ISLAMABAD  - A 17-day Art & Culture Festival opened here on Thursday at Garden Avenue, Shakarparian, with a soft opening.

The event is being organised by Lok Virsa (National Institute of Folk & Traditional Heritage) in collaboration with private sector. The festival features artisans-at-work, musical shows, food courts, cultural performances, puppet shows, magic shows, gymnastic shows, stage and street performances, dance performances and many other attractions for children and families.

Talking about the objectives of the festival, Lok Virsa's Executive Director Khalid Javaid informed that the event aims to provide a platform to the traditional practitioners including craftspeople, folk artists, folk performers and dance groups to demonstrate their skills and win recognition of their talent at the national level. "It would also offer an opportunity to the residents of Islamabad/Rawalpindi and the diplomatic community residing here not only to witness various facets of Pakistan's living culture at the federal capital but also to buy traditional items of daily use on reasonable prices," he added.

Lok Virsa is known for holding its folk festival "Lok Mela" which takes place at Islamabad in April each year. This event was started in the year 1982 and is still in the cultural calendar of Pakistan. The popularity of the event can be judged from the fact that people wait for it and chalk out their schedule according to the dates of the event.

An artisan showcasing the beautiful art of wood carving at the ongoing festival said, "Lok Virsa's initiatives to promote handicrafts are commendable. I have brought a good number of traditional items with a hope to gain some money. Many other artisans, who came from far-flung and remote areas, also expect some business from the festival as it eliminates exploitation by middleman."

Another artisan Zahid was much confident about the success of the event.

The executive director Lok Virsa has invited the public to fully participate in the festivities of the event and contribute to the cause. He said, "Success of an event of such magnitude cannot be guaranteed without active participation of the masses who are real bearers of our magnificent cultural heritage."

The festival will continue at Lok Virsa till October 6 daily from 3:00pm to 10:00p.m.