Press release

Prime Minister announces 2017 UK-India Year of Culture

Prime Minister announces a year-long programme of events to mark cultural ties between the UK and India.

  • year-long programme of events to celebrate UK’s cultural ties with India
  • iconic texts – Shakespeare’s First Folio and Magna Carta – to tour India and British Library South Asian archives to be digitised
  • popular Bollywood waxworks to feature in new Madame Tussauds in New Delhi

A year long-programme to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Indian independence and UK cultural ties has been announced by the Prime Minister.

The Year of Culture 2017 will see an exciting festival of events celebrating the vibrant cultural history of the 2 countries.

Top UK institutions will partner with their Indian counterparts to strengthen cultural and economic ties between the 2 nations, and showcase British creativity on the global stage.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

The great partnership between India and the UK extends beyond economic ties to the boards of The Bard and the beaches of Bollywood. We have some of the best cultural exports in the world – and it’s about time we celebrated this, together.

To mark the start of this cultural pairing, the British Library will be digitising 200,000 pages of their South Asian archives. Two centuries of Indian print will be part of a major programme to make the wealth of Indian printed books held by the British Library dating from 1714 to 1914 accessible to anyone around the globe.

Madame Tussauds – whose Bollywood figures are some of the most popular in London – has also announced its first Indian venture in New Delhi, scheduled to open in 2017.

Parent group Merlin is set to invest £50 million in India over 10 years, rolling out other UK favourites – such as Sea Life aquariums and Legoland Discovery Centres – across Indian cities.

Two of the most iconic British texts will tour India as part of the programme. The British Library will showcase Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of the Bard’s plays – and the 1225 edition of the Magna Carta.

One of India’s premier museums – the CSMVS Mumbai – will tell the story of Indian civilisation in the context of world history using some items on loan from the British Museum.

The UK is already a big hit with Indian tourists. Last year saw a record breaking 400,000 visits to the UK from India and in the first half of 2015 Indian tourists spent £199 million during their stays.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said:

The UK has an incredibly special relationship with India – not just economically and through our historic ties – but culturally, through our music, our theatre, our design and much more.

An India-UK Year of Culture is a great opportunity for both our nations – strengthening this dynamic cultural partnership and driving even more innovative ways to work together to make great art.

The 2017 India-UK Year of Culture will include:

A Festival of India in the UK

A dynamic festival of arts and culture led by India’s cultural organisations in the UK.

Magna Carta tour

The British Library’s Magna Carta 1225 edition will be travelling to India. Accompanying the exhibition will be a series of public events that will include talks, debates and performances.

India and the World

An exhibition at the CSMVS Mumbai that brings together a collection, some on loan from the British Museum, and others from private and museum collections in India. It will tell the story of Indian history and civilisation in the wider context of simultaneous events in world history.

Shakespeare’s First Folio tour to India by the British Library

The First Folio is the first collected edition of William Shakespeare’s plays, collated and published 7 years after his death. It is estimated around 750 First Folios were printed, of which 233 are currently known to survive worldwide. The British Library currently owns 5.

An India exhibition is being planned at the Manchester Museum before the opening of their India gallery.

The Prime Minister is currently hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the UK (12-13 November). They will both attend a celebration of Indian and UK creative arts at a Wembley stadium event, where tens of thousands are expected to attend.

Notes to editors

  • The India-UK Year of Culture will be a curated programme that gives audiences in India and the UK access to inspirational, engaging and diverse art, music, theatre, design, performing arts, film and literature.

  • The India programme in the UK will be led by the Ministry of Culture in India, the Nehru Centre and other Indian cultural organisations in the UK, working with the British Council as partner.

  • The British Library holds the finest collection of South Asian literature in the world. The project will include the digitisation of more than 7 million pages from Asian-language books as well as significant selections of manuscripts and other items from the Library’s collections, including archives, visual and sound material.

  • British Indians represent the largest ethnic group in Britain (1.5 million people) and 3 of the top 6 languages spoken are Indian: Punjabi, Bengali and Gujarati.