Wednesday 28 January 2015


The cultural links between the UK and Iran will be explored and celebrated in a new series of events across the UK, launched today [January 28] by the British Council.

The ‘UK-Iran Season of Culture’ will feature three months of events which aim to promote, and develop the cultural relations ties between the UK and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Building on long-standing links and contemporary collaboration, the British Council’s UK-Iran Season of Culture will strengthen opportunities for greater cultural engagement, improve mutual understanding, and increase trust.

The British Council has brought together a number of major partners for the Season, including the V&A Museum, the British Library, the Southbank Centre, Asia House, Magic of Persia Foundation, Forest Fringe, the Edinburgh Iranian Festival, theatre groups 30Bird and ZENDEH, Wales One World Film Festival, Modern Poetry in Translation, and publishers IB Tauris.

The UK-Iran Season of Culture will see performances, talks, discussions, and exhibitions across the UK highlighting the richness of Iran’s heritage, the dynamism of its contemporary culture, and the strength of and potential opportunities for UK audiences and organizations in engaging with Iran. The Season comes at an important time in UK-Iran relations.

Danny Whitehead, the British Council’s Country Director Iran, said: “The political relationship between the UK and Iran has for much of the last 150 years been characterized by distrust and suspicion. Yet at the same time, there has developed in both countries a major respect for each other’s culture. We believe that cultural relations are among the strongest and most important tools that the UK and the Islamic Republic of Iran have for building trust and understanding which will be mutually beneficial for both countries. We are keen to support the UK’s wider diplomatic efforts to improve relations with Iran by developing the vitally important people-to-people links, which underpin support for political moves.”

The British Council marked the beginning of the season with the publication of a new book: New Perspectives on UK-Iran Cultural Relations features UK and Iranian experts exploring  different areas of the bi-lateral relationship from cooperation during difficult times such as World War One, post-earthquake reconstruction in Bam, and collaboration and joint thought on chemical burns victims suffering from war atrocities, to UK influence on Iranian cinema, Iranian poetry in the UK, and the teaching and learning of English in Iran and of Farsi in the UK.

In his foreword to the publication, Lord Lamont, Chairman of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce, said: “… cultural ties have been and remain one of the ways in which citizens of the two countries can maintain some communication and understanding of each other. The arts can bring us closer when all else fails … As our political leaders attempt to bring about an improved diplomatic climate, this volume is a timely reminder of the great bridging power of culture and the arts. I hope that it will help lead to greater understanding, co-operation and trust between our two countries.”

Notes to Editor

For more information or to speak to Danny Whitehead, please contact Tim Sowula, Senior Press Officer, British Council or 0207389 4871


UK-Iran Season

Between January and March 2015, the British Council will lead a series of activities focusing on the cultural links between Iran and the UK. The season will open with a reception in Spring Gardens on the 28th of January and continue until a celebration of Persian New Year on the 3rd of March.

The UK Iran season will spotlight the rich and dynamic culture of modern Iran, and its ties with the UK in the areas of arts, education, and languages. It is intended to showcase existing partnerships and to provide a space and a platform for the development of new opportunities, partnerships, and collaboration for our audiences and partners. It is a core part of our goal to bring about better understanding of each other’s country, and through that understanding, to create trust.

Through nationwide exhibitions, performances, discussions, workshops, and seminars, the UK Iran Season of Culture will explore Iran’s cultural heritage and vibrant contemporary creativity, enabling the people of the UK to experience and re-interpret Iran.

Some of the key season events will be

·         Iran in Writing: Daljit Nagra in conversation with leading Iranian writers

18 Feb 18.30 – 20.00; British Library, London.

·         Art of Improvisation in Iranian Music

18 Feb 18.30 – 20.00; Asia House, London.

·         Master Builders in Qajar Tehran: The Mirza Akbar Drawings

04 Mar 19.00 – 21.00; V&A London

·         The Spirit of Nowruz Exhibition

04 Mar – 20 Apr; Spring Gardens

·         Day of Debate & Screenings: Iranian Cinema After the Revolution

21 Mar 10.30 – 18.30; Chapter, Cardiff

There are also a number of key publications including:

1)     Didgah: new perspectives on UK-Iran cultural relations. A collection of 15 authors sharing their opinion and perspectives of cultural relations between the UK and Iran.

2)     English Language Teaching in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Innovations, Trends and Challenges.

3)     Nowruz, Persian New Year Education Packs for Schools. School packs for primary school children in the UK including suggested plans for lessons and assemblies.

British Council and Iran

The British Council has worked in Iran since 1942. Although the British Council closed its office in Iran in 2009, we have continued our cultural relations work to support the aspirations of Iranian stakeholders who wish to maintain dialogue and contact with the UK.

We work in Iran in partnership with UK and Iranian partners. We also work with many of our partners such as teachers or educational institutions in English language through cascade models, and have significant reach through digital channels.


·         Even working remotely since 2009, in 2013/14 our work reached over 300,000 people, and we aim to reach over half a million Iranians in 2014/15.


We have provided English language teaching support to over 3,000 teachers in Iran, and have provided materials development support for the new curriculum which will reach every province of Iran.


Our arts work makes measurable change in perceptions, and we have facilitated major UK-Iran collaboration and cooperation in music, film, theatre, and architecture.

The British Council has responded to the recent improvements in the bilateral relationship by exploring new models of engagement with and in Iran, identifying opportunities for individuals and cultural relations organisations in both countries, and strengthening mutual understanding and cultural ties.


Key Iran Facts


1.     The Islamic Republic of Iran is the second most populous country in the Middle East, and it has maintained the second largest economy in the region despite recent years of sanctions. Its population is approximately 77 million.


2.     Iran is one of the most stable countries in the region, and is a top priority country for the UK in both the security and prosperity agendas. Economic growth projections are strong, subject to continued progress in other negotiations.


3.     Iran has one of the richest cultural and linguistic heritages. Standards of education are very high, and it has one of the highest rates of literacy in the region. 

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 less than 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, 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: You can also keep in touch with the British Council through