Silk River

Community Flags / Place Making / Walking

This ambitious project explored the unique relationship between London and Kolkata through a year’s artistic exchange between communities along the Thames Estuary and Hooghly River.

Artistic director Ali Pretty – working in collaboration with associate artistic directors Ruchira Das and Korak Ghosh, as well as an international team of contemporary and traditional artists, writers and photographers captured the experience of journeying along these mighty rivers.

Working in 20 locations from Murshidabad to Batanagar (Hooghly) and Kew Gardens to Southend (Thames) to reinterpret a shared heritage, we raised cultural awareness of the Indo-British relationship through engaging diaspora communities and connecting young people with artists along the route.

Through artist-led workshops in the 20 communities, we created content through drawing and oral storytelling activities inspired by common themes that capture British and Indian intangible culture.This material inspired 20 hand-painted Bengal silk scrolls. Ali and an international team of artists led textile residencies in Murshidabad and in Thurrock for 30 – 40 artists, craftspeople and students in each country.

In collaboration with Think Arts we devised walks with the 20 communities along both rivers, using the silk scrolls that are inspired by the Bengali tradition of Patachitra to share their stories.

In September – December 2017, an international group of artists, writers and photographers were invited to take part on foot and by boat to experience the stories of the two interconnected rivers.

The project was documented by Mike Johnston, senior lecturer in Digital Media at Bath Spa University, working with independent Bengali film maker Korak Ghosh.  Kevin Rushby, Guardian travel writer, wrote a blog, enabling an international artistic and literary community to follow and contribute digitally.

Before the project set off, John Orna-Ornstein, Director South East, Arts Council England said:

We’re really excited to be able to support Kinetika’s Silk River project, which will bring together a diverse group of artists and communities to share their cultural experiences of living by two iconic rivers. It is really important to see that this project is underpinned by such a breadth of partnerships, something that we hope will continue to flourish beyond this project.

All photos are by Mike Johnston.


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Silk River would like to thank its many partners and funders without whom the project would not have been possible.


Silk River funders logos

Silk River partner logos

Silk River India Scrolls
Silk River UK Scrolls

“Silk River took T100 – our model of participation in response to changing social, economic and environmental circumstances – and put it in an international context for the first time.

I was excited that funding from the Arts Council gave me the opportunity to use my experience of working in Kolkata and London to create new artworks that connected thousands of people, telling the story of their own journeys.”

Ali Pretty, Artistic Director