The state government will hold a series of events this autumn, with Irish singer Ronan Keating the highlight.
Keating will be performing at this year’s Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival, which will be held from November 17 to 19. The line-up of international artists also includes Jonas Blue, Hybrid Theory and Kenny Musik, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Lyngdoh informed today.
The autumn calendar will begin with the Meghalaya Kayak Festival in October in Umtham village, Ri-Bhoi, followed by the Shillong Literary Festival on November 14-16. The new year will then witness a Shillong Blues Festival in January.
In past editions, the Cherry Blossom Festival (CBF) has included a literary event running alongside it but this year the two have been split up.
Last year’s CBF was cancelled after the first day following the Mukroh Massacre on November 22, 2022.
2021’s CBF, Lyngdoh informed, saw an average of 45,000 visitors over each of the three days.
However, that year saw negative headlines dog the festival after members of the public were denied entry to the concert venue after it was filled to capacity. Police had to resort to tear gas to disperse the unruly crowd that thronged the gates of the JN Sports Complex.
Huge traffic jams snaked their way through the state capital, right from the afternoon, which added to the sense of frustration.
Perhaps to avoid some of these problems, the government will now take the Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival out of the state capital and into Ri-Bhoi.
Meanwhile, Lyngdoh, who is also the Tourism Minister, informed that nearly 15 lakh tourists now visit Meghalaya yearly.
Informing that the government has also identified new tourist spots, he said, “We have identified a number of tourist circuits, as we call them, and these will be developed first around the popular spots. For example, the Umiam circuit and Sohra circuit, which are already popular. Apart from that, we are also going out of the way to include new virgin territory for which the state government has already received, or is in the process of receiving, funding from external aid agencies like the Asian Development Bank and the National Development Bank.”
On the criticism that the government is spending money it cannot afford on numerous festivals instead of investing in infrastructure or other areas that would make life better for the people, he said, “There will be critics everywhere but it is not for nothing that Meghalaya is known as the music capital of the country. In fact, a number of musicians are struggling to make ends meet because of a dearth of opportunities. Now we are offering that platform filled with opportunities and the benefits will go not just to the organisers but to artists taking part in those events and there will be so many who will benefit indirectly from these activities.”
On the pathetic road conditions prevalent in the state, the minister said that roads are components in some of the tourist projects, though he admitted that these are specifically to give a fillip to tourism.