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Since 1st March, 1999
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Thames tide on the Hooghly Din Shuru set to float on the Thames
- Chandernagore lights, shola and zari head for London river fest

Giant illuminated panels from Chandernagore floating down the Thames. Shola and zari costumes on Blackfriars Bridge. The Mayor’s Thames Festival on the Hooghly.

Calcutta and London will come together for a riverside cultural extravaganza, ‘Din Shuru, an Indian Carnival’, part of London’s waterfront fest in December 2003. This is the first time one of London’s most prestigious festivals will test the waters along the local riverfront, bringing a touch of the carnival to Calcutta.

Over 200 schoolchildren, dancers and artistes of various disciplines will participate in the night procession by the Hooghly, being put together by Kinetika, a “key artiste” of the Thames fest.

Bengal will travel to London too, where the same costumes of shola and zari will be worn by local performers. They will dance to music mixed with dhak, dhol and soca chutney (Caribbean music influenced by immigrants from UP and Bihar).

“The birthplace of the carnival is Calcutta,” explains Alison Pretty, artistic director of Kinetika.

Trinidad, where carnivals originate, has a huge population — 48 per cent — of Indian descent. Indians were transported, via Calcutta, to the West Indian island, influencing the art, music and culture of the people. “The wire-work of Carnival headgear is typical of Calcutta, not Trinidad,” explains Pretty, who has worked on the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics. Durga puja and Kumartuli have inspired many of the elements to be included, she adds at the British Council on Tuesday.

One dance school is likely to be chosen to perform in the procession and schoolchildren will be encouraged to participate. Kalyan Banerjee, who is making a film on the artistic aspects of Durga puja, will coordinate the Calcutta end. He will also travel to London to document Din Shuru.

But that is just the finale. First, art forms from Calcutta will be presented in London through workshops. Sridhar Das of Chandernagore is creating the lights for the giant float. “We may animate it with music, too,” says Adrian Evans, festival director.

One of the trustees of the Mayor’s Thames Festival, George Nicholson, has been working with the CMDA for waterfront beautification. “He had been encouraging us for a while to set up links with this city,” adds Evans, who met urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya on Tuesday morning. “He was very enthusiastic. This project will not only create further links between the two cities, but will also imbibe a sense of pride in residents towards the city.”

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