By Rebecca Gould, Head of Arts, British Council Wales

05 January 2021 - 17:00

Richard Davies, Esha Banaerjee and Maria Zygogianni at a meeting between Parthian and Bee Books during a Wales at the London Book Fair event.
Richard Davies, Esha Banaerjee and Maria Zygogianni at a meeting between Parthian and Bee Books during a Wales at the London Book Fair event. 

Rebecca Gould, head of arts at British Council Wales, describes how a series of online events attracted an audience keen to hear how culture has helped build connections between Wales and India. In this first of six blogs she talks about the 'Collaborations in literature' event.  

Collaborations in literature - in partnership with Welsh Government Digital Diwali #DiwaliCymru

Collaborations in literature, was our launch event in partnership with Welsh Government’s Digital Diwali #DiwaliCymru. The event was introduced by Barbara Wickham OBE, Director British Council India and was chaired by Clare Reddington, British Council Trustee and CEO of the Watershed in Bristol. The panel included award winning Welsh poet Natalie Ann Holborow, Alexandra Büchler, Director of Literature Across Frontiers, poet and curator Mamta Sagar and, Arunava Sinha, literary translator and Associate Professor of creative writing, Ashoka University.

Online book launch

The event explored the many recent India-Wales collaborations in literature and saw the launch of ‘Modern Bengali Poetry: Desire for fire’ by Parthian Books, a leading publishing house based in Wales. The book celebrates over one hundred years of poetry from the two Bengals - the Eastern Indian state and the country of Bangladesh - represented by over fifty different poets and a multitude of forms and styles, selected and translated by Arunava Sinha. 

Our first speaker was Natalie Ann Holborow, 2017 India-Wales grant winner. We broadcast a short film And suddenly you find yourself, where Natalie recites her poem on the streets of India. The film was made by fellow writer Siôn Tomos Owen. Natalie spoke about her experiences of India, the lasting impression the country and its people made on her and the friendships she forged. She also spoke about her experience at the Kolkata Literary Festival, where her book was released. 

Next we saw a poetic film ‘INTERVERSIONS 3’ conceptualised by Mamta Sagar and produced by Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology. It was a collaborative poetry venture between Mamta Sagar and Nia Davies as part of the Poetry Connections project initiated by Literature Across Frontiers.

Bringing ten poets from India and Wales together

The viewing was followed by a short talk by Alexandra Büchler, Director of Literature Across Frontiers where she discussed Poetry Connections India Wales project that brought ten poets from India and Wales together resulting in the creation of five books that can be bought here. Alexandra spoke about the importance of the creative development of a writer and how collaborations like these help writers create new relationships as well as helping them define their own cultural identity. 

Next up, was a powerful poetry recital by Arunava Sinha. He went on to talk about his personal connection to Wales as he grew up reading poetry by Dylan Thomas. He spoke about his book Modern Bengali Poetry and thanked Richard Davies at Parthian Books for conceptualizing and publishing the book. 

The event ended with an engaging and insightful Q&A session where panellists discussed the importance of festivals and gatherings in the literary field, how multilingualism brings a specific quality to writing, poetry and politics and how the panellists have adapted to this new normal and how they have found a silver lining, connecting and creating work through digital platforms.  

You can watch the full event here

The Collaborations in Literature panel in action
The Collaborations in Literature panel in action - Clare Reddington, Mamta Sagar, Arunava Sinha, Natalie Ann Holborow, Alexandra Bulcher.

India-Wales digital festival: connections through culture was a series of online events, in partnership with British Council India, Wales Arts International and Welsh Government’s digital Diwali celebrations. The event lasted ten days, during November 2020, over the course of which we explored the past and current cultural work, of artists and cultural leaders in literature, theatre, music, dance, visual arts and craft. And it was through their work that we celebrated the connections and the ever-growing friendship between India and Wales.

Through this event we aimed to further strengthen and enable creative collaboration between both nations in these difficult times. The event showcased and celebrated the work of artists from India and Wales who have been involved since 2017, or who were recently awarded in the 2019/20 Connections Through Culture: India-Wales grants programme. The event was a great success with an audience of thousands watching on platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. 

Rebecca Gould

Rebecca Gould

Head of Arts, British Council Wales