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Madras Musings wishes all its readers a very Happy New Year!                      (ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII NO. 18, January 1-15, 2013
How about a Festival of Chennai?
By The Editor

Babu's Toon!

The December festival these days does not begin from December 15th and end on January 1st as it did a couple of decades ago. It now spans the period mid-November to the middle of January, signing off with the end of the Pongal festivities. And then there's the Tourist Fair. With the weather being tolerable at this time of the year in our city, it has become a season for tourists and NRIs as well. All this makes it an ideal festival package to market and it is heartening to see that the Chief Minister, during her inaugural speech at the Music Academy's festival, has called on the organisation to come up with plans to make this a world-class festival and promised all help from the Government's side.

Such a proposal is not new. An earlier attempt discussed by the Confederation of Indian Industry's local tourism committee did not go beyond a few tea sessions largely because there was no attempt at getting the event a broader base and wider public and trade participation. The idea was once again revived in 2005 with the Music Academy being called to work out plans. Once again matters ended there. The Chennai Sangamam was thought to be an alternative but with changed political scenario, that appears to have gone into hibernation. What is needed is a Government policy to promote the season no matter who is in power. And as to the actual nitty-gritty, Madras Musings is of the view that this is still a do-able scheme. We had written on how to go about it in February 2002 and quote below what we had said:

  • An art, heritage and theatre festival on Pantheon Road. The Museum Complex, with the Art Gallery and the Museum Theatre, will be a perfect venue for this. Shopping and eating out will be added attractions here.
  • Cathedral Road-Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai-Edward Elliot's Road is a stretch for a food and music festival. The stretch has some of the best and most frequented hotels, restaurants and food stores in town. The Music Academy can serve as the venue for music concerts and visitors can move about the long stretch to savour the food of their choice.
  • A beach festival on Kamarajar Salai with the Marina as the backdrop.

Madras Musings also stressed that it should be looked at as a shopping and food festival with discounts by stores and restaurants as well as by hotels for longer stays.

All these suggestions hold good even today and what is more they can be implemented fairly easily if only some thought is given to the methodology.

The Government on its part will have to facilitate the conduct of the cultural season by providing infrastructure and that would mean some of the following things:

  • A common inauguration of the festival on the beach: Today it is quite common to see sabha after sabha holding an inauguration with the same tired dignitaries mak-ing the same speeches and handing out awards all of which sound and look alike. Why can't the cultural season have a common inauguration at a venue such as Senate House or, if larger crowds are expected, at the beachfront? This would not only avoid repetition, but also bring about a focus to the festival.
  • Better transport arrangements: Let's face it. Today, the idea of everyone driving up to popular cultural events is a thing of the past thanks to our traffic. The government which in the 1970s ran special buses to the Music Academy and the Tamil Isai Sangam will have to look at reviving the arrangement with some modifications. These buses must be airconditioned, battery operated and also be accessible to senior citizens and the physically challenged. Pick-up and drop arrangements could be at schools where car parking facilities can be organised and public transport accessed. For those who prefer to walk, the least the state authorities can do would be to ensure footpaths and exclusive pedestrian areas at least during the period of the festival.
  • Becoming tourist friendly: "What tourists want is clean and comfortable accommo-dation in clean surroundings, friendly service with warmth and a smile, good food that in its variety still takes into consideration visitors' tastes, and absence of harassment at tourist sites" is what we stated in February 2002. These are all aspects that the city administration needs to look into before it can market the festival. Yes, the requirements of the upper class tourist are met by star hotels. But what about those of the budget class tourist? And what about tourists who would like to live with Indian families and soak in the atmosphere? The Government could take a leaf out of Mylapore Times' Season Guide and begin publishing information of homes that would like to take in visitors, with the rates and facilities clearly stated in advance. And while we are on the subject, what about some special season maps?
  • Inducing the trade to participate: Whatever little participation there is today by the trade in terms of hotels and shopping, is mainly due to private initiative. And very often this depends on the man in the decision-taking seat in corporates and this could change at his whim and fancy. The Government needs to think up schemes and chalk out incentives for encouraging participation in the festival. This will defini-tely give the season a fillip and possibly open it up to more sponsorship.
  • Broad base the event: The Season should not be seen as a classical music and dance festival alone. It will have to bring in films, history, exhibitions, theatre and folk art. The Other Festival, which showcases a diverse set of talents, has been a success in the city. The Mylapore Festival too has brought in plenty of folk art and this trend needs to be encouraged. Another aspect is to get more localities other than Mylapore and T'Nagar to participate in the season. At least four areas, namely Triplicane, Egmore, Kilpauk and George Town have to be brought into the gamut of the festival failing which such an effort will simply not take off. For a start, the Government could think of opening up the renovated Victoria Public Hall. Similarly it could ask the organisations controlling the Memorial Hall, the Gokhale Hall and the Pachaiyappa's Hall to make them available for season-related events. Many temples and churches would prove ideal venues. Such a move would not only ignite interest in these buildings but also make the areas come alive.
  • International Publicity: Initially in the countries of the Indian Ocean littoral and later, further afield.

There is a lot more that can be done if there is a will to do it. Is anyone listening?

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In this Issue

How about a Festival of Chennai?
Are things moving again in the Poonga?
Bharati complains about the Police
In-Sight into ensuring better eye-sight
A memorial to a life of service
Three pioneers of industrialisation
18th Century Madras Lockyer saw

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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