BBC’s ‘The Arts Hour on Tour’ to Visit Tbilisi July 2 to Explore Local Culture

Exclusive Interview with Nikki Bedi

In past years, Georgia has experienced significant cultural, social and economic changes, changes that have helped the country to establish itself as an important spot on the world map. Tbilisi even managed to grab the attention of the BBC World Service through its vibrant and growing cultural scene. On July 2, the BBC’s world-renowned radio program ‘The Arts Hour on Tour’ will be visiting Tbilisi to explore the city’s cultural scene and to record a special program with notable Georgian figures. The Arts Hour on Tour is a monthly arts show uncovering culture in the world’s different cities, and this time Georgia’s capital is its next destination. The show will be recorded at the Liberty Theater and will be free to attend. It will be accompanied by performances from famed Georgian music groups Moku Moku and Kayakata.

GEORGIA TODAY had the pleasure to interview the presenter of the program, Nikki Bedi, about her visit and the show.

Tell us about The Arts Hour On Tour.

There are actually two radio shows we make. The Arts Hour is our weekly program where I curate the best of the arts from across the BBC and am joined in the studio by two guests to discuss it all. They may be filmmakers, authors, visual artists or critics in their fields.

The Arts Hour on Tour is a monthly programme and is huge in comparison! We travel to a different city in the world and mount a big stage show in front of a live audience. We have two music acts, a stand-up comedian and then a panel of some of the biggest names in their fields- movie stars, directors, authors, poets, visual artists, architects, composers- and we always go to a city that’s experiencing change to find out how these artists are responding. The aim is to offer a deeper understanding of the changing society via the prism of the arts. An artist’s personal storytelling can often give us deeper insights into a country than a dry socio-political news piece. No offence to my esteemed BBC World service news colleagues! As the BBC World Service’s English-language news service alone reaches a record 97 million people globally, we have a great responsibility to reflect a country in the widest possible way.

Our topics will always depend on what’s happening in the city we’re in. Has war wiped out much of the cultural life? Is it being rebuilt? Has a natural disaster affected the city? Is the rise of the far-right changing things? Are there no LGBTQI rights? Is gentrification forcing artists out of place? Is tradition being replaced by modernity, and if so…who is preserving cultural history? Those and many other questions can steer our topic discussions.

What made you decide to record a program about Georgia’s cultural scene? Who are your guests?

Tbilisi is such a fascinating city. It has a complicated history which makes the arts scene rich and diverse. It’s like a Eurasian crossroads with incredible architecture and arts heritage but it’s moving forward into the 21st century with spectacular contemporary buildings and new cultural scenes. We want to find out what sort of new identity is being forged by the city’s artists.

Georgian cinema has always been distinct, and I feel a new wave of filmmakers, many of whom are women. What sort of stories are they telling to reflect Georgian society today? We have director Rusudan Chkonia as one of our guests.

Also on stage we have the writer Davit Gabunia, artist Mariam Nastroshvili and comedian Aleksandr Pereverzev. Our live music will come from KayaKata and Moku Moku.

The audience is an incredibly important part of the show as we ask them to get involved. I’ll be including them in some of the questions about Tbilisi and Georgia

Is it your first time in Georgia?

It will be my first time in Georgia and I’m incredibly excited to find out more about the country via the capital city and its arts scene.

What are your expectations for your visit to Tbilisi?

I hope to experience the stunning city on foot on one of my morning runs. I’d like to try some of your famous Georgian hospitality, khachapuri, khinkali, Georgian wine….but most of all to bring a set of stories to our BBC World Service listeners that begin to give us an understanding of Georgia- past and present, political and social, artistic and economic, as well as a feel for the city’s hugely varied culture.

How long are you going to stay with your crew in the country?

We only get to stay a few days, sadly, as BBC budgets obviously can’t fund anything other than work, but it’s long enough to scratch the surface of a changing society and be invited a little deeper via our guests’ stories and experiences.

Are you planning to do some sightseeing?

When I walk or run in a new city, I feel like I’m connecting with centuries of history. Tbilisi’s cobbled streets must have so many stories in them and the earth’s magnetism must help us feel that, so that’s already a start!

I really want to see some of the contemporary artist Rusudan Petviashvili’s work in the flesh and I’d like to see Chronicles of Georgia, Stalin’s Underground Printing House and cross The Bridge of Peace, and I’m always interested in new uses for old buildings.

Luckily for me, we make a feature called the Culture Cab in every city that The Arts Hour On Tour goes to, with one of our show guests becoming my guide to the city’s cultural and artistic secrets. This allows us to really experience a place through the eyes of a local. In Tbilisi, our journey will hopefully take in some of the cool music venues, Fabrika, street art in the underground passages at Vake Park and Heroes’ Square…it’s always good to find social, political and cultural graffiti but that’s up to my guide, so you’ll have to listen to The Arts Hour On Tour in Tbilisi to find out where we go!

For tickets, go to

The Tbilisi edition of the program will air on BBC World Service on Saturday 27 July and will be available on the BBC World Service website after that at

By Lika Chigladze

27 June 2019 18:15