This month sees the launch of #ConnectedByCreativity – an online festival for cultural exchange between China and the UK. Matt Burney, director of the British Council, tells FOCUS what’s in store
#ConnectedByCreativity is the first online festival dedicated to the China-UK cultural and creative relationship. The festival is organised by the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for education and culture, in partnership with the UK’s Department for International Trade and Chengdu Foreign Affairs Office, and will see over 80 cultural performances and projects staged online throughout October, with support from VisitBritain, VisitScotland, the British Embassy in China and China Visual Festival.
Matt Burney, Director of the British Council China tells us more about the festival.
Why did the British Council decide to hold this festival now?
In developing #ConnectedByCreativity, the British Council sought to overcome the challenges artists, institutions and audiences face in connecting to one another at times of physical distancing and travel restrictions. We want to support connection and build trust despite not being in the same room. In seeking a solution, we decided to create an online festival to expand the reach of performances to new audiences from both countries. It is to show how arts and culture, while it can’t find a cure for the challenges we are facing at the moment, will play an important role in bringing people together, and helping our societies recover, allowing them to forge greater trust and understanding between people.
What are the main aims of the festival?
China presents a huge opportunity for the UK creative industries, and the UK must continue to actively showcase and build new audiences to grow demand. Through this digital festival, we want to celebrate and showcase the vibrant cultural and creative talent from both countries to allow more people to see, experience, and appreciate it. We want to inspire and develop increased interest among Chinese audiences in UK arts and culture; refresh and challenge audience’s perceptions of the UK, and build trust in the audience of the UK and support prosperity and security around the world.
What have you learned about creativity whilst putting this festival together?
In terms of our ongoing connection in the creative industries between the UK and China, I think that we are all now in a new landscape, as we operate in a more digital way. This is why we are having an online culture festival (from 1 -21 October) – it creates an online platform for cultural and creative exchange.
I would really like to see more of these creative collaborations between China and the UK going forward. If we can have more artists from the UK and artists in China digitally collaborating, that’s something we’re looking to do through a digital campaign like #ConnectedByCreativity. It’s previously been running in an offline way, where artists in China could meet with artists in the UK and vice versa. And so now we are looking to develop a digital version of connections, through culture, where we’re creating an online space for artists in the UK to collaborate with artists in China digitally and to share ideas together with a view that they may produce new work or can’t produce new work together, and with the view that later when travel restrictions are lifted, that those artists may then actually visit each of those countries and work on something further and bigger together.
We’re creating an online space for artists in the UK to collaborate with artists in China digitally and to share ideas together with a view that they may produce new work
What programmes are you most excited to see?
We are really impressed by the cohesive cooperation between Chinese and British artists. For example, Samsara is the new production of Aakash Odedra Company which we are going to showcase in #ConnectedByCreativity this week. It’s a choreographic and performance collaboration between Aakash Odedra (UK/India) and Hu Shenyuan (China). Samsara draws upon their personal spirituality and the vast histories, philosophies and cultures of the ancient neighbouring civilisations of China and India. We would love to have more choreographers from China collaborating with British choreographers producing new works together.
Another vivid example is the Swan Lake Bath Ballet. Set to Tchaikovsky’s famous swan theme, 27 elite ballet dancers from renowned dance companies perform a modern-day Swan Lake from their own home baths. Award-winning choreographer Corey Baker worked with dancers across the globe to choreograph and film the Swan Lake Bath Ballet completely remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic. We think it is a very persuasive example of how artists can work together despite the travel restrictions for all of us.
For more information visit the British Council ConnectedByCreativity website