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Vol. XXXIII No. 20, February 1-15, 2024

The changing cultural landscape

— Excerpt from Harnessing the potential of Creative Economy report co-produced by British Council India and Tamil Nadu Guidance.

Tamil Nadu is home to one of the most flourishing musical ecosystems, spanning decades of tradition and cultural growth. The state has a long-standing tradition of music, characterised by unique classical music artforms and events, that continue to shape the identity of Tamil Nadu as a cultural hub. The Margazhi Season, for instance, is a long-standing and culturally significant event that holds great importance for the state of Tamil Nadu.

Having recently completed 97 years, the Margazhi Kutcheri is an annual performing arts season spanning several weeks, wherein various artists perform and appreciate the musical traditions of the state. Modern art companies and start-ups have also become integral to cultural infrastructure and pivotal for sustainable city development and growth. Tamil Nadu has a series of national galleries, theatres, festivals, and museums with an international mindset. For example: The Chennai Photo Biennale, Utsavan, Madras Medai, Chennai Queer Lit Fest, Short and Sweet South India festival, Global Isai Festival and Crafts Revival Trust reflect contemporary aspirations and traditional forms of arts and culture in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

Similarly, digital spaces have also evolved into an essential means for imparting contemporary sentiments. Digital platforms like YouTube have been instrumental in augmenting growth and visibility of diverse arts and cultural landscapes. The YouTube phenomenon Village Cooking Channel from Tamil Nadu has amassed 23.2 million subscribers and has showcased how the strength of digital innovation and an enterprising spirit can develop livelihoods. Simultaneously, they have also represented traditional culinary culture for a young audience that speaks to millennials and influencers, bringing awareness and visibility to their distinct culture.

There is also a newfound focus on gaming and entertainment. Growth in Gaming and Entertainment centred start-ups and consumption in the state offer potential for future growth through infrastructure development and state-wide investment to transform Tamil Nadu into a CreaTec hub –moving from start-up to scale-up in the informal economy for inclusive job creation.

For instance, the Tamil Nadu government’s initiative to release a new policy that supports the growth of the Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comic (AVGC) sector is a step forward in acknowledging new media sources and their integration into existing frameworks.

The British Council India/UK Together Season of Culture worked with 51 partners across 21 cities attracting 14.3 million visitors face-to-face developing major international arts partnerships with the UK and MSMEs. Partnerships between Tamil Nadu and the UK included the Ffotogallery in Cardiff, Wales showcased at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2022-2023 attracting thousands of local and international cultural tourists to the installation created by the Chennai Photo Biennale. The featured exhibition, Communities of Choice, showcased the multidisciplinary works of various artists from India and Wales, creating a constellation that delved into a layered exploration of the notion of community.

Arts networks such as Arts Culture Resource India and the Dara network app and culture festivals such as the Festivals from India, is a festival discovery website with a growing social media presence and follower base, made possible by the British Council, enable wider networking to pool resources, share insights and develop international projects to animate cities’ cultural infrastructure and new audiences.

In March 2023, the British Council with A.R. Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory (KMMC) and the Government of Tamil Nadu hosted a first-of-its-kind policy roundtable on Informal Music Education policy development. Subsequently, the report and recommendations were published in November 2023 and were shared at the KMMC International Music Conference in Chennai.

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