Saptan Stories – British Council India blends storytelling with visual art in celebration of UK/India Year of Culture

A unique Indian story will be told 7 ways, over 7 weeks, by 7 artists and digital audiences in a first-of-its-kind crowdsourced campaign

British Council Saptan Stories

The ancient art of storytelling is probably the only trait to have been passed on along generations. Humans have connected with each other and their surroundings through a long chain of stories, often mythical but refreshing nevertheless. Stories that weave together common traits and induce a sense of belonging-ness, stories that bond communities and often countries.

In celebration of the 70-year relationship between India and the UK. British Council India has announced the year-long UK/India 2017, a cultural array of activities to connect and inspire people in both countries. At the heart of the celebrations is Saptan Stories – a creative storytelling collaboration that will engage the Indian public to generate the first ever crowdsourced short story, interpreted and illustrated by seven standout artists from India and the UK.

British Council India has collaborated with Oscar-winning British animation studio Aardman Animations (creators of Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Chicken Run) to develop Saptan Stories. The first line of the story was written by Aardman and then handed over to people to submit their ideas for how the story continues.

Over seven weeks, a new crowdsourced storyline will be added to the story every week and voted on by the Indian public. Each line of the story is then interpreted and illustrated by the 7 artists in their unique visual styles, to eventually create one unique story and 49 art works!

Audiences can take part in Saptan Stories online via the website and community hub where they can view activity, find out about the artists, enter their own submissions, and vote for the winning lines each week.

“We aim to inspire creative writing, thinking and participation with a giant game of consequences played out over all of India,” Alan Gemmell, OBE Director India, British Council said. He added that a crowdsourced project invites thousands of minds, and in this case, to pen down the emotions and observe the amount of creativity and flow of thought in each one of them, could stimulate a sense of belongingness to the story.

“We aim to inspire creative writing, thinking and participation with a giant game of consequences played out over all of India.”

The artists – Gemma Correll (UK), Adrita Das (India), Tom Mead (UK), Janine Shroff (India/UK), Saloni Sinha (India), Gavin Strange (UK) and Priyesh Trivedi (India) have been specially handpicked for the project. The team looked through hundreds of artists to get to the final selection.

“Choosing the artists was a very exciting but difficult process; we wanted to find the right balance of artists that would compliment each other, whilst also being entirely individual. The artists have been chosen not only based on their exceptional skillset but also based on their massive social media following, and they routinely upload their artworks and share it with their followers for comments and feedback,” Gemmell revealed.

“Before I could utter an answer, my heart made the choice. How she heard its silent cry, I do not know. The lake opened and a chasm appeared. I was sucked into a whirlpool of water, light and chaos”- winning line from Week 4. From heartbreaks to ghostly apparitions appearing, YOUR story has taken many interesting turns. The latest set of illustrations by our team of artists for the winning line from Week 4 are here. There is still time to submit the next line. Send us your entries before 10 pm on Sunday. Visit the link in our profile section to submit your entry. . . #SaptanStories #UKindia2017 @aardmananimations #UKIndia2017 #Arts #Culture #ArtistsofInstagram #Writing #Shortstories #Storytelling #Photography #Artists #India #Beauty #CreativeWriting #Authors #Sketches #Doodles #Inspiration

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“The main consideration for me was that the artists were storytellers; through a single image, each artist could create imagery which sparked the imagination. As storytelling is at the heart of Saptan Stories, it made sense this was the most important factor in choosing our artists.”

Gemmell commented that he can’t wait to see how the artists react to an evolving story. “It’s a real challenge, as they don’t know what’s coming next and have a very short time to respond.”

The crowd-sourced nature of Saptan Stories makes for an engaging digital campaign. Enabling one’s audiences to decide the storyline is the most interesting aspect of the collaborative creative effort where none of the involved parties know what this will all end up as!

“Interest-based digital marketing has helped us reach the right audiences at the right touchpoints.” The team has indulged in a variety of content engagement strategies – interviews with artists, providing a more behind-the-scene look at them and their work, the art itself is interesting and brings out the different styles of artists as they represent the same story line.

British Council India’s cultural celebration is scouting the digital path. it’s seeking to reach out to and speak to those associated with, or interested in the creative space, while also enabling users become creators.

In celebration of the UK-India Year of Culture, the team is now looking forward to bring a number of exciting digital products to India, to let users become creators. One of these is Mix the City – an online platform where you can explore the music of a particular city by creating, or ‘mixing’ compositions online. “While Mix the City Delhi and Mumbai are live already, we’re now preparing to launch its Kolkata and Chennai editions.”

The other product in the pipeline is Mix the Body, an interactive website where users can experience dance and what it is like to be a choreographer. Users can compose a contemporary dance piece, based on pre-loaded movements of the dancers and also accompany their pieces with some compositions.

Inspiring creative expression digitally

Crowdsourcing has truly broken barriers; Saptan Stories has made a storyteller out of everyone. Gemmell believes that digital technologies are tools and new opportunities for creative artistic expression. “In a digitized world with easy access to technology, the accessibility of arts and storytelling through digital mediums will democratize the story telling narrative.”

Digital collaborations are the key inspiration behind British Council India’s cultural celebration, ‘UK-India Year of Culture 2017’. There is a set path ahead ensuring continued digital engagement of Indian audiences. Enabling users with a digital platform to unleash their creative side, whether it be illustrative storytelling, mixing music or experiencing dance, not only helps the brand build perception as a young, collaborative, culturally-rich one amongst gen Z, but also lets them connect with the creative community.

Saptan Stories is apparently only the beginning in the brand’s digital efforts.