Undeterred by the current pandemic, The United Kingdom Bengali Convention (UKBC) that was conceived in 2018 by three Bengalis over an informal chat in social media will be hosted virtually on 19 and 20 September this year . The premier season of UKBC this year will bring together more than 46 Bengali organisations, including 16 Durga Puja Committees. On this Autumn weekend curtain raiser of this grand festival will be streamed directly via stream yard from 2.00pm BST onwards, on both UKBC Facebook page as well as on YouTube channel.
A unique two daylong event, UKBC’s online curtain raiser will include varied cultural events – songs, dance, poems, films and plays, and speeches by celebrity guests. The continuous streaming of cultural programs will be perfectly interspersed by captivating panel discussions on various topics such as sports, health, business, food, science, politics, travel, movies, culture and literature.
It was in 2018 when Shrobona Bhattacharya first felt the urge to form one banner that can bring all the Bengalis living in the UK closer and form one big community. She says, “My ambition is to connect all the organisations from Scotland, to Ireland and of course all over England and host an annual celebration, which will be like the Olympics, where the hosting city will keep changing. From next year onwards the format of the event will truly be that of a festival, where over a weekend Bengalis can gather together to perform and enjoy programs of varied tastes, shop, eat, chat; everything happening parallelly in separate sections of the same venue. We are already in the middle of the planning process.”
The organisers have decided to align the convention dates in such a way that it does not clash with the other big festival, Durga Puja.
Not only the challenges of the present lockdown scenario, UKBC had their own sets of challenges to overcome to make this dream come true, thinks one of the main organisers and trustee members of the board, Mr. Suranjan Som. “Trying to do something in the Bengali Community has been one main challenge – the one coming from the commercial feasibility perspective. Here, we have noticed before that for various reasons the commercial tie up with events of this magnitude is very contrasting and bleak. I reckon, there must be some flaw in the model or planning, otherwise, why would an event of this calibre cannot be made successful. This is a challenge that we have taken up. The only way we can make this successful is if all of us, all the small and big Bengali organisations and groups come together.” Both Som and Bhattacharya suggested that award ceremonies could also be a part of the festival from 2021, the details of which are still under wrap.
Som also says, “UKBC is a dynamic platform for all the organisations to come together and enjoy the strength of unity. This is in no way going to curb the organisations from their individual identities. In fact, if anything, it is only going to give them a fantastic platform to showcase their talents and get a bigger exposure. Here is an open invitation from UKBC to all the Puja committees and other organisations – Please come together and join hands in doing something which is bigger than what any one of us can individually do.”
UKBC presently has 8 trustee members – Shrobona Bhattacharya from Cambridge, Arpita Roy from Essex, Suranjan Som from London, Dalia Banerjee also from London, Arindam Dhar from Birmingham, Subhranil Bhadra from Edinburgh, Soma Ghosh from Manchester and Debanjan Mukherjee from Kent. However, as Suranjan Som points out, “UKBC is a constantly evolving body and membership is not and should not be limited. Going forward, we expect to be growing bigger and involving others from the community in various positions.
Earlier this year UKBC had very successfully joined hands to raise funds for the Amphan Victims. From the UK they had managed to raise a hopping £10,000 and donated the money to 5 prominent charity organisations in India.
“From that point on we thought, why not also do a virtual curtain raiser event this year, and not be defeated by the lockdown. Away from home, our community becomes our bigger family. This is the biggest feel good that we all can get from each other”, says Arpita Roy.
Roy also contemplates that, “This concept of holding a festival in virtual medium is still very new to the previous generations. I am hopeful, next year more puja committees will come forward and join us. UKBC is mine and yours. All my friends are with me on this. Would you be our new friends and join us!”, she adds sweetly.
Dalia Banerjee, another trustee member is extremely glad to be a part of this project right from beginning, as it is in her Facebook group, IBUK, where the inception of all these had taken place. “I still remember that day, 7th Feb ’18, when Shrobona’s one post had garnered enormous attention. The tree that was sewed that day has turned into a strong tree now. By 2019 UKBC was a registered charity in UK”, Dalia says.
Lyrics of the very catchy and melodious UKBC promotional clip is contributed by all the trustee members, while the tune is done by Shubranil Bhadra.
To watch the show on YouTube:
Facebook page link: https://www.facebook.com/1144757555665392/posts/1831466673661140/
A detailed map of UKBC, as compiled and updated by Suranjan Som:
Pan UK 46 organisations are taking part in the curtain raiser event on 19th and 20th September are:
- Aberdeen Bengali Cultural Association
- Aberdeen Community Durga Puja
- Anashmita dance studio
- Atreyee Dance Group
- Aurav Disha
- Bandal Mainline
- Bangyma Bangyami
- Belfast Durgapujo and Dussehra Festival Committee
- Bengali Cultural Association Peterborough
- Essex Indians
- Gairika Mathur dance school *
- Glasgow Durgapuja Committee
- Indian Arts Association
- Indradhanus kids
- Indradhanush Cambridge
- Leeds Durgapujo and Diwali association
- Leicester Probasi *
- Liverpool pujo
- London Kalibari
- Mudra Academy of Performing Arts UK
- Nabarun Hindu Bengali Cultural Association *
- Nritya Tales (IBUK )
- Robi Bharati
- Robi Chando
- Sanaskriti *
- Sanklap Chelmsford *
- Satsang church *
- Shri *
- Tagore centre Scotland
- Tunes and Rhythms
- Wales puja committee
- Yorkshire Bengali Association (YBA)