Jonathan Kennedy, Director Arts India, British Council speaks of how their major focus is on making India’s festivals truly global.

Jonathan Kennedy, who joined the British Council in February 2019, is responsible for developing national strategy, managing stakeholder relationships across government and the creative industries as Director Arts India, British Council. He has also the task of conceptualizing programmes to promote and strengthen India-UK cultural relations through collaboration, connections and creative partnerships. A major focus is on making India’s festivals truly global and strengthening the crafts sector through upskilling and capacity building. “In terms of our research we have about a thousand festivals in our database. And they are all over India and so we are not just talking about the metro cities here. Our primary focus is on the emerging festivals. But we do work closely with some of the established festivals as well because in that wider network the established festivals can support the emerging festivals. The mix that we are covering captures different art forms and different geographies and locations, covering the metros as well as rural areas. Our international festival network allows us to connect an emerging festival in India to a major festival abroad leading to deep-rooted artistic exchange and collaboration,” reveals Kennedy.
Kennedy has substantial experience in theatre producing, arts management and international cultural exchange. Previously, Kennedy was Executive Director of Tara Arts, during which he worked extensively towards the re-development of Tara Theatre and the launch of the Black Theatre Live national touring consortium. Before Tara Arts, he was Arts Programmes Manager of Croydon Clocktower and Head of Studio and Programme Development at Wimbledon Theatre. “During my stint with Tara Arts, which is a British-Indian theatre company, I worked with a lot of Indian artists and together we brought in lots of contemporary stories from India into our theatre in London. So I had a good, strong sense of India. And now in my third year at British Council, I believe I have been able to acquire a much deeper sense of art and culture in India,” recollects Kennedy.
At the 2022 Jaipur Literature Festival held at Jaipur’s Hotel Clarks Amer last month, The British Council, FICCI and Art X Company jointly launched the third edition of the Taking the Temperature report. Barbara Wickham OBE, Director India, British Council released the report with Rashmi Dhanwani, Founder-Director, The Art X Company and Sanjoy Roy Co-chair, Creative and Cultural Industries, FICCI. The report transcends the literature sector and offers a quantitative mapping of India’s creative economy and culture sector – in the organised and unorganised sectors – across literature, crafts, festivals, performing arts and other art forms. A culmination of 18 months of mapping the sector, the research tracks the longitudinal impact of the pandemic on India’s creative and culture industry and identifies a way ahead in a systematic and sustainable roadmap for recovery. The pioneering research outlines the monetary size and scale of the creative economy and contribution of the culture industries to the national GDP and wealth creation in India.
British Council works with the Indian stakeholders to strengthen India’s creative economy and create sustained livelihoods for Indian creative professionals. The report underlines the British Council’s aim to gather credible information and insights that can enable businesses and governments to make effective and well-informed decisions about public and private investment in the creative sector. “Since the onset of Covid-19, we have dedicated our research to understanding the impact of the pandemic on India’s creative and culture economy with FICCI, Art X Company and Smart Cube. The final report makes practical recommendations for the short and long-term recovery of creative sectors and livelihoods. While our first two reports measured the impact of the pandemic on the incomes of the professionals and culture organisations, the third edition offers a definitive mapping of the scale and significance of the creative economy in India,” explains Kennedy.
As per the key findings of the report, India’s creative economy has got reduced to INR 30,440 crores GDP in 2021 from INR 50,000 crores GDP in 2020, pre-Covid. It has also been observed that 94 percent of arts sectors are now operating in ‘digital only’ or ‘hybrid’ models and 27 percent of the sector is generating income through digital platforms with only 8 per cent running physical programmes. Based on the findings and the feedback from the creative industry workforce and stakeholders, the report stresses upon the need to establish a cross-government creative economy Task Force from the 14 Ministries that have a mandate for arts and culture in India. It also proposes to launch a comprehensive national skills campaign across urban and rural geographies for creative MSMEs in digital and technological skills, business development, and marketing and communication capacity. Among other things, it also emphasizes on the importance of establishing sector-specific management, self-help groups and management organizations, and city-wide enterprise zones and clusters. The report also stresses upon the requirement for a partnership of public and private investors to invest in arts and culture. “We hope the insights from the report trigger much needed conversations amongst stakeholders. We hope recommendations for recovery of the creative economy will be implemented through governance, infrastructure development and India’s enduring self-reliance,” sums up Kennedy.