The December festival today 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, even dragging on after that. 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 all-India as well as internationally. Yet nothing has been done about it.
Last heard, it was in 2006 that the Government mulled over such an idea and even announced that it would work with the Music Academy in bringing out a paper on the subject. What happened to that project is not known. An earlier attempt promoted by the Confederation of Indian Industry did not go beyond a few tea sessions, largely because there was little attempt at getting the event a broader base and wider public and trade participation. Writing about this in February 2002, the Editor of this journal had urged that the group needs to “stop talking and get down to look at some of the suggestions made for such a festival.” Some of the suggestions then given included:
An art, heritage and theatre festival on Pantheon Road. The Museum Complex, with the Art Gallery and the Museum Theatre, would be a perfect venue for this. Shopping and eating out will be added attractions here.
Nungambakkam High Road, Cathedral Road-Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai as 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 could serve as the venue for music concerts and visitors could move about the long stretch to savour the food of their choice.
A beach music festival on Kamarajar Salai with the Marina as the backdrop.
All these suggestions hold good even today and no doubt, can be implemented fairly easily if only some thought is given to the methodology.
What the Government ought not to do would be to start off one more music festival and join the bandwagon of sabha-s dishing out awards and concert opportunities. What it needs to do is to facilitate the conduct of the cultural season by providing infrastructure and that would mean some of the following things:
1. A common inauguration of the festival on the beach which will cut the clutter of so many individual inaugurations with the same trite speeches, largely played out to empty seats.
2. Better transport arrangements which will enable the public to move from sabha to sabha and thereby savour more music.
3. Becoming tourist friendly by improving the city’s public manners, getting its signage to be more user-friendly, and also handing out detailed brochures and maps.
4. Advertise the music season abroad and in travel and hotel magazines. Get this campaign into operation at least six months before the Season so that everyone has ample time to plan.
5. Induce the trade to participate by asking hotels, restaurants and traditional shopping areas (like Panagal Park) offer special discounts. The New Woodlands Hotel and several service apartments benefit immensely from the Season. Why can’t the others also cash in?
6. Broadbase the event by getting other organisers, such as those of the Other Festival and Mylapore Festival, to be a part of it. That way, there would be something on offer for just about everyone.
7. Integrate Pongal celebrations with it.
There is a lot more that can be done from December 15th to January 16th if there is a will to do it. Is anyone listening?