There’s a lot that goes into staging a nine-day festival with 450 events across 12 art forms — including giant art installations, book readings, panel discussions, cooking workshops and numerous theatre, music and dance performances.
Working furiously behind the scenes to make it all happen is a surprisingly small team of 90 curators and volunteers. These enthusiasts arrive at the venue at 7 am every day, and usually only leave for a few hours of rest after 10 pm.
All day, the volunteers work to control crowds, guide visitors, make arrangements to ferry and host participating artistes and iron out any last-minute scheduling conflicts — all the while posting updates on Twitter and Facebook to make sure that visitors and fans of the festival are included in all the activity and updates.
Aged 18 to 55, these volunteers range from students to stand-up comedians, makeup artists, graphic designers and executives, all taking a break from their busy lives to be part of the city’s favourite annual cultural festival.
Many begin their work on the year’s festival months in advance, reaching out to the Kala Ghoda Association and offering to help put the extensive schedule together bit by bit.
Once the curtain goes up, everything gets stepped up several notches.
“Sometimes we spend all day just zipping from airport to train terminus to hotel, picking up artistes and ferrying them about,” says Brenda Barnes, 23, a law student and volunteer with the hospitality department.
“It’s hectic, sometimes nerve-wrecking, but we love it,” adds Priyanka Ribeiro, 23, a classmate of Barnes and a fellow volunteer. “We are stars among our friends.”
Online too, the pace is hectic.
“I upload about 200 tweets a day. My thumbs are always working,” says Kiran Seth, 25, who works with a social media agency. “I carry two phones, a laptop, an iPad and two chargers with me everywhere.”
If there is one grouse, particularly from volunteers who sign up every year, it is that they have to leave the venue at all.
“If we were allowed to, we would all bring our sleeping bags and just stay here for nine days,” says Ashmita Sarkar, 44, a headhunter who is volunteering for the sixth year in a row.
At the end of the day, adds Heeral Akhaury, 38, a designer and fellow volunteer, it’s just great to be here, see people have a blast and know that you had a part to play in that.