United Kingdom/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.2 Public actors and cultural diplomacy

In the 2005 review, which led to the establishment of the new Public Diplomacy Board (see chapter 3.4.1), Lord Carter defined "public diplomacy" as: "Work aiming to inform and engage individuals and organisations overseas, in order to improve understanding of and influence for the United Kingdom in a manner consistent with governmental medium and long term goals."

In consultation with key stakeholders, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British Council and cultural organisations, the DCMS has developed a Cultural Diplomacy Policy. The overall aims of the policy are to encourage and support the cultural sector to develop international partnerships in areas of specific cultural and / or government priority, and to best realise the full benefit and impact cultural activity can have on diplomacy, development and as part of post conflict restoration.

The UK offers an insurance guarantee for cultural objects on loan for exhibitions called the Government Indemnity Scheme (GIS); it is administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council on behalf of the DCMS. The scheme allows museums to put on major exhibitions of high quality, with the government carrying the risk rather than an insurance company. The demand for GIS has been rising; museums are increasingly taking advantage of it to present items that attract new and diverse audiences. They do this through mounting temporary exhibitions and borrowing material from abroad, from private owners and / or in co-operation with other European and international museums to create touring exhibitions.

The British Council states that its purpose is to "build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people worldwide". It celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2009 and now has offices in over 100 countries around the globe. Overarching priorities for the Council are: climate change, international dialogue, knowledge and creative skills. In February 2008 the British Council invited consultation on its new Arts Strategy: Connecting the UK with the world through culture. At the same time, the Council found itself at odds with some in the arts community over proposals for internal change in its Arts Division and its advisory panels, as well as a perception among artists that the Council's policy approach was in danger of diminishing the role of the arts in its operations. Subsequently, in its Action Plan for the Arts", the British Council's Chief Executive candidly admitted that the Council's exploration of ways of reshaping its work in the arts to meet the changing world of cultural relations had led to concerns that it intended to dismantle its support for the sector. He also pledged to restore funding of its arts work to the 2006 level of GBP 30 million. In response to a commissioned report critical of the British Council's approach to the arts, including its emphasis on supporting large scale initiatives as the best way to achieve high impacts, the Council announced, at the beginning of 2009, five priority areas for the arts: showcasing UK excellence; promoting cultural leadership; developing creative economy networking; handling creative capacities; and integrating the arts across its education, science and governance programmes.

The British Council initiated an awards scheme in 2007 for International Young Creative Entrepreneurs. The objective is to support and sustain the next generation of international leaders in the creative / cultural sector from emerging economies, enabling them to visit and network with UK creative entrepreneurs. A parallel scheme exists for young UK creative entrepreneurs to establish contacts through programme visits to other countries.

International collaboration has been encouraged by Visiting Arts, a quasi- independent body funded by the British Council, the Arts Councils and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, with an emphasis on support for the presentation of international work in the UK. In 2004, it launched the Visiting Arts Scotland Cultural Profile, a tool designed to facilitate international projects and collaborations: http://www.scotland.culturalprofiles.org.uk. Many of the country profiles produced by Visiting Arts are now available online as well as in book form (http://www.culturalprofiles.net/Visiting%5FArts/Directories/Overview/). Recently, Visiting Arts has been reviewing its aims and strategies. It has also assumed the role of Cultural Contact Point for EU programmes in succession to Euclid.

DCMS is the government department responsible for the implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and acts as the UK State Party. The UK delegation at meetings of the World Heritage Committee includes representatives from the Scottish Government and its agencies. Under the concordat between DCMS and the Scottish Executive, Scottish Ministers have a devolved responsibility to nominate and manage World Heritage Sites in Scotland. A review of UK World Heritage Policy is currently being undertaken by DCMS and the devolved administrations.

The UK (through Historic Scotland) is a member of the Steering Committee for Cultural Heritage (CD-PAT). Through this, Historic Scotland co-ordinates the UK response to the Heritage Framework Convention negotiations and participates in the HEREIN network, a Council of Europe heritage database initiative supported by the European Union. Scotland's contribution to European Heritage Days is Doors Open Days (http://www.doorsopendays.org.uk) and Scottish Archaeology Month (http://www.scottisharchaeology.co.uk). Linked to these initiatives is PhotoArch (http://www.photoarch.org.uk), which is Scotland's entry to the International Heritage Photographic Experience (IHPE) organised by the Catalan authorities and supported by the Council of Europe.

The UK model of mixed public / private financing is becoming increasingly attractive in the light of the pressures on state funding in other countries. Arts & Business has been involved in helping to develop this area in over 32 countries and has run training programmes on developing private sector income in countries ranging from Russia to Viet Nam and from Canada to China.

There have been extensive changes to the film co-production environment. A number of new treaties are being agreed (South Africa, Morocco, China, and India), bilateral treaties are being suspended and existing treaties are being reviewed. The review of the tax environment (brought into force in 2006), in which a tax credit has been provided for film, means that co-production is more difficult and costly than hitherto and the numbers of co-productions has fallen substantially.

Several organisations in the UK run international cultural education and training programmes. The British Council offers a number of scholarships to overseas students to study in the UK. It is also involved with youth exchange, teaching exchange, school partnerships and training / work experience abroad. The Clore Leadership Programme (an initiative that aims to help to train and develop a new generation of leaders for the cultural sector in the UK) can also include opportunities for international training / experience, as do some Visiting Arts' projects.

Arts Council England offered an International Artists Fellowships programme from 2001 to 2008, to enable artists from all artforms, and at any stage in their career, to engage with artists from other cultures and disciplines. Artists Links is a programme initiated in 2002 by ACE and the British Council, with support from Visiting Arts, which aims to develop a network of collaborative work and development opportunities between British and other country specific artists: Artists Links China ran from 2002 to 2006 and then the focus switched to Brazil (http://www.artistlinks.org.uk/). An evaluation of the Artists Links programme, conducted by Momentum Associates and New Media Networks in 2010, recommended there be a clear, consistent and reliable selection process and a closer working relationship between ACE and the British Council in the future.

A business-led alliance called the Tourism and Heritage Export Group works to improve the export potential of the UK's heritage skills; one of its key tasks is to advise DCMS and UK Trade & Investment on the export strategy for the sector.

There has been much greater awareness of the relevance of international cultural co-operation in recent years. However, finding funding to undertake the work can still prove a difficult and time consuming process. The Arts Councils in the UK all support international work, but it is only recently that these ideas have been given a more structured form in strategy documents and in the case of Arts Council England, internationalism was one of six priorities in the planning period 2006-2008 and is woven throughout its current plan.


Chapter published: 15-04-2011


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