Delivering India’s first digital Festival Academy

On Monday mornings, Edinburgh Napier Business School’s Dr Gary Kerr and Professor Jane Ali-Knight help deliver the first digital India Festival Academy for the British Council.

“Without doubt, these sessions are my weekly highlight,” says Gary, Lecturer in Festival and Event Management. “It’s where I get to hear the ambition of festival managers from across India, and how they plan to develop their festivals.”

The delivery of this online academy, led from Edinburgh, is a vital part of a longer-term programme by the British Council to support India’s creative economy: and Edinburgh Napier’s success in winning the competitive tender to deliver it reflects the School’s expertise in festivals and events, and online learning.

The British Council in India identified major risks that face the creative economy during the Covid-19 pandemic, when researching its recent ‘Taking the Temperature’ report. This found that 41% of organisations had stopped functioning during the first 3 months of lockdown; and 32% of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), who constitute 88% of this sector in India, reported losses in the first 3 months that equate to 50% of their total budgeted income for 2020.

The challenge is a familiar one to festivals and events around the world.

The India Festival Academy forms part of a longer term project, Festivals for the Future, led by the British Council. Launched in 2019, with the first India Festival Academy, held in Goa, Festivals for the Future is a holistic skills development programme. It aims to maximise its impact on the creative economy in 2022, when India marks the 75th anniversary of Independence.

The first India Festival Academy, a 3-day residency in March 2019, covered a broad approach to the principles of effective business management for arts and culture festivals. It was followed by an intermediate course in September 2019, staged in Guwahati (East India), with a more in-depth curriculum on business development.

The digital India Festival Academy builds on the success of these two face-to-face events. Between January and March 2021, it aims to help delegates make their festival scalable, sustainable, and successful.

ENU is running it with Divya Bhatia (pictured above – photo courtesy Kavi Bhansali), Indian festival producer and sector expert, and Counterculture Partnership LLP, whose mission is to help cultural, creative and not-for-profit organisations plan, manage and thrive. The curriculum includes content on programming, business modelling, making a business plan, marketing and communications, fundraising, audience development and measuring success.

Karon Shaiva, Convenor for the RISE World Summit is among the participants.

Karon Shaiva, Convenor for the RISE World Summit

The RISE World Summit is designed to adopt an innovative approach to an event, with no panels and no presentations. Instead, it consists of three components: The FEST, Forum and Tours. Activities range from films and storytelling to round tables and workshops, as well as both physical and virtual tours, all designed to build alliances and partnerships that will enhance the impact of stakeholders’ commitment to diversity, innovation and sustainability.

“The digital Academy assists us to work through the different aspects of activities systematically; from managing partners, artists and schedules to reaching audiences and fundraising. Various tools have been shared to achieve our goals and objectives. Moreover, the cohort has a very diverse set of individuals, and organisations with a wide range of thematic focus. This adds significant leaning opportunities. I also see the potential for significant collaborations between participants, which would be a wonderful outcome.”

Sandhya Mendonca, founder of Raintree Women’s Festival

Another participant is Sandhya Mendonca, founder, managing director and chief editor of Raintree Media. “My interest in attending is to be able to make the ‘Under the Raintree’ women’s festival a viable property.

“Currently, it gets by on idealism and goodwill. But the amount of work and time it needs is quite intense, which wears out our miniscule team.

“I want to be able get enough human resources, and a sales and marketing budget, which will happen when we get long term partners/ sponsors. To impress them, we need to show that we apply the best practices of business that will help us scale up. From what I have seen, this is exactly what the Festival Academy course will teach me.

“It offers very focused and practical information from people who seem to be very experienced in arts festivals. Thank you British Council, for the opportunity to learn and grow!”

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