UK Now: a UK-China partnership

Our objective

 To deliver the biggest-ever festival of UK arts and creative industries in China, strengthening and expanding the cultural relationship between the UK and China.

 Our strategy

UK Now was managed by the British Council in partnership with Brunswick and HSBC, and with generous support from Burberry, Diageo, IELTS, IHG, Jaguar Land Rover, John Swire & Sons, Norton Rose Group, Prudential and Standard Chartered.

It evolved from the success of China Now in 2008, a celebration of Chinese culture in Britain that took place as a backdrop to the Beijing Olympics. Four years later, on the 40th anniversary of the resumption of ambassadorial-level relations between the two countries, UK Now aimed to broaden the conversation between the UK and China during the London 2012 Olympic year and beyond.

With our 11 Founder Sponsors, we were able to create a strong visual identity and online presence, the platform upon which we built an extensive and exciting programme of events. Working with the Chinese government, we also put in place a series of development and training programmes aimed at supporting the growth of the arts and creative industries in China and the development of market opportunities for the UK.

Through the year-long partnership, UK Now’s sponsors enhanced their political access and visibility in China, and were able to develop their current business and access new market opportunities.  

Our impact

We created the biggest celebration of UK arts and culture ever held in China. Between April and December 2012, representatives of the best of UK arts and creative industries put on over 200 events across 29 cities in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, which were attended by an estimated four million people and covered by 6,000 pieces of media coverage.

Through UK Now, we were able to speed up the process of making connections between China’s new culture-makers – its artists, museums and galleries, independent curators, performing arts promoters, festival programmers, venues, arts media and cultural officials – and their opposite numbers in the UK.

Feedback from audiences in China was strongly suggestive of not only a successful and professionally run festival, but also of increasing awareness and understanding of UK culture. There are already plans for many of the artists to return to China and/or come to the UK, independent of the British Council.

The festival’s sponsors benefited from brand visibility, heightened public and media profile and customised opportunities for corporate and VIP hospitality. The key factors for many were the reputational benefits – involvement during an Olympic year when the eyes of the world were on London; and about deepening their links with China. A shared understanding of our respective cultures, an inquisitive and informed conversation between people, is at the heart of a resilient bilateral relationship.

Now that the festival is over, UK Now lives on as Arts UK, a portal about arts in the UK. The legacy of UK Now remains in new relationships in UK arts sector, access to new business for sponsors, and new and renewed UK-China collaborations.

The British Council has arts seasons planned around the world in the forthcoming years, which offer unique opportunities to corporate partners. 2014 will see the UK/ Russia Year of Culture and the Connect ZA season in South Africa. In 2015, we are planning festivals in India, Mexico and Nigeria and Turkey. For more information about how to get involved, please email us.

Our testimonials

UK Now in China is an excellent example of how British organisations can work together to create a robust and reputable result that reaches out to businesses globally. Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment

As a British car manufacturer with globally iconic brands, we are keen to do our part in enhancing the cultural exchanges between Britain and China, and especially excited to help bring British contemporary art to a Chinese audience… Jaguar Land Rover has a strong interest to promote British art, engineering and heritage and to support the work of the British Council, and UK Now is a great opportunity to show a broader, more enduring commitment during this important Olympic year and beyond. Bob Grace, President, Jaguar Land Rover China

Building on the themes of mutuality, trade and the success of China Now, HSBC supports global connectivity and the internationalisation of trade, and we anticipate that UK Now will act as an important platform on which to build meaningful cultural and business partnerships between the UK and China. Douglas Flint CBE, Group Chairman, HSBC.