Tuesday 24 May 2016



The British Council – the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations – today announced its global Arts strategy. Developed in close consultation with the UK Arts sector, it will support the organisation’s ambition to increase the number of cultural connections between the UK and the world. A key element of the strategy will be the operation of the UK’s new £30million Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Director Arts Graham Sheffield said: “Our work in the arts - with multiple UK and overseas partners - has expanded beyond recognition in the last five years.  More impact, more scale, more reach, more resource (both financial and human) - our ambition has developed into this bold and confident manifesto of what we believe we can achieve for the UK globally in the Arts and Creative Industries up until 2021.  We commit to our work remaining relevant to our stakeholders and audiences.  We will build influence for the UK and international opportunities for artists, companies and institutions. Our involvement in the Cultural Protection Fund will allow us to support UK organisations in the vital work of protecting and conserving cultural assets worldwide."

The refreshed strategy is unveiled as new figures reveal the impact of the British Council’s Arts programme since 2010/2011. In financial terms, its global Arts programme has grown by thirty per cent since 2011, to £49.5 million, meaning that the organisation is investing more in the UK cultural sector than ever before.

 Since 2010/11, the number of artists who have directly benefitted from working with the British Council has doubled; as has its digital reach around the world, from 5 to 10million, through flagship programmes engaging with priority countries including South Africa, Mexico and Nigeria, as well as the Venice Art and Architecture Biennales, and the on-going Shakespeare Lives programme.

The aim of the new strategy is to double the scale of UK activity internationally by partnering with or lending support to more than 100,000 artists and organisations worldwide; by positioning the UK as a global hub for collaboration, for capacity building, and policy development; and to become a world leader in the protection of cultural heritage. Areas of focus in achieving this will include:  

  • ·     Arts for Social Change: creating safe spaces for culture, creative exploration and exchange and creating opportunities for artists through initiatives including the operation of the UK’s new Cultural Protection Fund, which aims to foster, safeguard and promote cultural heritage overseas, in partnership with DCMS.
  • ·         Sharing arts work with the world:creating new opportunities for artists and organisations to work internationally and introducing audiences around the world to the best of UK creativity, through showcases of contemporary UK culture such as the Venice Art and Architecture Biennales; and long-term seasons and festivals which will engage with key regions and emerging economies
  •  ·         Capacity building: strengthening the arts sector worldwide by developing its capacity to innovate, to reach new audiences, to develop skills and support livelihoods; and ensuring that this is embedded in every aspect of our projects through initiatives such as the Maker Library Network, which connects designers and makers internationally to swap skills, share resources, exchange ideas and take part in mentoring sessions
  • ·         Fostering collaboration and networks: introduce the best of UK arts to the rest of the world by raising awareness of international opportunities amongst UK organisations and supporting artists and companies to internationalise and develop new networks via programmes such as the Artists International Development Fund and Shorts Support Scheme, run with key UK partners including the Arts Council England and the British Film Institute.
  • ·         Policy and research: we aim to better understand and shape cultural policy through our programme. This includes our work in culture and development, capacity building, inclusion, and the role culture plays in international relations and soft power.

 These areas of focus will ensure that the British Council continues to link thousands of artists and cultural institutions around the world and works with the best of British creative talent. Partnerships with UK arts organisations will remain at the heart of the programme, providing more opportunities for British artists and organisations to create vital international networks and influence for the UK across the globe. Reaching new audiences around the world online has become an increasingly important strand of the British Council's work, with the announcement today of a new open call for digital ideas to reach online audiences in India in 2017. The open call recognises the vast potential to engage a wider population with great British creativity as more of the world shifts online.

The Cultural Protection Fund, which the British Council will be delivering in partnership with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), will provide grants to organisations to support vital work on preserving cultural heritage in countries in the Middle East and North Africa region including Syria, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, and Tunisia. Successful organisations will work in partnership with bodies in the countries to provide local professionals with training in conserving cultural assets; helping to boost local and national economies through the protecting and rebuilding of heritage sites; and fostering opportunities for tourism, research and employment. The Fund will open for the first time to applications on June 27 2016.

On Thursday 19 May, the DCMS introduced the Cultural Property Bill into the House of Lords, which will ratify the 1954 Hague Convention to protect cultural property at risk due to conflict and accede to its two Protocols.

This Bill will make the UK the first permanent member of the Security Council to have ratified both the Convention and its two Protocols.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale, said: "This fund will provide vital support for countries where cultural heritage is at risk. While the UK's priority will continue to be limiting the human cost of global conflicts, we should do all we can to prevent the destruction of unique and important sites around the world. The establishment of this fund together with the UK's ratification of the Hague Convention sends out a clear message about our commitment to heritage and its preservation.” 

Notes to Editor

For more information about the Cultural Protection Fund and how to apply visit [https://www.britishcouncil.org/arts ]

The Fund’s target countries are: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.

For more information on the open call for digital ideas to reach online audiences in India, visit: [insert link when ready]

For media requests and more information about the British Council contact

Mary Doherty, Senior Press Officer

Mary.doherty@britishcouncil.org // 0207 389 3144

About our work in Culture and Development

Our Culture and Development team support the building of creative, open, inclusive and secure societies. We currently operate thirteen Official Development Assistance projects in some of the most difficult operating environments across the globe. Our work focuses on ambitious, artistic and creative initiatives that foster social cohesion, freedom of expression, inclusive institutions, dynamic communities, and improved social and economic well-being. We develop structured and sustainable programmes that encourage engagement and a strong sense of cultural identity at an individual and a community level. Our approach includes safely connecting with the past in order to explore new futures and to generate new opportunities. This helps to build individual resilience, encourage community engagement, protect vital cultural heritage, and support policy development.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes. We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides 16 per cent of our turnover which last year was £973 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, such as English classes and taking UK examinations, and also through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org. You can also keep in touch with the British Council through http://twitter.com/britishcouncil and http://blog.britishcouncil.org/.