A piece of arts as big as India ©

Joel Gethin Lewis

In 2017, the UK and India will celebrate a major bilateral year of cultural exchange. India and the UK have a long and rich history.  The India – UK Year will enrich relationships at all levels of society, their institutions and government, building a shared future for generations to come. 

As part of this exciting year, we are working with six partners to create a new digital experience to connect Indian audiences online with great British creativity. The cohort was selected through our digital open call earlier this year (see criteria below). For this next phase, each of them will produce a prototype to be shared with audiences in India this winter. A series of audience focus groups will help to pick and shape the final commission for next year’s programme. The successful project will be announced at the beginning of 2017.

The six partners and projects are:

Aardman Animations

Aardman, based in Bristol (UK) co-founded and run by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, is a world leader in animation. It produces feature films, television series, advertising and interactive entertainment for both the domestic and international market. Their multi-award winning productions are novel, entertaining, brilliantly characterised and full of charm that reflects the unique talent, energy and personal commitment of the very special people who make up the Aardman team. The studio’s work is often imitated and yet the company continues to lead the field producing a rare brand of visually stunning, powerful and amusing storytelling for independent and commercial productions. 

They will create seven unique stories told in seven ways created by seven artists. Much like a giant game of consequences played across the reaches of India, seven world-class artists, from both India and the UK, illustrate an ongoing story, a story the public create and decide. The project uses printed dailies to distribute the illustrations and provoke a response via the web or SMS, the favourable responses in turn getting illustrated, until after seven rounds the stories are complete – ultimately creating a beautiful, collectable series that can be kept as a physical moment of the event.


Coney makes all kinds of play - theatre, adventures, games - where different people can take a meaningful part. Their work includes the interactive theatre piece A Small Town Anywhere, Adventure One in a secret location in London’s financial district, the adventure in learning for primary school children A Cat Escapes, What’s She Like<What’s She Like> which you can play online now, and the BAFTA-winning Nightmare High. 

Their project is a set of everyday adventures in your neighbourhood - a place where you live, work or play - challenged through playful messaging, and transformed online into a beautiful document for others to explore. Coney will curate adventures by artists in at least four cities across the UK and India, to connect our neighbourhoods with each other, and find their commonalities and differences in play. An online viewing audience can explore documents of artists’ adventures, two at a time. A playing audience can make adventures in their own neighbourhoods and share those online too.

Joel Gethin Lewis

Between 1998 and 2001 Joel Gethin Lewis studied Mathematics and Computer Science at Imperial, before completing an MA in Interaction Design at the Royal College of Art in 2003. Post-graduation Joel worked at Benetton’s communication research centre, Fabrica, before returning to London where he worked as the interaction designer at UnitedVisualArtists – touring with the likes of Battles, U2 and Massive Attack, as well as collaborating on installation works such as Monolith, Volume and Hereafter. After discovering gopenFrameworks in 2007 through Chris O’Shea, Joel co-founded the craft, design and technology studio Hellicar&Lewis in 2008 with Pete Hellicar. They ran the studio together until 2016 with the express aim of building a creative business around Open Source.

Joel’s project aims to create a piece of art as big as India:

“Imagine a virtual layer of silk as big as the subcontinent, seeming to float in the sky above via augmented reality, but rippling and changing in response to interactions from website and smartphone users. 

The aim of this project is to create a digital sculpture as big as India itself, accessible from anywhere in India by anyone with a smartphone - as well as people outside of India via the web. 

The installation will exist on a mobile- compatible website that would allow users to hold up their mobile phone as an augmented reality device to view and interact by using geo-location. Non-mobile users could also view the sculpture via the same website. 

Users in the same physical location will be able to see other people’s interactions with the surface from the same location - they’d be able to raise or lower their part of the surface in real time by simply clicking their mouse or touching their mobile phone screen - making a new digital landscape above the physical geography of India.”

The Midnight Run

Established in 2005, and founded by Inua Ellams, The Midnight Run is a walking, arts-filled, night-time cultural journey through urban spaces. It gathers strangers and local artists/activists to explore, play and create whilst the city sleeps. To each Midnight Run, local artists/activists are invited to run workshops and interventions throughout the duration of the event. Midnight Runs have been held in cities across the world including Paris, Berlin, Auckland and Madrid and the primary aim is to simplify and make forms of artistic expression accessible to all.

The Midnight Run typically caters to 35 individuals. This small number makes the experience intimate and nuanced, however, the event in India presents an opportunity to include many more participants. This will be achieved by utilising digital tools including online social networking platforms to create a truly interactive event, where participants can follow, feed into and partake in the workshops and activities in real time, as the unfold across the city. 

The Singh Twins

Cited as ‘the artistic face of Britain’, The Singh Twins are internationally renowned artists whose award winning work engages in social, political, cultural debate and re-defines narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art, heritage and identity. Described as ‘Past-Modern’ as opposed to ‘Post Modern’, their decorative, narrative, symbolic and often witty style, is a pioneering modern development of traditional Indian miniature painting - something that was formerly recognized in 2011 when they received an MBE from the Queen. 

Their ongoing interest to push the boundaries of creative practice and engage wider audiences through new mediums has led them to collaborate with established Liverpool digital creatives Draw and Code, on ‘Art in Motion’ - an interactive, augmented reality app and virtual gallery project featuring new artworks celebrating India’s rich textile industry and its impact on global trade, culture and politics.

Zarah Hussein

Zarah Hussain has spent many years perfecting the traditional techniques for creating mathematically precise, geometric art and then adapting them to produce unique works with a contemporary resonance across a range of disciplines. Her work crosses many forms including digital art, painting and sculpture.

Zarah’s project, Patterns of India, is an app that lets users manipulate visual and musical patterns through simple interactions. The basic structure of the patterns is taken from jail screens in Mughal heritage sites in India such as Fathepur Sikri. Simply by tapping on the screen, you can intuitively trigger changes in the pattern, colour and music. Due to the multiple colours, speeds and musical moods, there will be an almost infinite amount of variation, so that your experience is different every time. You can choose how much or how little input you put into the animation, when no choices are made the app will automatically generate the sounds and colours, giving the user the the choice to play and engage or just watch and enjoy. This app is partly an instrument and partly a kinetic sculpture, it is a piece of art designed to appreciated though interaction.  Her aim in making this app is to celebrate the great design heritage of India to create something new, tactile, intuitive and fun.

Digital open call - criteria

UK – India 2017 Digital Open Call

In 2017, the UK and India will celebrate a major bilateral year of cultural exchange. India and the UK have a long and rich history.  The India – UK Year will enrich relationships at all levels of society, their institutions and government, building a shared future for generations to come.

This is the culmination of a five-year British Council programme to introduce a new, young, Indian audience to the best of contemporary UK creativity. We want to present the UK as a diverse, creative and contemporary country and reach a large audience across India during 2016 and 2017. 


We have ambitious targets for our online audience – 10 million people in 2016 and 50 million people in 2017. In order to meet our ambitions, the British Council is looking for brilliant, creative, digital ideas. 

Projects can have any theme but must:

• have creativity and culture at their heart

• be intended for an audience primarily in India, though they can have a wider reach than this 

• respond to the aims and outcomes in the background section below.

In order to be eligible to apply, you must be based in the UK or India and have a track record of developing new digital projects or experiences that have successfully reached new audiences (though not necessarily at this scale before). 


Five projects will be selected for seed funding of £10,000 each by the end of July. In return for this seed funding, we would like to see a prototype or proof of concept of your project that we can test with potential audiences in September/ October 2016. Following user testing in the autumn, we will make a number of commissions based on potential audiences and costs of the projects. Full commissions must launch during 2017. 


For full background and application details, please download our open call briefing here from below.

See also