Prime Minister David Cameron today announced a year-long programme aimed at celebrating the 70th anniversary of Indian independence and bilateral cultural ties between Britain and India.
The Year of Culture 2017 was announced following meetings between Mr Cameron and Indian leader Narendra Modi who arrived in the UK on a three-day visit.
The celebrations will see a host of cultural and arts events organized and staged by Indian cultural organizations in the UK – all backed by the British government.
Intriguingly, the Year of Culture 2017 will see the Magna Carta – one of the world’s most important historical documents – travel to India alongside a number of significant exhibits from the British Museum.
Aside from the Magna Carta the British Library will also showcase Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of the Bard’s plays at a special exhibition in India.
“The great partnership between India and the UK extends beyond economic ties to the boards of The Bard and the beaches of Bollywood. We have some of the best cultural exports in the world – and it’s about time we celebrated this, together”, said Mr Cameron.
To mark the start of this cultural pairing, the British Library will be digitising 200,000 pages of their South Asian archives.
Two centuries of Indian print will be part of a major programme to make the wealth of Indian printed books held by the British Library dating from 1714 to 1914 accessible to anyone around the globe.
Madame Tussauds – whose Bollywood figures are some of the most popular in London – has also announced its first Indian venture in New Delhi, scheduled to open in 2017.
Parent group Merlin is set to invest £50 million in India over 10 years, rolling out other UK favourites – such as Sea Life aquariums and Legoland Discovery Centres – across Indian cities.
As part of the wider cultural exchange, Mumbai’s Chhatrapatī Shivaji Mahārāj Vastu Saṅgrahālay museum will tell the story of Indian civilisation in the context of world history using some items on loan from the British Museum.
“The UK has an incredibly special relationship with India – not just economically and through our historic ties – but culturally, through our music, our theatre, our design and much more. An India-UK Year of Culture is a great opportunity for both our nations – strengthening this dynamic cultural partnership and driving even more innovative ways to work together to make great art”, said Culture Secretary John Whittingdale.
The announcement comes on the first day of Narendra Modi’s highly-anticipated visit to the UK.
Mr Modi, who rose from humble beginnings as a “Chaiwalla” to win the biggest mandate in Indian electoral history in 2014, spent his first night in Britain at Chequers, the British Prime Minister’s country house in Buckinghamshire.
Earlier in the day he delivered a rousing speech at the Houses of Parliament.
On Friday he is expected to address more than 60,000 people – mostly expatriate Indians – at the home of football, Wembley, before embarking on a whistle-stop tour aimed at strengthening economic ties between his country and Britain.