United Kingdom/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.1 Overview of main structures and trends

A considerable amount of international cultural co-operation is undertaken by individuals and organisations through networks, exchanges and personal contact. This is an integral dimension of the work of many organisations and individuals as well as the cultural and creative industries, which do much business overseas. The British Council (which is part-funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office) is the UK's international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities with offices in 110 countries. Its focus is increasingly on cultural development opportunities, new partnerships and cultural relations. The level of resources available for international engagement remains an issue of concern to cultural practitioners.

A review of public diplomacy efforts in the UK, led by Lord Carter, resulted in the creation of a new Public Diplomacy Board (2006), which replaced the one established in 2002. It is an advisory committee designed to improve the cohesion, effectiveness and impact of government efforts to promote the UK overseas. The Board is responsible for formulating a national public diplomacy strategy to support the UK's key overseas interests and objectives. Members include the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the British Council and the BBC World Service. Amongst the previous Public Diplomacy Board's activities was a programme of specific promotional campaigns, such as "Crossroads for Ideas" to welcome the new European Member States, and "Think UK" to promote partnerships with China. In 2007, and with the support of DCMS and ACE, the British Council initiated "China-UK: Connections through Culture", a GBP 1 million programme giving advice for cultural networking and grants for project development with the aim to position Britain as a valued cultural partner (http://ctc.britishcouncil.org.cn/lang/en).

From 2014 the BBC will be required to take over responsibility for funding the BBC World Service, currently financed from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. This is likely to lead to further reductions in the BBC World Service output, especially as the BBC is constrained by government from increasing its income from the annual licence fee for listeners and viewers.

From the UK heritage perspective, national and regional heritage bodies participate in international groups e.g. the International Committee on the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage and the International Council on Monuments and Sites; and support European Heritage Days, an initiative of the Council of Europe which complements government policies such as social inclusion, volunteering, tourism and education.

Scotland

The Scottish Government actively supports and finances the international promotion of Scotland through culture, working directly with partners and through cultural Non Departmental Public Bodies. Recognising the importance of this area and building upon successful joint initiatives, British Council Scotland has worked closely with the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen and will do continue to do so with their successor, Creative Scotland.

Some of Scotland's international cultural initiatives include development opportunities for artists; national representation in the Venice Biennale; and support to the Edinburgh City of Literature programme, after it was awarded the first UNESCO-designated City of Literature (http://www.cityofliterature.com).

Wales

Wales Arts International is an agency supported by the Arts Council of Wales and the British Council Wales (http://www.britishcouncil.org/wales/) to promote knowledge about contemporary culture from Wales and encourage international exchange and collaboration. Services include project funding through the International Opportunities Fund, residencies, networking events and guidance for artists and cultural organisations (http://www.wai.org.uk). Some of Wales's cultural initiatives include the Dylan Thomas Prize, Artes Mundai, national representation at Venice Biennale, as well as development opportunities for individual artists and support for companies performing overseas.

Northern Ireland

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) works with other partners to promote abroad the work of artists from Northern Ireland. For example, the Arts Council's exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2009 is the third successive time Northern Ireland has been represented. In March 2009, a number of Northern Ireland (NI) Bands showcased at the South by Southwest (SXSW) event in Austin Texas, while preliminary work is well underway with the NI Centre in Europe (Brussels) for artistic programming.

ACNI is committed to supporting Northern Ireland's cultural participation in the years leading up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. For instance, a Creative Programmer for the Cultural Olympiad in Northern Ireland was appointed and works as part of the UK-wide network of Creative Programmers. In addition, ACNI are funding a number of projects in the run up to London's 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and its associated Cultural Olympiad.

The International Strategy of ACNI recognises the reciprocal elements of international work, through "exportation and importation" of arts and artists. As part of that strategy, and under its Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP), the Council's International Schemes offer support to artists, and in some cases to arts organisations, in the exportation of their work and in the enhancement of their opportunities for international experiences.

ACNI looks to create and utilise partnerships and associations with other government and non-government agencies, for example in conjunction with the British Council (http://www.britishcouncil.org/northernireland.htm) and Visiting Arts, ACNI joint-funds a post in the British Council.

A partnership with Malta originally led to artists from Northern Ireland performing at the Maltese Cultural Festival. More recently, the Maltese delegation has visited the Arts Council and this has resulted in proposals for future partnership working in the areas of music, visual arts and circus. Also, ACNI has agreed to offer assistance to the newly formed Arts Council of Malta.

ACNI has in place a number of reciprocal exchanges for international residencies, including in New York, Banff, Winnipeg, the St James Writers' Residency in Malta and the British School at Rome Fellowship.


Chapter published: 15-04-2011


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