“A living bridge between two countries” – artists from West Bengal and Thames have taken part “in one of the most important projects of the Year of UK/India Culture.”

Download the press release here: Silk River Project Press Release @20Dec

Silk River has been in the making for over two years, involving 20 communities along the banks of the rivers Thames and the Hooghly, engaging thousands of participants and teams of artists in both the UK and India. On Saturday 16 December 2017 the ‘Journey of Surprises’ ended with a spectacular finale at Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata, India.

Representatives from the 10 river Thames communities that took part joined members from the 10 river Hooghly communities to parade the large hand-painted silk flags to the Victoria Memorial for a closing ceremony to mark this incredible collaboration through the Silk River programme of cultural exchange. They were accompanied by a multitude of different dancers and musicians, even some bagpipes!

The communities represented were from: Murshidabad, Krishnanagar, Chandanagore, Howrah, Burrabazar, Barrackpore/ Serampore, Jorosanko, Kidderpore, Batanagar, Botanic Gardens.  And in the UK from: Kew Gardens, Tower Hamlets, Greenwich/Woolwich, Barking/Dagenham, Purfleet, Dartford, Gravesend, Tilbury, East Tilbury, and Southend.

In attendance at the closing ceremony was British High Commissioner to India Sir Dominic Asquith, who said:

It’s been inspiring what we’ve been seeing, not just the colours but the enthusiasm, the amount of determination and commitment over the years to make this a reality…It’s what I call the living bridge – it is bringing communities together in the UK and in India in a way that is really relevant to the communities that they exist in.”

British Council India Director Alan Gemmell OBE was specially in Kolkata for the Closing Ceremony and thanked everyone involved:

I’m at the final event for one of the most important projects that we’ve had in the Year of Culture.  Silk River has connected 20 communities in Kolkata and London and been at the heart of our mission to use the Year of Culture to celebrate the modern day relationship between our two countries, to connect with people and to inspire them to build a relationship for the next 70 years.  It’s been a wonderful event, it’s been an incredible project and we’re so, so grateful to everyone involved.  Thank you very much.”

British High Commissioner to India
Sir Dominic Asquith

British Council India Director
Alan Gemmell OBE

British Deputy High Commissioner Kolkata
Bruce Bucknell 
The British Deputy High Commissioner Kolkata, Bruce Bucknell, has been hugely supportive of the project, and in his words Silk River is important because:
It brings together the silk, design, colour, people to make the silk, to come up with the designs, to work together, and it also brings together what actually happens in the communities that these banners represent…It’s been thrilling to have all these people over from Britain and to actually stir up and bring you this idea of making places and bringing intangibles, what makes communities, what makes a place.”

Silk River in India has been brought together by Kinetika, UK and partners in India – ThinkArts, Murshidabad Heritage Development Society, Rural Crafts Hubs of West Bengal, Crafts Council of India West Bengal, West Bengal Tourism and Future Hope.  It is supported by Arts Council England and British Council.

The Kinetika team from the UK was led by artistic director Ali Pretty who travelled with Jo Beal and Jane Ford who have co-ordinated the project in the UK, along with Mike Johnston senior lecturer in Creative Media at Bath Spa University, who documented the entire project through photographs and interviews with key participants.  The journey was also documented by Kevin Rushby, Travel Journalist form The Guardian who covered the walks with a daily blog.

Following the closing ceremony, there was exhibition of the 20 scrolls at the Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata, from 19-31 December 2017 after which they return to the UK.
Silk River in Numbers
(numbers are combined UK/India totals)

132m Hand woven silk from West Bengal
192 Artists to make scrolls
31 schools
26 walk leaders
20 communities
2 years in the making