His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales today visited the new headquarters of the British Council in Stratford, London, to learn more about its modern, diverse and digital cultural relations work in the UK and across the globe, with climate change a significant focus of the visit in the lead up to COP26.
The Prince, who is the British Council’s Vice-Patron, met young international climate change scholars, participated in a virtual English lesson with a class of international students from six countries, spoke with pupils in Scotland and Nepal via live link about their suggestions to combat climate change, and heard about the British Council’s work in the arts. He also interacted with British Council staff to hear directly about the impact of the British Council’s work globally, particularly during the pandemic.
The Prince was accompanied by Sir Philip Barton KCMG OBE, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and John Baron MP and Chair of the British Council All Party Parliamentary Group.
Scott McDonald, British Council Chief Executive, said: “We were delighted to welcome His Royal Highness to our new office and to share some highlights from our programmes around the world. Over the last 18 months, the British Council has continued to showcase the UK’s excellence in culture, education, as well as the English language, to build long-term connections and trust between the people of the UK and other countries. Those connections and trust support the UK’s prosperity, security, and ability to play an active role in the world.”
Highlighting the British Council’s work in climate change, he added: “We are committed to bringing the voices of young people to the climate discussion through initiatives such as our Climate Connection campaign. Our recent Global Youth Letter report surveyed 8000 young people around the world and found that a significant majority had never participated in climate action despite having the skills to do so. This highlights the huge untapped potential of young people and the urgent need to include them in climate policy decisions that will impact their futures.”
Details on The Prince of Wales’ engagement with various British Council programmes across climate change, arts, education, and the English language are as follows:
The Prince was introduced to participants on the Climate Connection programme, which brings people around the world together to meet the challenges of climate change through arts and culture, education, and the English language. He spoke with four ‘Green Scholars’ – from Egypt, Nigeria, Turkey, and India – who have received scholarships to study climate-related subjects at UK universities, delivered by the British Council as part of the Study UK campaign – GREAT Scholarships for a sustainable future.
The Green Scholars presented the Prince with a copy of the British Council’s Global Youth Letter, which directly addresses policymakers and leaders in relation to young people’s aspirations and recommendations around climate change. The letter is based on research into the views and experiences of 8,000 young people across 23 countries, including those from traditionally overlooked groups such as young people with disabilities, minority groups and indigenous communities. The 8,000 Rising campaign encourages young people to add their voice to the Letter.
These findings have contributed towards COY (UN Conference of Youth) 16’s Youth Statement, which will be formally presented to Minister Alok Sharma MP, COP26 President Designate, at COP26.
Cultural Protection Fund
Since 2016, the Cultural Protection Fund (CPF) – a partnership between British Council and the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport – has awarded £34 million to protect cultural heritage at risk from global challenges, such as conflict and climate change. It has supported projects in 16 countries across the Middle East, North and East Africa.
The Prince spoke with representatives from four CPF projects about their work with local partners and communities to protect heritage, build capacity, and raise awareness, and viewed a selection of related artefacts. This included the model of a traditional boat from Iraq, where valuable boat making skills are being protected by a CPF project led by Safina Projects, and 3D printed panels showing intricate minbar (mosque pulpit) designs from Cairo, which have been documented and protected by a CPF project led by Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation.
The Connecting Classrooms programme is a joint initiative between the British Council and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. It connects pupils in primary and secondary schools across the UK with schools in 29 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa to learn about global issues. In the lead up to COP26, there has been a particular focus on exploring issues related to climate change, both locally and internationally, and projects led by pupils to tackle these issues.
Via live link, the Prince met with pupils from Boroughmuir High School in Scotland and Janakalyan Secondary School in Nepal. They shared their learning from a recent online Schools’ Summit, where pupils investigated the response of different countries to the Paris agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and made pledges to take action on global warming in their own communities.
English Online is the British Council’s teacher-led online classroom offer for adults. The Prince joined a virtual classroom via a live link, where he met a Portugal-based teacher and five of the more than 14,000 international students from 111 different countries who have benefited from the British Council’s English Online programme since its launch a little over twelve months ago.
The students – from a range of professional backgrounds including teaching, acting, and medicine – dialled in from Italy, Qatar, Uzbekistan, and Norway. They discussed with the Prince the importance of using English to connect with cultures around the world, and what they have enjoyed about studying in a diverse and multicultural online environment.
‘Housewarming’ creative residencies
To mark its move to the new International Quarter in Stratford, between June and July 2020 the British Council launched Housewarming – a series of creative residencies between international artists and designers in collaboration with East London workshops and artists. Originally designed as physical residencies, they were adapted to run virtually because of Covid-19.
Artists were nominated by arts organisations across countries where the British Council has a presence. The participating artists and designers worked with their hosts, local artists, and communities to create a series of objects now installed in the new British Council headquarters. The Prince met with four members of creative workshop projects from the Stratford area, who described their work, local community connections, and digital collaboration with the international artists.