Adelaide Festival, part of the UK/Australia season.  ©

British Council 

Thursday 24 August 2023

New data from an independent evaluation report carried out by The Audience Agency, commissioned by the British Council and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) found 78% out of the 1,707 artists and participants involved in the 2021-22 UK/Australia Season believe the programme enabled them to discover new opportunities to work in both the UK and Australia.

The UK/Australia Season, a landmark cultural exchange, was led by the British Council DFAT. It achieved great success in reframing and reenergising the relationship between Australia and the UK through cultural exchange.

Artists, thought leaders and academics from the UK and Australia collaborated to create a diverse programme of panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions, theatre, film, dance, design, architecture, music, literature, higher education and public engagement.

The Season’s theme ‘Who Are We Now?’ provided a curatorial framework to interrogate the contemporary UK/AU relationship and explore new approaches to global challenges. The Season reflected on our history, explored our current relationship, and imagined our future together.

Many projects were collaboratively produced between UK and Australia arts, cultural and higher education partners. The Season was delivered bilaterally, with the ‘UK in Australia’ programme led by the British Council from September 2021 to April 2022 and the majority of DFAT's 'Australia in the UK’ taking place from May to December 2022.

In total, 9460 people participated in workshops or training through the Season.

The recent evaluation also found 99% of participating organisations working on the Season were ‘extremely likely’ or ‘likely’ to return to work in either UK or Australia.

Helen Salmon, Season Director: UK in Australia Program and Director of the British Council in Australia said:

“There’s so much to be proud of from the UK/Australia Season. It was developed at a critical moment to examine our histories, and who we might want to be in the future. The UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement was under discussion, Australia was approaching the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival, and together we faced existential global challenges.  

“The emergence of the pandemic then made the question “Who Are We Now” all the more poignant, as artists reflected on what it was to be human, together, and in relation to our planet. I have never been so proud to be a part of the cultural sector, watching extraordinary colleagues move like mercury to find ways to continue to speak to each other. It was a powerful and defiant symbol of reaching out from opposite sides of the globe. 

“This external evaluation demonstrates the vast number of relationships, job opportunities and learning experiences which were created among thousands of arts professionals and academics. We are delighted to have continued substantial investment in the legacy of that work since the Season ended.

“It has been such a privilege to co-lead the Season and our brilliant team, through immense challenges, to create this landmark collaboration. I am confident the impact of the Season will unfold for many years to come.”

Michael Napthali, Season Director: Australia in the UK Program added:

“The UK/Australia Season was a truly historic occasion for two countries which know each other well to seek a deeper understanding of the contemporary contours of that relationship by asking the simple yet profound question: Who are we now?

“Australian artists responded to the provocation posed by the Season theme with inspiring courage, conviction and honesty.

“It was an immense professional honour to co-lead a landmark international festival of Australian and British arts and culture.

“That this colossal and complex exercise in cultural exchange between two countries so geographically distant from one another was delivered despite the often-overwhelming challenges occasioned by the COVID pandemic stands, I believe, as a testament to the indefatigable determination, resilience and generosity of the many artists, officials and philanthropists who all contributed in their own vital ways to realise the aspirations held for the Season.

“Already many wonderful, concrete legacies can be identified from the UK/Australia Season as the evaluation report documents. I have every hope and expectation that over time the seeds planted by this vast programme of cultural diplomacy shall continue to bear an invaluable and lasting fruit for many years to come.”

Notes to Editor

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About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021-22 we reached 650 million people.

About the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT):

The Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade works closely with a broad range of partners to advance Australia’s security and prosperity globally. Relationships are at the heart of our work. Through initiatives like the UK/Australia Season, we work with partners to showcase Australia as an innovative, creative, diverse and tolerant nation, which assists with strengthening Australia’s influence, reputation, reach and relationships overseas.