What’s new at this year’s Urur Olcott festival

The Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha is Chennai's most happening and talked-about arts festival. A volunteer organiser hails the uniqueness of the festival and the events this year.

That it is the most happening arts festival in the city of Chennai is like stating the obvious. Even the name is different — it doesn’t have ‘sabha’ as the suffix or ‘Sri’ as the prefix, not to mention the very ordinary multitude of volunteers who have come together for this extraordinary performing arts festival. With myriad art forms, performed in many open and public spaces, the Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha has come of age.

This year, not only is the Vizha happening in the Urur Olcott Kuppam Beach, it has also travelled to other locations. The open spaces of Thiruvalluvar Nagar in Besant Nagar, the Besant Nagar beach, Raga Sudha Hall in Mylapore, the Chennai Central Railway Station, and a public bus! All these have become stages for different art forms to be performed and soaked in by the Chennaites. Every location has a mix of familiar and the not so familiar art forms, the very meaning of familiar and unfamiliar being rewritten, for different communities of people.

This year has also seen many firsts – the performance of Gaana, Silambattan, Paraiattam and the music of the transgender Jogappas in a well known August stage in Mylapore, the performance by two children’s choir groups in the Chennai Central Railway Station, the performance in relay music Style, by many musicians in a public bus, performance by the corporation band, to name a few. This year also saw the successful completion of three workshops on art, percussion and photography  for children in two schools and an NGO.

The last two days of the Vizha on February 10th and 11th will see performances in Kuchipudi dance, fishermen’s songs, cathartic music, short plays, nadaswaram and panchavaadhyam among others.

The whole Vizha means different things to different people. As a volunteer organiser, I feel a sense of upliftment that art is not being slotted, people are getting to see art forms which they have never seen before, in open non-restrictive spaces, with scant importance given to whether one’s clothes are flashier than the others’, or if the others in the audience are familiar faces. It is an arena where many cultures and communities have come together to watch art.

Many artists across genres have not only registered their support, but they are also keen to perform in unfamiliar spaces, challenge themselves, before mixed audiences. I also enjoy organising the Vizha as much as watching.

The festival is entirely crowd funded and every rupee raised is spent well, meaningfully and with purpose. There’s fragrance in the air, of lovely times, of oneness, of togetherness, of humanity, of art in open spaces…. come & join in the celebrations.

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