The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It’s all fun ’n’ Thames
- 10-day UK cultural carnival, business bonanza

The Thames will meet the Hooghly a few days from now. The British deputy high commission is organising a 10-day cultural and business event, with a moniker that explains everything (United Kingdom and Calcutta), from December 12 to showcase contemporary Britain.

The centrepiece will be a full-blown carnival march — on the lines of the one that occurred at the Thames Festival in September this year. It will parade down Chowringhee (from Rani Rashmoni Avenue junction, site of more forgettable political programmes, to Victoria Memorial) on December 14.

“Much of our programme has been inspired by the hugely successful Thames Festival,” British deputy high commissioner Andrew Hall said on Thursday. “The massive contribution by the artists and craftsmen of Bengal was one of the major highlights of that festival and we intend to return the favour,” he added.

The December 14 extravaganza will see more than 1.000 performers in spectacular costumes march to the beats of the musical masala to be whipped up by a combination of Soca, Tassa and Chutney sounds, mixed with the rhythm of the dhak and the dhol.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will inaugurate the 10-day event at Millennium Park, at which British high commissioner in India Michael Arthur will also be present.

But the attention is likely to be on the carnival, named ‘Kolkata Karnival’, that will be produced by Ali Pretty from Kinetika (a UK-based carnival company), and choreographed by Tanushree Shankar. A number of city schools, including Apeejay, BD Memorial, Lakshmipat Singhania, Vivekananda Mission, MP Birla Foundation, Future Hope, St Augustine’s and Kolkata Rescue, are also taking part.

According to Pretty, who had worked in India with stage personality Habib Tanveer more than a decade back, all carnivals tell a tale; the carnival in Calcutta will tell the story of the origin and development of the carnival itself.

But it is by no means the only event to look forward to. Apart from an open-air quiz on December 13 at Millennium Park, there will be a photography exhibition by British lensman Alan Hayward and a film festival focusing on the diversity of modern cinema in the UK. British dancer Akram Khan will stage a performance and hold a workshop with dancers from Calcutta.

“We are planning a grand finale at Millennium Park where, besides a performance by the Birmingham Youth Orchestra, Tanushree (Shankar) and Ali (Pretty) will be having something up their sleeves. And, with fireworks to round it off, we are determined to give this year’s winter a rousing welcome,” Hall said.

There’s something serious as well: two workshops — on environment and water and another on investment in the UK — are being planned and a day-long conference is being organised to place the Hooghly in Calcutta’s development and life; the London Rivers Association will also formally submit its report on developing the Strand Road heritage zone. The 10-day event is being supported by the state government, British Council, HSBC, Hindustan Lever and Park Hotel.

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