Saturday, September 30, 2023

From East Tilbury to India


AS part of this year’s Totally Thames, East Tilbury is celebrating the UK’s rich cultural relationship with India hosting Silk River, a spectacular 10 day ‘art walk’ that will journey through East Tilbury on Sat 23rd Sept from 9:30am – 2pm.

Silk River has been created by Kinetika, the internationally renowned company responsible for the art installations that led the Athlete’s Parade at London 2012 Olympic Games to the delight of approximately one million onlookers.

Silk River will feature twenty colourful hand-painted Bengal silk scrolls, each 6 metres high, which explore the unique relationship between London and Kolkata, India, and reveal the stories of those who live and work on the river and the connections they have with parallel communities living alongside the Hooghly in West Bengal.

East Tilbury, just like our partner Batanagar in Kolkata, was home to the BATA shoe company set up by Czechoslovak industrialist Tomas Bata. His desire to set up the factory helped to alleviate unemployment during the great depression and The British Bata Shoe factory was built from 1932. The estate was based on Bata’s home town of Zlin and came complete with worker housing, a primary school, and technical college for its students, a village hall and sporting facilities for the employees. Transforming the potato fields into the modernist Bata Estate in the 1930’s, this small community had its own cinema, swimming pool and surely Thurrock’s first Expresso bar.

Participants will meet families who grew up here with connections all over the world, and witness the story of Johnny, the shoemaker with smelly feet with a highly entertaining performance from Thurrock’s own Complete Commedia Company. What’s happened to Bata now? New developments are coming to East Tilbury just as they are to Batanagar in Kolkata. How do London and Kolkata compare in their approach to riverside developments?

Register for the walk here:

The event will take place in 10 different locations across London, from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew to Southend, and the full list of locations, times and meeting points can be found here:

Kew will host an exhibition during October half term school holidays of all 20 of the silks accompanied by a programme of activities

Ali Pretty, Kinetika’s Artistic Director said: “It was my first visit to India in 1984 that inspired me to work in the arts, using them as a tool for social change and community development. Silk River will build on my experience over the last 30 years, bringing together communities from the UK and India for a meaningful exchange of stories and ideas. By sharing and celebrating the similar histories and narratives between the River Thames and India’s Hooghly River, the Silk River Project hopes to encourage the celebration of rich local history, and engage the community along the journey of rediscovery.”

Following the London Silk River walk, a twelve-day performative walk will take place alongside the river Hooghly, India, from Murshidabad to Kolkata. Along the journey together from Azimganj, Murshidabad to Botanic Gardens, Kolkata, on boat, foot and by train, participants will engage with contemporary artists, historians, writers and musicians, and participate in curated events comprising of talks, workshops and film screenings. More details about the India walk can be found here:

Silk River is brought together with the associate Artistic Director Ruchira Das from Think Arts, India and an international team of artists, writers and photographers and is supported by Arts Council England, British Council, Dartford Council, Kent County Council, Thurrock Council, Southend Council, Royal Borough of Greenwich, Barking & Dagenham CPP, Metal, Royal Opera House Trailblazers, Thurrock, Long Distance Walkers Association London Group and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


More articles