning to come together to kick-start conversations and projects. This edition of the lab took place in Ahmedabad in Feb 2016.

Debesh Banerjee

Written by

The UnBox Caravan

UnBox LABS: CARAVAN invites participants across disciplines of creative technology, design, art, urban planning to come together to kick-start conversations and projects. This edition of the lab took place in Ahmedabad in Feb 2016.

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