In October 2019 for a period of 10 days Aberystwyth Arts Centre hosted a major collaboration between young people aged 13–18, from Bangalore, India; Fitzalan High School, Cardiff and Ysgol Bro Pedr, Lampeter.

Thanks to support from Arts Council Wales, Aberystwyth Arts Centre has worked in collaboration with the Creative Learning through the arts team, Wales Arts International and Dream a Dream, a charitable organisation based in Bangalore that creates opportunities through the Arts for young people from poorer backgrounds to overcome adversity and flourish in a fast-changing world. Aberystwyth Arts Centre proudly hosted 10 young people from Bangalore over the autumn half term for a week of workshops and experiences.

Over their first weekend they enjoyed lantern-making with Small World Theatre company, who enable and engage with diverse communities in Wales and overseas to foster well-being through participating in the arts. Their aim is to bring arts activity into the heart of community as a social change agent. The group also enjoyed storytelling and music with local performers Peter Stevenson and Ailsa Mair Hughes.

Small World theatre also facilitated lantern making workshops with Ysgol Llannon, Ysgol Pontrhydfendigaid, the Learning Support Centre at Ysgol Penglais, as well as a public workshop at the Arts Centre.

Winding Snake, a Cardiff-based not-for-profit animation and media education organisation, facilitated a fantastic Rangoli workshop to display the Rangoli all week in the Arts Centre Great Hall foyer introducing a world of colour, culture and friendship.

Over the week in Ceredigion there were many activities looking at Welsh and Indian culture in a multitude of languages and disciplines. Activities included workshops in felt making with Ruth Packham and screen printing with Becky Knight. Sophie Hadaway, Regional Lead from the Arts Council Wales, and Jeremy Turner, delivered a creative skills workshop which links in with the new curriculum in Wales.  The group also enjoyed a visit to a Diwali event in Bow Street community hall, joining in with local residents to celebrate the festival of light.

The highlight of the week was a lantern procession on Wednesday evening where the group paraded the lanterns they’d been working on together. The lantern parade was a fusion of art, heritage and culture, with the parade around the Penglais campus followed by an evening of entertainment. Tutors from the Arts Centre provided lessons in dance. Alaw Griffiths provided a lesson in Welsh clog-dancing, and Kritika Bhardwaj gave a lesson in Bollywood dance. This was followed by performances from the students from Bangalore, and a traditional Twmpath dance which was enjoyed by all! Spectators and participants had a visual feast of light and illumination, culture and art.

This visit from Bangalore is one of many highlights of a season of Indian activity at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, including the Threads exhibition in Gallery 1 that celebrates the work of Welsh and Indian artists and underlines the venue’s commitment to international work and relationships, and engaging with various communities across mid-Wales, embodying Arts Council Wales’ tenet that art should be for the ‘benefit of all’.

Amanda Trubshaw, Creative Learning manager at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, said “It’s been such an honour to host this project. The energy, enthusiasm and creativity of these young people is incredible. Many have said how much this opportunity is changing their lives, but their presence here is changing our lives too.”

Revanna Marilinga, manager of the After School Life Skills Programme for Dream a Dream, said “It was an incredible journey for our young people, coming from vulnerable backgrounds to travel to Wales and participate in an arts and culture exchange programme. They have been having life-changing experiences by participating in various activities and workshops. They’re making new friends for life. They’re learning about Welsh culture, language, creativity and collaboration, as well as learning life skills. It is the perfect opportunity for our young people to overcome adversity and thrive in their lives. I thank Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Arts Council Wales for such a wonderful opportunity for our young people - the project will change their lives.”

Diane Hebb, Director of Arts Engagement for Arts Council Wales said “I am delighted that a conversation that began in Bangalore two years ago around creativity has culminated in this extraordinary event, bringing together young people from India, Cardiff and Ceredigion to explore their creative responses to what’s happening in our world today.”