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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 20, february 1-15, 2010
Great festivals –
but they need greater promotion
(By A Special Correspondent)

Chennai is unique when it comes to its cultural activities. Perhaps no other city in India has such a long cultural season. The Music Season begins in mid-November and carries on till March. Midst it, in January, there are the Chennai Sangamam, the Mylapore Festival, the Other Festival and The Hindu’s contributions to the Season. If the Music Season is restricted to the sabha-s and a few closed door venues, it still creates a cultural ambience which the average Chennai citizen cannot be unaware of. Chennai Sangamam aims at mass participation and, given its emphasis on folk arts, is performed at several open air venues, such as parks and streets pedestrianised for the occasion. It is also kicked off with a grand inaugural which showcases all the art forms being presented during the festival. The Mylapore Festival aims at highlighting the heritage of a unique historical precinct. Such a long cultural and festive season definitely deserves a much larger participation and certainly needs to be publicised among international audiences.

The question is how serious are we about this. No sabha sells tickets on-line for its music season. The purchase of daily tickets requires people to queue up at unearthly hours and practically fight for what is available. Season booklets are brought out that give the programmes, but these are available only on the day the Season begins. Compare this with international festivals where the schedules are announced six months in advance on comprehensive web sites which also provide information on travel, accommodation, means of access, rates, and facilities to purchase tickets for specific events.

Similarly, the Chennai Sangamam this year had an inaugural function that would rank on par with any opening ceremony for a grand international event. A large crowd attended it, but such an event should have been well publicised in advance with tickets/passes being made available at select outlets. Perhaps the single largest element that was missing at the event was viewing by foreigners. An international audience would have certainly enjoyed the spectacle, which was well worth marketing. It is time Chennai shed its conservative views on publicity. A couple of years ago, the State Government commissioned a study on how to market the Music Season but the report (if anything was done about it) is yet to see the light of the day.

Both the Chennai Sangamam and the Music Season are accompanied by food festivals of sorts. The latter has it in its canteens and the former at various temporary outlets that come up in the parks. These are showcases of the finest South Indian cuisine but guess how many people outside of Chennai are aware of them? Not many, and certainly there is no publicity vehicle for these food festivals.

Lastly, what about involvement of shops and restaurants? The Mylapore Festival has always worked towards including the commercial establishments in the vicinity despite the misplaced antagonism that several of them have exhibited towards the celebration. They harbour the mistaken view that such a festival is detrimental to business because cars cannot be parked in front of their establishments during the festival. What they do not realise is the long-term good that such a festival does for their businesses.

As for the other two events, there is almost no commercial participation. Compare this with the Dubai Shopping Festival or Singapore during Christmas. Both these cities witness a large-scale participation by shops and eateries all of which sport festive looks and offer special rates and discounts. Several of them band together and extend common benefits to shoppers which adds to the attraction. When can Chennai hope for such far-sighted thinking? The infrastructure is all there, the festivals are already established. Can we not, therefore, chalk out and implement some active marketing and sales promotion efforts?


In this issue

They’re only transferring the road congestion
Great festivals – but they need greater promotion
The Sabha that made V.P. Hall its home
A landmark that’s gone
A festival to remember
Kuppams oppose expressway
Historic Residences of Chennai - 35
Other stories

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