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Vol. XXXIII No. 10, September 1-15, 2023

Madras Week and the focus on heritage and branding

-- by The Dy. Editor

Yet another edition of Madras Week is coming to an end. From the variety of programmes offered, and the response received, it seems that the public have come to look forward to this event. The pandemic-related sluggishness has finally been shaken off and interest in all matters Madras revived to a great extent. Two aspects however have stood out – the focus on heritage and the increasing attempts at branding by commercial establishments to showcase their association with the city. Both are very positive developments and augur well for Madras Week in the years to come.

The vastly increased number of heritage walks is a certain pointer to the former. Heritage has never received such a focus as this before. There are youngsters leading scores of interested citizens and outsiders all over the metropolis, drawing attention to monuments of the past. Social media has also done its bit – with YouTube videos, Instagram reels and photos, and other updates. Even the electronic media channels that once considered Madras Week infra dig have begun to report on it in droves. Suddenly, Chennai’s past is all over the place.

And this has certainly paid dividends. The Government’s change of attitude is a clear indication. Let us face it, there is no way the establishment will associate itself with something unlessit sees the public getting involved. The heritage movement has now attained a critical mass and the Government is responding. There are signboards highlighting heritage, there are restoration plans afoot and there is appreciation for the need to creatively adapt and reuse heritage. The methodology may be ham handed in certain instances but those too hopefully will change with time. By bringing heritage into focus once a year, Madras Week has done its bit in this transformation.

That Madras Week could be an occasion to highlight civic and other issues was realised by the Greater Chennai Corporation this year. It launched its litter-free Chennai campaign at this time. This has shown the way for other departments. The museums could take this cue as could others such as CMWSSB and CMRL. Why, there is nothing to preclude the police and health departments, not to mention government-run and aided schools to begin utilising Madras Week to get the spotlight to shine on them.

The hotels this year managed their branding very well. There were food festivals at many places with city-based cuisines. If the shops and establishments could get together and organise something on the lines of the Dubai festival, Chennai cannot ask for more. Two age-old institutions of the city – The Hindu and the Murugappa Group showed how their association with the city could be highlighted and we hope there will be more to come in future years. Libraries such as the British Council, the Roja Muthiah and the Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer too put up events. There were little-known and well-established educational institutions that celebrated Madras Week. These were all purely volunteer efforts, motivated by just wanting to be a part of a city festival.

It is still early days for Madras Week to claim it is an enduring event. But it can take pride in what has been achieved. What started off as a focus on the past has come to have commercial and futuristic possibilities. And the city gets its share of the limelight, something that it has traditionally fought shy of. Chennai’s achievements are now regularly noted and reported upon. The city is standing up to be counted, and why not, for it is a progressive metropolis. Here is to many more Madras Weeks.

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