The Two Day festival
Day 1 (Friday) began with a walk guided by Calcutta Walks Explorer Iftekar Ehsan, who made this unfamiliar neighbourhood suddenly accessible to a new audience, and people were excited to see what the next few days had in store for them.
The event officially started with an inauguration by the students, at the school, who wrote their memories of their school on a small yellow tag and tied it to the gate. The school was the starting point for the event and visitors received a map and a guidebook to help them navigate the other events across the locality. Each visitor and participant was given the same yellow tag and they were invited to share their memories in different spaces across the locality and start articulating their new found relationship to this unexplored para.
The first event was a talk by the Centre for Studies of Social Sciences on local cultures like Bottla printing, Swang, charak and music. There was also a parallel film screening running at the same time.
The talk was not really a success as even though we had tried to design it as a storytelling session and an adda, it became too academic and hard to relate to. The films were challenging for the context, addressing homosexuality and gender identities in Jatra, but were surprisingly well received by the students, teachers and visitors.
After these inaugural events we launched the public art festival and visitors dispersed to visit the key projects i.e. the pop-up museum, the memory game and the Diamond Library project. Each of these projects triggered an exciting range of interactions- between participants, audiences and the spaces of the locality. People had many questions for the pop up museum contributors, some had fun talking to students and playing the games they had devised, the students came up with new demands from a visitors, suddenly creating feedback forms and comments books and posters, strangers bonded over the memory game and were prompted to explore the neighbourhood after, residents who were sceptical came down and started taking pictures, some spent several minutes looking at the plaques in the school or the books and the diamond library, some made suggestions about how to make it bigger and better the next time around!
Day 2- The day began with another photowalk, with walkers finishing their journey at the school and the public projects located around it. The conversations and interactions continued with a steady stream of visitors all through the morning. The students refused to work in shifts and stayed behind all day, enjoying their responsibilities and acting as organized guides and facilitators. It was great seeing the diversity of visitors and the members from the local community who kept dropping by to see the projects.
In the evening, the activities intensified, a street performance, designed to reflect Jatra aesthetics started the program of events. To our complete surprise just moments before it was about to begin a huge RSS procession took over the road, which people dressed in costume just like our boys, extolling the virtues of our Hindu National Culture. We took advantage of the crowd that had gathered in the wake of this procession and launched into our own performance. The performance to visitors across the neighbourhood to the many sites of the project, and ended at the Chaitanya Library, a historic neighbourhood landmark, where we were hosting an evening of music from the Chitpur region. Film makers Debojit Mazumdar and Anindya Banerjee had also come to screen their films at the school, and the visitors could choose to attend any of the events, and then walk around the neighbourhood to interact with the different projects, meet local community members, learn more from the students and explore the many local shops.
At 10 pm, as the last audiences at the film screening left and the students reported back with success stories and the adventures of the day, we finally declared wrap up! Everything came down in a fraction of the time it had taken to set up!
Over the two days the event had over 500 guests, with extensive media coverage over three days and the highest engagement ever on our Facebook page.