British Council and 14-18 NOW join forces to commission Akram Khan


NewZNew (Chandigarh) : Alan Gemmell OBE, Director, British Council India announced the launch of ‘2017 UK-India Year of Culture’ campaign in Chandigarh today. On his maiden visit to Chandigarh, the new Director India emphasised the need to promote cultural exchange for stronger ties between India and the UK.

The year 2017 marks the culmination of four years of Re-Imagine: a programme in the Arts designed to build new creative connections in new ways between the people and institutions of the UK and India. It offers a chance to celebrate the achievements of the world’s largest democracy, and consider how the future relationship between the UK and India might help both to address the challenges of the 21st century. The purpose of UK-India 2017 Year of Culture is to increase the appreciation of contemporary UK in India, and vice versa, in order to give greater focus, depth and relevance to the long-standing relationship between the two countries. This will be done through events and projects, both face-to-face and digital in 2017, with a wider aim to reach out to newer audiences, not restricted to the metropolitan cities alone. UK-India 2017 will seek to challenge outdated perceptions of the UK with an inspiring programme that demonstrates the quality of contemporary British arts and culture.

New Director India at British Council

Prior to being appointed Director India at the British Council, Alan has served as the Director Israel where he ran a £10m stem cell research fund working with world-leading medical research foundations like the British Heart Foundation and Parkinson’s UK. He launched the UK’s first multi-lateral research fund in the Middle East, a platform for Israeli, Palestinian and British scientists to work together to tackle critical water challenges in the region, and a PhD programme for Palestinian scientists to study at Israeli universities – supporting a new generation of scientists to work together across borders.

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In 2015, Alan commissioned mixthecity an interactive digital art work with the BBC and Arts Council of England featuring Israeli YouTube artist Kutiman and British digital agency Flying Object. Over 500,000 users in 190 countries have taken part. Partnering with the United Nations and the British Film Institute, Alan created fiveFilms4freedom, the world’s first global, online LGBT Film Festival. In 2016 fiveFilms4freedom became the world’s biggest online LGBT Film Festival with 1.5m film views and a total social media reach of 140m people. In 2016 fiveFilms4freedom published a Global List of 33 inspiring people from around the world promoting freedom and equality. The 2016 List included Indian film-maker Sridhar Rangayan and actor and director Manish Gandhi.

Alan has also worked in Mexico and Brazil. He joined the British Council in 2008 to head its Government Relations. Alan spent five years in the centre of the UK Government working on: 1. counter-terrorism and the crisis response to domestic and international terror plots; 2. developing the economic migration strands of the UK’s points-based migration system; and 3. as Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office Sir John Gieve.

Before joining the civil service Alan established the Scottish Youth Parliament. He studied law at Glasgow University and piano and trombone at the Junior School of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Scottish Conservatoire).

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Alan was appointed OBE in the 2016 New Year Honours List for services to arts and science. From May 2016 he will take up his appointment as Director of the British Council in India.

Speaking at the event, Alan Gemmell OBE, Director, British Council India, said, “India and the UK have years of shared history and 2017 UK-India Year of Culture seeks to promote this spirit of cultural partnership. Our future generations must understand and appreciate our past and the path that we have travelled together to reach where we stand today.”

The UK-India Year of Culture was announced during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to London in November 2015. The aim of this campaign is to highlight the vibrant cultural history of the two countries and celebrate the best ‘cultural exports’ together.

Mix the Play

‘Mix the Play’, a special edition of the popular ‘Mix the City’ platform (, which will launch later this month to promote the Shakespeare Lives, was launched by Mr. Alan Gemmell OBE, Director, British Council India. This project is being commissioned with The Old Vic theatre, London. Where Mix the City placed visitors in the role of a DJ working with Kutiman’s music recordings, Mix the Play will offer digital audiences the chance to play director of one of Shakespeare’s most loved plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Visitors to the Mix the Play website will be invited to make a short film from a scene in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The duration of a scene will be under 3 minutes. Using pre-recorded film samples and effects, locations, costume options, visitors will be able given a range of elements to control, including a selection or all of casting, setting, direction of the actors, background music etc. Audiences will need to consider meaning, symbolism, tone, and storytelling, and will learn through trying and doing.

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The objective of Mix the Play is to engage audiences with Shakespeare and educate them about theatre direction in a fun way. In October, we will launch an Indian commission of Mix the Play with a different Shakespeare play.

British Council and 14-18 NOW join forces to commission Akram Khan

Next year India celebrates 70 years since independence. To mark this occasion, Prime Ministers Modi and Cameron announced a bilateral cultural year celebrating the special relationship between the UK and India. 2017 will see an incredible programme of cultural events and activities aimed at young people in India and the UK organised by the British Council.  We believe that by experiencing the most innovative and exciting creative work from both countries and exploring our joint history, young people will want to know more about each other’s countries and build deeper connections. We are therefore particularly delighted to announce a special joint new commission by the world-renowned  dancer choreographer Akram Khan. British Council and 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, have a series of further artistic commissions planned which will be announced later. This is the latest in a series of commissions by 14-18 NOW that reflect stories of the Indian experience of the First World War.


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