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'Serendipity Arts Festival Is Trying To Make Art Inclusive'

Goa's diverse culture and history make it a natural location for hosting creative exchange and conversations, says the festival's director Preeta Singh

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Preeta Singh is the festival director of the Serendipity Arts Festival -- a multi-disciplinary arts event -- to be held in Goa from December 16-23. Curated by a panel of leading experts from across the arts, the festival is the first edition in a long-term cultural project that hopes to affect positive change in the arts in India on a large scale. The festival has been curated by a panel of experts spanning all the major disciplines - the performing arts, visual arts, and culinary arts.

Visual Arts include the likes of Jyotindra Jain, recipient of the Prince Claus Awards and visiting Professor at the Centre for the Study for World Religions, Harvard University and Manjari Nirula, Vice-President of World Crafts Council Asia-Pacific Region and the Crafts Council of India. They are joined by Dinesh Khanna, co-founder of the Delhi Photo Festival and Prashant Panjiar, photojournalist and photographer who has served on the jury of the World Press Photo Awards. Riyas Komu, co-founder and secretary of the Kochi Biennale Foundation and Ranjit Hoskote, celebrated poet and cultural theorist are also a part of the panel.

The curators for Performing Arts include Sanjeev Bhargava, Founder & Director of Seher; Tanusree Sankar, internationally acclaimed dancer; Ranjit Barot, globally recognised drummer, singer, music composer and music director, and Shubha Mudgal, acclaimed Indian classical singer and music composer. The theatre acts will be curated by Anuradha Kapur, theatre personality and Sangeet Natak Awardee and Lillete Dubey, actor and theatre director.

The Culinary Arts brand wagon will be led by Manu Chandra, executive chef at Olive Beach, Bangalore and chef partner of The Fatty Bao, Monkey Bar and Toast and Tonic, and Odette Mascarenhas, food columnist and founder of Goan Culinary Club - a non-profit venture which strives to preserve the authenticity of Goan cuisine.

The festival is being conducted under the aegis of the Serendipity Arts Trust, which is a Munjal initiative for the promotion of creativity and imagination in arts and culture.

Preeta Singh talks to BW Businessworld about the festival and what it plans to achieve.

What is the aim of the festival?

Serendipity Arts Festival will be a multi-disciplinary arts festival set over a period of eight days in Panaji, Goa. Curated by a panel of 14 leading experts from across the arts, this festival will be the first edition in a long-term cultural project. We hope that the festival will affect positive change in the arts in India on a large scale.

Rather than just being a showcase of great Indian art, this festival is a cultural experiment that hopes to, over time, affect the way Indians interact with art on a daily basis by addressing issues such as arts education, patronage culture, interdisciplinary discourse, and accessibility of the arts.

The selection of curators, the festival structure, and the programming itself all represent a sincere effort to address the creative needs, aspirations and potential of contemporary India. Practitioners and audiences will be able to interact with the arts and with each other on a number of levels, in an immersive space that seeks to create discursive opportunities, promote the exchanging of ideas, and inspire the youth of India to access and engage with the arts on a greater level.

What is the reason behind showcasing different arts on a common platform?
While we have many art festivals in our country that cater to specific art forms, what we lack is one single inclusive art festival that lets audiences experience and enjoy the various art forms interacting with each other and evolving new languages and forms.

Serendipity Arts Festival is trying to challenge this norm and is also attempting to make art inclusive, immersive and accessible to all. From the audience's point of view, we're creating an experience that shows how the arts are connected and interdependent. You might, for example, go to the festival as an avid follower of classical dance but come away with a new-found passion for street art or performance art. The curation of the festival, from the selection of artists to the allocation of venues, has been carefully thought out to encourage this kind of discovery and exploration. This leads to the idea of interdisciplinarity, this conversation across disciplines.

While some of our projects do this directly by challenging conventions of categorisation, be it genre, style, geography, or generation, the overall structure of the festival and the environment we are creating will greatly enhance this idea. The aim of the festival is to become a platform for all arts, creating a platform that allows them to co-exist and intermingle in a meaningful way. In the coming years, we hope to integrate an even broader range of art forms.

What is the expectation from the festival in terms of number of visitors?
We do of course hope to attract a large number of visitors. I think we are more interested in the diversity of the crowd we pull and the impact we can have on them, than just the numbers. We don't want the festival to be limited and accessible only to specialised audiences, and have gone to a lot of effort to ensure that absolutely anyone can come and immerse themselves in the incredible art we are putting together. And that includes differently-abled audiences, for whom we're doing much to make the venues and art accessible.

The festival is likely to incur huge expenditure. How is that being handled?
The festival is being organised under the aegis of the Serendipity Arts Trust, which is an S. K. Munjal initiative. Being a trust and a driver for cultural conversations, we are looking for partnerships. Also, in India we have a history of patronage which has died. The idea is to revive patronage and support the arts. Currently we have names like Sangita Jindal, Anita Lal, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Shrinivas V. Dempo who are supporting the festival as patrons. We also have Indigo Airlines and The Taj Group of Hotels on board as our travel and hospitality partners, respectively.

Why was Goa selected as the destination for the first festival? Will Goa become the permanent destination or will the festival move to other cities?

Goa's incredibly diverse culture and history make it a natural space for creative exchange and conversations. As a meeting point of tradition and modernity, a reflection of the complexity of contemporary India, and as a bridge between India and the rest of the world, Goa is the ideal location for Serendipity Arts Festival. With its close-knit networks and easy commute options, the festival that aims to be spread over a few places will be accessible to all.

Geographically, Goa hosts the weather to express this concept both indoors and outdoors and it has the infrastructure to support a multifaceted, large-scale festival. Having said that, we do hope Goa will remain the destination for future editions of the Festival.

For most of the shows entry is free, how and where can one book tickets for the ones that are paid?
In order to visit the festival, you need to register on unique code will be generated for each person which will allow them entry into all the spaces at the festival venue, and will make it possible for those interested in booking tickets to do so with ease. The registration process is possible even at the venue, for walk-ins. We have also developed an app "Serendipity Arts Festival Goa" which can be downloaded on both the iOS and the Android platforms for those wanting to visit the festival to get information on the go and to draw up their itinerary and place reminders.

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