The Arts in India

Sue Wardle and Jenny Sturt

28 May 2016





Hello! I'm Jenny, one of the Arts and Creative Officers here at the Centre. Earlier this year I returned from the most amazing, overwhelming and inspiring trip to India as part of a research and development visit funded by Wales Arts International and British Council. Representing the Centre with Deputy Business Performance Manager, Sue Wardle, we met with a number of artists, venues and companies in Delhi and Mumbai while trying to take in as much information and understanding about the cultural landscape of the country as possible.




We landed in Delhi around midnight, and the first thing that struck me was the WH Smith and Costa coffee in the airport - on first glance we could have still been in Heathrow. And then we stepped outside into 35 degree heat…definitely not Heathrow!

Over the course of our visit we met so many wonderful people, passionate about theatre and their art. It quickly became clear that the arts industry in India holds a great deal of history, and that there was a desire to both preserve that legacy as well as strike out and tell relevant stories in contemporary ways. Not unlike theatre in Wales, we found programmes that included Shakespeare, Opera and popular Musical theatre alongside new writing. The contrasts, however, were striking.


The opulent and extravagant Kingdom of Dreams, for instance, showing large scale musical spectaculars in Delhi, contrasted greatly with the Hive Arts Centre in Mumbai, where plays were being staged in a small room to a handful of people, while children painted the walls, floor and themselves in the room next door. (Head over to Jenny’s second blog to find out more about the different venues we visited).

And then there was the contrast between the posh hotels and the slum cities; the fantastically polite and helpful staff, largely male staff in cafes, shops and our hotels, and the beggars (mostly women and children) in the street and in the traffic.

It sounds an odd thing to say, but I didn't really appreciate how big India is. Delhi has a population of over 16 million and Mumbai of over 20 million. The cities both felt full and busy, especially Mumbai - no space seemed to be wasted. The traffic filled every space in the road, lane markers were for decoration only! It was amazing to see cows and goats walking in the street alongside the cars and motorbikes.


All of these factors are influencing the creation of new plays and work. And it was clear that this was only one small part of the country's rich culture, the other cities and regions of India possessing their own characters and traditions of theatre.


Reflecting on a personal level, the week really opened my eyes to how art is being made in far more challenging environments than my own, and encouraged me to reflect on the important role art plays in the culture of a nation, what the benefits to arts access really are, and how, in my role at the Centre, I might best communicate its value. It also gave me opportunity to consider the vast, evolving theatre ecology, both on a global level and within Wales, and where the Centre fits in to all of this.

Lots to think about, but what I do know is that I'm beyond proud to work for the Centre and I look forward to seeing how we can continue to develop and become more international in our outlook, as well as a proud artistic asset of our nation!

Have a read of Jenny's second blog to find out more about the arts organisations visited in India.

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