2018 has been a year of great change, and it has been fascinating to see the shifts in the UK Australia relationship during my first year as Country Director.
Our Asia Pacific region is in the global spotlight. As our two governments move toward stronger trade ties the importance of our multifaceted relationship is increasingly apparent. In July, I participated in the UK Australia Leadership Forum, which included a session on how we can work together to further strengthen our cultural relations across arts, education and society. Australia is now the third largest market for British arts and culture after the USA and Europe, with our universities continuing to collaborate closely on thousands of research projects.
This is a pivotal time for the UK Australia relationship. As duel citizen I am passionate about seizing this opportunity to better know each other as the modern, nuanced and diverse nations we are. My role at the British Council is to build mutual understanding and this happens best through direct people to people experience and open dialogue.
In 2018 we have frequently seen that connection embodied – be it the robust challenge and camaraderie at the Commonwealth Women of the World in Brisbane, the bonds of shared experience among Invictus Games athletes, or the ongoing impact of ACCELERATE which initiated international relationships between First Nations arts and cultural industry leaders and over 250 British artists and organisations.
This year we were proud to launch INTERSECT with Diversity Arts Australia (DARTS) and Creative Victoria. INTERSECT is seeking to create opportunity and address barriers, focusing on who decides whose work is seen, what is seen, how it is seen and who sees it. By connecting culturally diverse and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programming decision makers we hope to support platforms for art in the UK and Australia that better reflect, resonate with and enrich our whole society. Candy Bowers said of her experience in London, “The ability to see and hear each other on a level that is rarely fostered was transformative”.
New collaborations are already emerging from INTERSECT, such as Candy’s Australian iteration of Inua Ellams’ Rhythm And Poetry Party (or R.A.P Party) in Melbourne; Mikala Tai’s new exhibition at 4A for Contemporary Art, By All Estimates, featuring UK video and visual artist Erika Tan; and Abid Hussain’s talk on The Creative Case for Diversity at Sydney Opera House. Next year we will launch with DARTS a digital platform for better knowledge sharing on cultural diversity in the arts among practitioners and institutions in the UK and Australia. The platform will be in partnership with Creative Victoria, Western Sydney University and the Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship, Goldsmiths, University of London.
Our support for delegations to connect with UK artists continues, and this year our support has resulted in our first music collaborations with MONA FOMA and the Laneway Festivals. UK work from the British Council Edinburgh Festival Showcase and Unlimited continues to tour Australia, which in 2018-19 includes Nassim, salt., Flight, Our Carnal Hearts, Palmyra, The Nature of Why and The Believers Are But Brothers.
The focus of our work in education remains on university collaboration, supporting global mobility and promoting the British Council’s Massive Online Open Courses which have had four million enrolments in the last four years. We also support greater connections being made between the UK and Australia through our rapidly expanding exams program, support for new British qualifications, and the launch of our exams offer in New Zealand.
For the second year running an Australian woman was awarded global runner-up of the international FameLab competition at the Cheltenham Science Festival. A triumph for both Vanessa Pirotta and Women in STEM. We are delighted to be working closely with our founding partners the Foundation for the Western Australian Museum, to grow FameLab in Australia in 2019.
International collaboration and open exchange between practitioners and institutions helps to shape our cultural, political, scientific and creative landscape. At a time when fostering people to people bonds, trust and mutual respect is vitally important, we thank you for your partnership and your support.
Best wishes for the year ahead and season’s greetings,