Tuesday 15 September 2020

The British Council is continuing its bilateral seasons by launching a collaborative series of events between the UK and Italy throughout Autumn 2020 under the theme ‘Being Present’. This digitally-led programme, organised in close cooperation with the British Embassy in Italy, will connect prominent arts and education professionals from both countries to support cultural resilience, share creative innovation and establish new international networks

The theme ‘Being Present’ comes as the world collectively reassesses what it means to be present physically, virtually and mentally. The UK and Italy, as close allies, are well-placed to help shape global cultural responses to Covid-19, and the Season will act as a launchpad for that collaboration. A series of virtual Culture Salons and mixed-media events will explore how both nations can come together during the global pandemic to embrace challenges and opportunities, share knowledge, and celebrate enduring bilateral connections. 

The Season was officially announced at today’s virtual press conference hosted by Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Italian Republic and San Marino, Jill Morris CMG. Speakers included: Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture; Rachel Launay, Director of the British Council in Italy; and Jean Cameron, Freelance Creative Director of the Season. It is part of the ongoing UK/Italy Partners for Culture initiative, launched by the British Council in 2017, in partnership with the British Embassy, British School at Rome, British Institute of Florence and Keats-Shelley House.

Season highlights include:

17 Sept – 15 Nov 2020: Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare: At Home

The award-winning, Sheffield-based drama group Forced Entertainment will perform innovative, condensed versions of all the Shakespeare plays directly from their own homes as part of the 35th Romaeuropa Festival.

2 – 4 Oct 2020: Alexander Whitley Dance Company – Chaotic Body

The premiere of a new digital dance film from Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Alexander Whitley’s Dance Company, inspired by chaos theory and geometric patterns in nature. The film will be streamed online following a Q&A with Whitley and members of the public. 

7 Nov 2020 – 31 Jan 2021 (Italy); 5 March – 6 June 2021 (UK): Willie Doherty. Where / Dove

A major exhibition of the work of Northern Ireland artist and Turner Prize nominee Willie Doherty in partnership with Fondazione Modena Arti Visive, Modena, and the Ulster Museum, Belfast. Focussing on the theme of borders, the exhibition gives an overview of Doherty’s career in photography and time-based media. It will return to Belfast in 2021. 

10 Nov 2020: Scenes for Survival: National Theatre of Scotland with Triennale Milano Teatro 

A new season of digital artworks commissioned by the BBC for its ‘Culture in Quarantine’ programme. In partnership with the renowned arts theatre Triennale Milano Teatro, National Theatre of Scotland will present highlights from the series to an Italian audience, followed by a Q&A session. 

To support strong bilateral UK/Italy relations with young people at the heart, the British Council will also launch its Next Generation Italy report on 30 September. The report will examine the conditions currently supporting young Italians to become creative, fulfilled and active citizens, with a roundtable discussion to explore the findings.

The 2020 Season will also convene three virtual Culture Salons responding to the pandemic, covering creative independents, the role of cities and festivals, and new business approaches to culture. Stakeholders from both countries will champion a shared ambition to place culture at the heart of resilient cities, including implementing effective crisis responses and establishing strong socioeconomic infrastructures for creative industries.  

These forums build on the Pontignano Conference, one of the most important annual events in the UK/Italy relationship. From 1-3 October, delegates will take part in workshops to lay the foundations for a prosperous, secure and sustainable future. Organised by the British Embassy, British Council and Siena University, the discussions will build on the shared determination of both nations to work together to impact positive change.

Additional events in UK/Italy 2020 include: a ‘British Music Night’ at Linecheck Festival during Milano Music Week; a one-day cultural festival from Turin’s workshop for culture, innovation and business acceleration, the OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni Torino, in partnership with Tramway, Glasgow; plus a four-day event dedicated to all things literature in Rome. 

Rachel Launay, Director of the British Council in Italy, said:

“The British Council UK/Italy Season 2020: ‘Being Present’ offers a vital opportunity to nurture the long-standing friendship between the UK and Italy at a critical moment in the world’s response to Covid-19. Cultural encounters, sometimes online and sometimes in person, will open a window to re-connect with each other, with art and with the world again. Through the Season, we hope to bring solidarity and resilience to both countries and to move forward into 2021 with hope and optimism for the future.”

Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said:

“Italy and the UK are both world renowned for the richness, depth and variety of our cultural sectors. It is vital that we are here for culture in these challenging times and the upcoming UK/Italy Season will provide a brilliant showcase for our combined creativity and a platform to learn from each other as our sectors reopen and recover.”

Members of the public can register to take part in events here.



Notes to Editor

For media enquiries, please contact:

Vicci Nelmes, Media Relations Officer, Arts: vicci.nelmes@britishcouncil.org ; +447933 386075

For more information on the British Council’s UK/Italy Season 2020, including how to register for events, please visit https://www.britishcouncil.it/en/programmes/uk-italy

For the latest updates on the British Council’s UK/Italy Season 2020, follow the hashtags #UKIT2020 and #BeingPresent on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram


About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We build connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. Last year we reached over 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive a 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government. www.britishcouncil.org