2016 round-up

It's been another eventful year for us here at the British Council in Australia! We've supported events at three major Australian festivals, created opportunities for Indigenous arts and cultural industries professionals, introduced Australian audiences to the best of UK creativity and fostered international collaboration and networks. This year also saw us expand our work in education and exams and we received a record number of applications for our international science communication competition, FameLab.

The year kicked off with a celebration of new British inventors at Melbourne's MPavilion in January. We brought British inventors together with Australian designers, architects and developers in panels and talks and celebrated the emerging generation of pioneering British inventors who are challenging how we make and innovate in cities and factories. UK-based design engineer Oluwaseyi Sosanya and Paul Stoller from Atelier Ten’s Australian office brought UK and local experience to the conversation.

February saw us support the 23rd annual Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival and a special screening of the visually spectacular delight ‘Departure’, which included an introduction from the film's British Director, Andrew Steggall.

In March, we were pleased to support a number of the UK artists exhibiting at the 20th Biennale of Sydney. The theme for the 2016 exhibition, inspired by a quote from leading science fiction author William Gibson, was titled 'The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed'.

We also asked you to join us in watching and sharing the 2016 fiveFilms4freedom in March to show that love is a human right. 

Also that month, we were thrilled to support an intimate and enticing performance from award-winning disabled performance artist and choreographer Caroline Bowditch. ‘Falling in love with Frida’ explored the life, loves and legacy of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and toured to Parramatta, Newcastle, Wollongong and Melbourne.

Between March and May we invited you to join us in seeing the country's most charismatic researchers in action at our live FameLab events in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. Through this year’s competition, we learned about some of the amazing discoveries going on in labs across the country, including restoring sight using silk, the invasion of asexual snails and how zapping your brain could make you smarter! 

It was Erinn Fagan-Jeffries from The University of Adelaide who won the 2016 FameLab Australia final in May with her brilliant horror-film tale of parasitoid caterpillar killing wasps. She flew to the UK to battle it out against some of the best science communicators from around the globe at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival and made it through to the top 12 alongside scientists from Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Poland, Qatar, South Africa, Spain, UK and USA.

May also saw us open applications for the seventh round of our tailored leadership development programme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in the creative industries, ACCELERATE. By the end of this year, ACCELERATE will have been instrumental in shaping the careers of 35 incredibly talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander creative leaders. It has been successful in developing long-lasting links and opportunities between arts practitioners in Australia and the UK and in creating career pathways for future generations.

In June, we supported multi award-winning British novelist Jeanette Winterson’s appearance at the Sydney Writers' Festival as part of ‪‎Shakespeare Lives‬ - our global programme that celebrated the work and ongoing influence of Shakespeare on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of his death. We caught up with Jeanette to hear about her take on 'The Winter's Tale' and to find out what she thinks it is that makes Shakespeare's work so timeless – you can watch the interview on our Vimeo channel.

In July, First Nations arts leaders from around the world came together at a cultural leadership forum produced and presented by ACCELERATE alumni. Yirama Yangga-na (a local Dharawal phrase meaning “spirit singing”) was held at the University of Wollongong and connected Australian Indigenous creatives with First Nations delegates from Taiwan, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Canada and New Zealand. It provided a platform for leaders to share, interrogate and develop their knowledge about Indigenous creative leadership and cultural practices. A second forum, called Marram-nganjinu Biik-gurrin (meaning 'We are Country'), will be held during the YIRRAMBOI First Nations Arts Festival in Melbourne in May 2017 to reignite conversations begun at Yirama Yangga-na.

In August, we announced the six outstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts professionals selected to take part in the 2016 round of ACCELERATE at a special celebration at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Melbourne. Curator and singer Jilda Andrews, arts manager and playwright Kamarra Bell-Wykes, arts manager and writer Travis De Vries, museums and galleries curator Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, designer Francoise Lane, and illustrator and arts worker Jonathon Saunders went on to take part in three days of facilitated workshops with UK expert Mark Wright, where they began exploring their personal leadership styles. 

In September, we supported 2014 ACCELERATE alumni and Creative Director of the YIRRAMBOI First Nations Arts Festival Jacob Boehme to experience a city-wide celebration of Roald Dahl in Wales' capital city, Cardiff. ‘The City of the Unexpected’ saw Cardiff transformed into a place where the laws of physics and civic predictability give way to magic, mischief and the unexpected.

We also supported Janson Hews, Head of Programs at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, to attend the annual design industry networking programme Design Connections in September. Curated by our architecture, design and fashion department, the programme offers an inspiring and immersive introduction to the best of the London Design Festival and aims to connect international design leaders to key UK designers and organisations, paving the way for new global connections and collaborations.

In October, we were delighted to support two fantastic UK shows from the British Council's Edinburgh Showcase as part of the 2016 Melbourne Festival. Jess Thom's ‘Backstage at Biscuit Land’ was a comic tour-de-force that took audiences deep inside the rabbit hole of the much-misunderstood condition, Tourette's Syndrome. Kaleider's 'The Money' was a game and a show with a deceptively simple premise: at each live show, there was cash on the table and the participant audience had to decide how to spend it.

Our Education Intelligence Unit took part in an intensive discussion on the social impact of international education at the Australian International Education conference in October, and we also presented research about why students seek out international education at other education forums.

Our UK Arts team hosted tailored industry events during Unlimited 2016 in October, which presented new cutting-edge work by an eclectic range of Deaf and disabled artists. The special programme of activities enabled international colleagues to share best practice, discover new artists and embark on new projects. Ten Australian delegates attended the curated programme of performances, panel discussions, workshops and exhibitions.

We also ran a competition with our good friends at FBi Radio and British Airways, where we offered two FBi Radio listeners a chance to win a UK holiday packed with music and culture. The prize included London Passes providing access to over 60 of the city's top attractions; and passes to the one and only Bestival music festival on the Isle of Wight. Our weekly radio programme, The Selector, continued to run on FBi Radio (94.5FM) every Wednesday during 2016, bringing the best new music from the UK to audiences in Australia.

November saw the 2016 ACCELERATE participants Jilda, Kamarra, Travis, Glenn, Francoise and Jonathon embark on the next stage of the programme, where they journeyed to the UK for professional placements and mentoring. They were welcomed with a reception hosted by the Deputy Australian High Commissioner to the UK, Mr Andrew Todd, and worked with British Council arts advisers in London. They then spent three weeks travelling across the UK - from the Isle of Lewis to Cardiff - where they visited some of the country's top festivals, museums and arts companies, and met with mentors, peers and potential collaborators. Each of the ACCELERATE participants has returned home with incredible stories and valuable industry connections. Find out more about their journeys here.

Our relationships with partners, both in Australia and internationally, allow us to continue delivering exciting projects and opportunities across the arts, science and education each year. We would like to thank our partners for their continued support in 2016 and we wish all of our friends, supporters, partners and colleagues a safe and happy holiday season.

See you all next year for more exciting announcements, including the launch of FameLab 2017 in January, as well as a ground-breaking cultural event that will bring together First Nations leaders from across Australia and the world!

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