Fun in the Estate
Next weekend, a day-long folk festival in Ballard Estate hopes to reopen and revive the public spaces movement in a city starved of cultural playgrounds
Our first visit to Ballard Estate was as a college student, who had lost her way in an attempt to find the Mint. We had strayed into unfamiliar terrain but the wide roads, leafy sidewalks and impressive architectural identity took our breath away. It was a far cry from anything that we had come across in the rest of SoBo.
We were transfixed by the Port Trust War Memorial, lost ourselves in the decadent interiors of Britannia & Co and ended up spending a good two hours there. Years later, armed with information, we made several trips to this business district that was designed by George Wittet, who had in his portfolio, The Gateway of India and Prince of Wales Museum (now CSMVS). However, what struck us was that this well-planned neighbourhood remained under-utilised beyond it being a hub for the port offices, commerce and trade, especially after office hours and on weekends.
Now, the landscape is set for a change. "In 2013, the Indian Heritage Society of Mumbai used to organise Art in the Park sessions across neighbourhoods in the city. We felt Ballard Estate needed to be a part of it. We had approached the Mumbai Port Trust to take it further, and now, it is finally happening. We will hold a folk festival on December 16. It has remained an untapped area for too long," says Anita Garware, its chairperson, and key player in the city's heritage movement for over two decades. Called A Day in Ballard Estate, it will include free activities for kids and grown-ups, from performances by local artistes to artisan workshops, open-air art galleries, food stalls, live weaving demos, painting competitions and art sessions on Shoorji Vallabhdas Road.
She is excited that years of perseverance are finally paying off. "We had mooted this proposal to MbPT (Mumbai Port Trust) in 2014. Sanjay Bhatia, its chairperson, played a big role in reopening this space." In the interim, this area witnessed a festival in 2016 put up by another concern that ended as a damp squib. The Society's revised idea got the nod in September 2018 but then began the logistic nightmare that came with a long list of permissions to take it forward — from the BMC, MCGM, the Fire and Traffic Departments and BEST to smaller agencies to ensure the event had sufficient generators.
"It was well worth it. The support of Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Union Ministry of Tourism and countless agencies ensured things were on track. Our mandate is to create new avenues for cultural awareness, and keep it alive for future generations. Mumbai needs it now more than ever before," she signs off.
On December 16, 11 am
At Shoorji Vallabhdas Road, Ballard Estate.
. Dhol tasha, tutari and lezim performers
. Culinary delights from East Indian, Koli and Pathare Prabhu communities
. Artisans from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh
. Free workshops and live demos in terracotta pottery and use of handloom
. Open-deck bus rides in the old Bombay Fort area
. Documentaries of the origins of the port and Ballard Estate
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