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Twenty six years of Milapfest
Photos courtesy: Milapfest

July 31, 2011

Milapfest is Britain’s premier Indian Arts Development Trust commissioning and touring high quality arts events throughout the year. It is run by national charity Milap Festival Trust.

‘Milap,’ a small but beautifully significant word from Sanskrit, means “to meet each other in friendship.” Milap was founded in 1985 with the idea of promoting cross-cultural programs that would transcend the barriers of race, language and religion. Milap was started in 1985 in Liverpool with its first weekend festival featuring Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Ustad Zakir Hussain. Over the years, the organisation has grown, and now works beyond performances, to provide training, education projects and development work to make a difference to society through the arts.

Milapfest works to promote and support the performance, development and appreciation of Indian arts internationally. It aims to promote excellence in the practice and promotion of Indian arts, to support artistes' development through commissions, performances and training, to bring people together from a variety of backgrounds in a celebration of arts and culture, to make Indian arts a mainstream form, accessible and open to all, and to celebrate the cultural diversity of the United Kingdom through the arts. Milap Festival Trust is run by a board of trustees and a team of dedicated staff who are passionate about the arts and qualified or professionally trained in a variety of applicable disciplines.

Milapfest prides itself in presenting the very best in Indian arts, whether it is music, dance, visual arts or theatre, and is the country's biggest producer of arts events and festivals from the Indian subcontinent. With around eighty events each year, Milapfest gives the word ‘festival’ a new meaning. The productions represent the rich traditions of Indian music and dance, but also include innovative, new and unique performances never before seen in the UK.

Leela Samson

Madhavi Mudgal

Sujata Mohapatra

Nirupama and Rajendra

In 2002, Milapfest produced DANCE INDIA, the country's first ever production that brought together a myriad of Indian classical, folk and contemporary performances in one day. The festival took place at The Lowry, in Salford Quays, which is now established as a principal centre of Indian dance in the UK, through partnership work with Milapfest. Dance Yatra included an afternoon performance staged outdoors in the Plaza and an evening performance that brought together Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Folk dances and contemporary work from dancers all over the UK and India.

Conceived and created by Milapfest, Dance-India is an exciting and visionary dance education program for South Asian dance students, teachers and performing artistes. This unique residential International Summer Dance School is designed to offer intensive training in four Indian classical dance styles: Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi and Odissi. The training is offered at four levels: Masters, Advanced, Intermediate and Beginners. The Summer Dance School offers a structured and nurturing learning experience incorporating a range of complementary activities such as yoga and Pilates to encourage healthier dance practice. A holistic and individual-focused approach to dance training values the development of the participants’ individual talents and goals.
Dance India offers extraordinary, unique experience of learning and interacting with legendary dance gurus and finest teachers, a residential school with excellent living accommodation and facilities, opportunity to learn in the stunning, state-of-the-art dance studios at a major national dance venue, dance performances every evening by world class artistes, holistic dance program with classes on technique, abhinaya, music and body conditioning, opportunity to perform at ‘Timeless' – Milapfest’ annual talent showcase, access to dance resource centre with books and DVDs on legendary gurus, dance accessories etc, Travel Fellowships offered to four participants for further training, and lectures from outstanding guest speakers from the dance world. Some of the luminaries who have taught at Dance India are Kumudini Lakhia, Leela Samson, Sujata Mohapatra, Kalanidhi Narayan, CV Chandrashekar, Madhavi Mudgal, Vyjayanthi Kashi, Nirupama-Rajendra, Shijith-Parvathy, Prashant Shah, Vaishali Trivedi and Priydarsini Govind.


Anusha Subramanyam

Chhau dancers

Arunima Kumar

Milapfest has commissioned several performances, tours or productions over previous years, and festivals and events too. Milapfest produces its own specially created festivals, from a single day or weekend, to a season-long series of events highlighting unique features in Indian arts and culture.  Its commissions have created some of the best dance productions including the popular festivals 'Dance Yatra' and 'Anand Yatra', which celebrated the rich traditions of Indian dance and its seasons which showcased the best and brightest from around the world.

Folk dance festival Anand Yatra first produced in 2005 features a geographical journey around the Indian subcontinent, taking audience members on a whirlwind tour of the folk dance culture of the various indigenous people who live there. With stunning colours, dazzling choreography and a variety of music styles in one evening, this festival is unlike anything you have ever seen.

Milapfest also regularly produces performance seasons around a theme, or time of year, and they take place in Liverpool, London and Greater Manchester. Special one off events presenting the likes of Shubha Mudgal, Bombay Jayashri, Anoushka Shankar, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain with the Shakti group and the Masters of Percussion, take place every year.

Bombay Jayashri 

Music for the Mind and Soul: Strings of Kashmir

Stressed in the city? The unique monthly series of Indian music concerts started in 1991is a rarity as it takes place in three different cities and brings a variety of world class music performances from both rising stars and some of the biggest names in Indian music. Music for the Mind & Soul gives you the chance to hear a variety of styles and artists, from the youngest musicians you may never have heard of before, to stars like U Srinivas, Pt Debashish Bhattacharya, Rakesh Chaurasia and Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and legends like Pt Ajoy Chakraborty and Prof T V Gopalakrishnan. The Liverpool series has taken place for 18 years, and started life in the Liverpool Central Library. After a long-established run in partnership with The Liverpool Philharmonic Hall until 2008, the series moved to the newly refurbished Small Concert Room of St. George's Hall, Liverpool. The series is free in Liverpool and has seen over 180 concerts come to Liverpool over the years. The monthly concert series also takes place at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, and The Nehru Centre, London, bringing live Indian music to three cities each month!

Milapfest engages in many other exciting artistic projects that address the fundamental gaps in provision and strengthening of Indian Arts in the West.  To address the necessity of creating, nurturing and supporting a new generation of British artistes practising Indian music, it created the first ever National Indian Music Youth Orchestra -  SAMYO - which engages young people from the age of 8 to 18 years, with a diverse program of training, upgrading their performance skills and giving them performance opportunities in a national context. Samyo was created by Milapfest in 2002, to recreate a brand new form of Indian music performances with all-Indian classical music instruments. The music is written especially for the orchestra, and fuses both the North and South Indian classical styles, with a contemporary twist. Through Samyo, audiences get to see the best young musicians of the country who are auditioned from around the UK, and get performance opportunities, high level training and development, which helps them to take the next step in their musical careers.

Confluence show at Southbank Centre

Milapfest 25 Exhibition 

Ganesh and Kumaresh

Harginderpal Singh on santoor 

Beyond Samyo, when the musicians pass the age of 18, they move on to TARANG, the National Indian Music Ensemble for Indian music which actively prepares them for professional careers in music, with high quality training from world class artistes. Tarang combines elements of the western classic ensemble with the best in Indian music traditions. Through dynamic compositions by masters in their field like Dr. Rajeeb Chakraborty, Pt Tarun Bhattacharya, U Srinivas and Ganesh-Kumaresh, Tarang presents a refreshing new form of Indian music. Its members are all young up-and-coming performers from the Hindustani (North Indian) and Carnatic (South Indian) traditions, and come together for touring performances throughout the year. Tarang's themed concerts and recordings have created a wave since their 2003 debut, and the ensemble continues to blend instruments like the sitar, flute, veena, violin, mridangam and tabla with guest artists and vocalists, to create special musical experiences for listeners all over. Both of these ensembles are now established nationally and are performing widely, with some of the musicians already having left them to perform on the national stage. 

Since 2003, Milapfest has organised an annual Summer Retreat, a music school for the members of its two national orchestras Samyo and Tarang. These summer retreats provide inspirational training and composition work for the students. The summer school tutors have included Pt Ajoy Chakraborty, Prof. T V Gopalakrishnan, Manorama Prasad, Sanju Sahai, Dharambir Singh, Gaurav Mazumdar, Ganesh and Kumaresh, Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh, Pt Debasish Bhattacharya, Dr Rajeeb Chakraborty, Pt Tarun Bhattacharya, Anuradha Pal and Patri Satish Kumar. The two unique Summer Music and Dance Schools - Music India and Dance India - offer concentrated training from world class teachers to British and European students and teachers to upgrade their skills on a regular basis.

Milapfest provides tailor-made Indian music and dance training to individuals, in specially designed courses with expert tutors. For the community, regular classes take place throughout the year in Milapfest's base cities, and there is also an annual program of bursaries, special training and scholarships. For musicians in Samyo and Tarang, fellowship awards give advanced intensive training experiences to individuals, giving them a burst of inspiration in their careers. For dancers enrolled in Dance-India, Milapfest offers travelling fellowships and awards for solo training with a guru of their choice. Finally, for professionals, Milapfest offers support through commissions, master classes and residencies, to ensure a tradition of continuing development. The music and dance summer schools and regular program of workshops throughout the year ensures that people of all ages go through special experiences in the arts.

Each year Milapfest organises two or three national tours of outstanding international companies presenting new South Asian work. This is in addition to the tours it supports of British artistes. The purpose is to present the cutting edge work done by artistes/companies who have not got a chance to tour Britain before, and share the work with organisations and venues throughout the country. Milapfest tours have included Priyadarsini Govind, Mythili Prakash, Rama Vaidhyanathan, Abhinava Dance Company, Dr. Vikas Gupta and Ustad Shujaat Khan.

Rama Vaidyanathan

Priyadarsini Govind

Milapfest offers Educational Fellowships and Scholarships to outstanding artistes to further sharpen their knowledge and skills by working with renowned teachers and institutions worldwide. It has established a year-long scholarship at the renowned Kalakshetra in Chennai to study enhanced Bharatanatyam skills for one candidate each year. It offers three travelling fellowships to students of Odissi, Kathak and Kuchipudi, plus a fellowship to a British teacher to enhance their skills. It is also working on establishing a Research & Resource Centre for Indian Arts in Britain, with a view to opening it to scholars in 2011.

The belief at Milapfest is to bring people together through the arts, and help make a difference to society through performance, education and participation. In 2010, Milapfest entered into a new creative partnership with one of the most dynamic and innovative Universities of Britain, the Hope University, and is now based within the University in a brand new state of the art venue, The Capstone Theatre. In its 26th year, the organisation is looking outwards across Europe, the Indian subcontinent and beyond to expand its work.