As China passes the Olympic Torch to the UK, the two nations are marking 40 years of diplomatic ties with a seven-month long showcasing British arts and creative industries. Seventeen cities across China will enjoy a variety shows sponsored by the project “UK NOW”. Upcoming highlights scheduled for April and May were announced at the British Embassy.
The idea of creativity is deeply embedded in British culture and society. Building on a rich heritage, the British creative output is characterized by originality and intelligence, and hence, the relatively small country makes a huge impact across the globe. Several prominent activities such as live concerts, stage performances and design exhibitions have taken place in China in recent years, but “UK NOW” will be the largest-ever collective program celebrating British arts here in China.
Sebastian Wood, Britain’s Ambassador to China, said, “It’ll be very broad and varied. From some of our really big, traditional, heavy-weight institutions like English National Ballet, Philharmonic Orchestra, through to small theatre companies and performance groups. It’ll be a mixture of ballet, music, theatre, exhibitions, paintings, designs, and we’re really looking forward to bringing the best of British culture to China in 2012.”
The ambassador further explained the link between the art festival and the upcoming Olympic Games, and how the idea of “UK NOW” was bred at first.
Sebastian Wood said, “In 2008, the year of Beijing Olympics, there was a very good festival of Chinese contemporary culture in the UK, and it was called ‘China Now’. We saw that and we thought ‘What a good idea’, because there was a big focus on China, lot of public attentions on China because of the Beijing Olympics. In 2012, we know there’ll be quite a big focus on the UK because of our Olympics. So we thought there’s no better time to bring a festival of all the best we have to offer in culture to share with Chinese people, in our Olympic year.”
Starting from early April this year, “UK NOW” will feature a cross-section of the UK’s most celebrated and established artists, as well as rising talent in many disciplines such as dance, design, film, literature, music and visual arts. According to David Elliott, director of arts, a balance between the traditional and the contemporary is key to presenting British culture.
David Elliott, director of Arts, Cultural and Education Section, British Embassy, said, “I think what combines those two are things like inventiveness. Also things like sense of humor, and a willingness to experiment and to provoke dialogue, so that people can really go out on a limb and express themselves in a creative way.”
In the meantime, “UK NOW” is also an opportunity for China to see how Britain develops its creative industry as a whole. And according to Joanna Burke, Director of the British Council, the UK is willing to share valuable experiences and suggestions with China.
Joanna Burke, Regional Director China, British Council, said, “I know that China is interested in UK’s experience.”
David Elliott said, “It’s not just a straightforward festival of British arts in China, it’s a festival with a twist.”
Sebastian Wood said, “I’m delighted that British culture, particular youth culture, is becoming more popular among Chinese youth here. It’s very good for the relationship between the two countries. I would like Chinese culture, the strength of Chinese culture to become widely understood in the UK as well. I’m confident that it would happen, as more and more Chinese young people go to the UK for education and indeed for works and careers.”