Page 1

2009 in Review



Seventy-five years ago this month the British Council for Relations with Other Countries, as it was then called, was created to build bridges between the UK and a world increasingly turning in on itself. There is no doubt that the world has changed at a frantic pace since then. Yet three quarters of a century later we are faced with similar anxieties, albeit with different causes: war, economic crisis, climate change and the security of long-term resources.

In the highlights of our 2009 activities you’ll find examples of ambitious practices that reflect this focus as we engage with partners old and new. We believe that our work plays a meaningful part in identifying and developing the people who’ll build our cultural, political and creative landscapes in the future, who’ll teach us how to live sustainably for our shared benefit, and who’ll drive interesting cultural conversations between our two countries along the way.

Within this context, there is a growing realisation that government-to-government action will not be sufficient to tackle today’s challenges. As people, ideas and resources move around the world faster than ever before, and as local and global issues seem ever more connected, gaps in trust are growing.

I have the privilege of working with a wonderfully committed team here in Edgecliff. I would like to take a moment at the end of my first full year as Director to thank them all for another outstanding 12 months – to Grainne, Kirsten, Anneke, Amrit. A welcome to Elena Shurunova who joined us in April as Finance Manager from British Council Ukraine. And a temporary farewell to Raynee Dewar, our Communications Manager, who departs in January on maternity leave.

We believe cultural relations is a way to bridge those gaps. The innovation of cultural and creative practice is one of the most powerful tools to understand each other and to build respect and trust between people. That’s why the heart of what we do at the British Council in Australia remains as relevant today as when we were established here in 1947. As the end of 2009 approaches, 62 years on, we’ve taken some time to reflect on what has been a productive and challenging year. We’ve embraced a number of changes to the way we work as we continually strive to respond to the shifting world around us in what we hope are original and thought provoking ways. Those familiar with what we do will see some of these changes in the initiatives we’re supporting, from arts projects and provocative intercultural theatre, to advocating for social entrepreneurs, all of which aim to create new dialogues between innovative practitioners in the UK and Australia.

Finally thanks to you all, our partners and stakeholders who make the projects happen. I hope you smile to yourself as you read some highlights of the extraordinary things we achieved this year together. Best wishes for the season ahead.

Rebecca Matthews

2009 in Review page 1 of 7


WE SHOWED NEW WORK FROM THE UK Rider Spoke by Blast Theory

Baghdad Wedding

Presented in February, Rider Spoke by Blast Theory saw over 600 cyclists take to the streets of Sydney in a unique cycling event, which mixed theatre and location game play with state of the art technology. Produced by the internationally acclaimed, UK-based urban gamers Blast Theory, the work combined interactive art, digital media and live performance to continue a fascination with how games and evolving communication technologies are creating new social spaces.

Molecular scientist Hassan Abdulrazzak queued with hundreds of fellow emigres in London to vote in Iraq’s first post-Hussein elections in 2005. When that great hope went belly-up, Hassan was inspired to write his first play, Baghdad Wedding, which was presented in February at Belvoir Street Theatre. Transitioning between London and the Middle East, the plays tells the story of Iraqi expat Salim and his friends, who wrestle with sex, culture and politics as their beloved country staggers to her feet.

On bikes equipped with a head-set and a computer to guide them, riders journeyed into the heart of The Rocks district in Sydney’s CBD, responding to questions posed by a narrator, recording intimate secrets and listening to recordings made by other anonymous participants. Rider Spoke was a unique self-directed experience, where the audience became both exhibitionist and voyeur, seeing their city in a new light. Rider Spoke was presented in partnership with the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and Museum of Contemporary Art.

In support of Company B’s provocative production, we invited its playwright, Hassan Abdulrazzak, to join a programme with Sydney’s Iraqi and Arabic speaking communities. This included a full day workshop for emerging playwrights and a ‘community’ matinee performance for members of the Iraqi community. The performance was followed by an open discussion of the play’s themes, modern Iraq and the Iraqi expat experience with the playwright and cast.

Left: Rider Spoke by Blast Theory, image courtesy of Alex Kershaw. Right: Baghdad Wedding, courtesy of Belvoir Street Theatre.

2009 in Review page 2 of 7


Volume by UVA

East London: West Sydney

In June, London’s United Visual Artists (UVA) presented their highly awarded interactive installation Volume at the Light in Winter Festival in Melbourne. Volume is a field of luminous, sound-emitting columns that respond to visitors’ movements to create an immersive, constantly shifting visual and musical experience. This London-based art and design collective, who have worked internationally with the likes of U2, Kylie Minogue and the Arctic Monkeys, collaborated with Neil Davidge and Robert Del Naj of Massive Attack on Volume, the first large scale production of UVA’s work in Australia. During their Australian visit a number of emerging artists were offered the opportunity to intern with UVA on the production, which was enjoyed by 55,000 people during the festival.

In August, the British Council and ICE (Information and Cultural Exchange) presented East London: West Sydney, a hip hop theatre project blending spoken word, drama, music and movement in a celebration of urban culture. With one of the UK’s leading and most recognised hip hop theatre figures Jonzi-D at the helm as Artistic Director, East London: West Sydney, brought together established and emerging hip hop artists from Australia and the UK. Over four weeks, they worked to develop a production that presented new forms of hip-hop storytelling within the genre of theatre. The intensive creative development stage culminated in an industry showcase in August, and partners are now actively seeking to stage the work to wider audiences in 2010.

Left: Volume by United Visual Artists (UVA). Right: Jonzi-D (far right) with Australian and UK hip-hop performers in rehearsal.

2009 in Review page 3 of 7


WE DEVELOPED CAREERS AND CREATIVITY Realise Your Dream Awards Realise Your Dream Award finalists of 2009 with the Sydney

Now in its seventh year, the Realise Your Dream Awards recognise excellence in the arts and creative industries by providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for gifted candidates to advance their careers in the UK.

Theatre Artistic Directors, Ms Cate Blanchett and Mr Andrew Upton, pictured from left to right: Fleur Watson, Mark Robinson, Gorkem Acaroglu, Julian Day, Kate Mulvany, Timba Smits, Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton, Mikala Tai, Lally Katz, Laura Scrivano, Sascha Ettinger Epstein.

The five winners – Julian Day, Lally Katz, Mark Robinson, Sascha Ettinger Epstein, Timba Smits – were announced at the Awards night on the 2nd Tuesday in September. A special cash prize of $5000 was also awarded by principal sponsor NAB to Sydney playwright Kate Mulvany in recognition of her outstanding achievements and potential. Over the coming months the winners will travel to the UK, where they’ll work with industry leaders and take part in mentoring and development opportunities.

2009 in Review page 4 of 7


WE LAUNCHED NEW PROGRAMMES IN 2009 ACCELERATE: Indigenous Australian Creative Leadership Program Piloted in 2009 in partnership with the University of Melbourne through the Wilin Centre, ACCELERATE is a unique international cross-cultural programme designed to boost and further the careers of Indigenous Australians working in creative industries. ACCELERATE provided three individuals the opportunity, valued at approx $20,000 each, to work in the UK under the guidance and mentorship of UK creative leaders in their own world class cultural organisations. The three 2009 recipients, Alisa Duff (originally of Thursday Island and currently at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning with the University of Technology, Sydney); Peter White (a Gamilaroi Murri man from Tamworth and now Indigenous Cultural Development Officer at Arts NSW); and Tina Baum, (a descendant of the Larrakia/Wadaman people of the Northern Territory, and visual arts curator at the National Gallery of Australia) secured attachments with leading organisations including the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, National Museum of Scotland and the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Big Green Idea In 2009 we founded The Big Green Idea, a new funding initiative designed to put eco-visionary ideas into action. We offered five project grants of AU$10,000 each to people who will make a real contribution to Australia’s environmental future. The Big Green Idea is designed to initiate new projects that will motivate people to minimise their own climate change impacts. Specifically, grants are offered to support projects that help urban communities become more sustainable by reducing waste, coming-up with better ways of travelling and using transport, reducing energy use, becoming more efficient with water, or through sustainable design. Applications closed in early December and we’ll be announcing the inaugural recipients in January 2010. Left: ACCELERATE recipients and sponsors (pictured left to right): Lydia Miller (Executive Director, ATSIA, Australia Council, project partner), Luke Fisher (General Manager, Virgin Atlantic, airline partner), Alisa Duff, Sam Cook (Partnerships Manager, The Wilin Centre), Tina Baum, Richard Morris (British Consul-General), Michelle Evans (Head of The Wilin Centre), Peter White, Rebecca Matthews (Director, British Council).

2009 in Review page 5 of 7


PARTNERSHIPS This year we continued to develop a close set of partnerships with organisations from all around Australia. Our relationship with our major partners for the Realise Your Dream Awards continues to grow in strength and impact. Our partners are National Australia Bank, British Airways, Stamford Hotels & Resorts, Access PR and triple j, and this year we welcomed creative collective The Glue Society as our communications partner on the project. Through the development of ACCELERATE: Indigenous Australian Creative Leaders Program, we built a new partnership with the University of Melbourne through the Wilin Centre, and with the Australia Council for the Arts. Virgin Atlantic Airways also joined us as a major partner on ACCELERATE and our Creative Cities project, and we’re delighted to be celebrating our 75th anniversary as they celebrate their 25th. In the arts, we’ve worked with some of the best – Sydney Opera House, Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir Street Theatre, ICE (Information and Cultural Exchange), Museum of Contemporary Art, Artspace, Melbourne Arts House, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Brisbane Powerhouse, Critical Path, Federation Square, John Kaldor Arts Projects, ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art), Dance House, the Powerhouse

Museum, Playwriting Australia, ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Image), Powerhouse Youth Theatre and Lady Denman Museum. In other sectors we’ve worked with the University of Technology Sydney, University of Sydney, the Porosity Studio at the College of Fine Arts (COFA) University of NSW, Deakin University, The Centre for Sustainability Leadership, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, NSW Ministry for the Arts and John Landerer. We’ve supported events and festivals including Melbourne’s State of Design, agIdeas, Ten Days on the Island, Light in Winter Festival, Adelaide Festival, Perth Festival, Sydney Festival and the Melbourne Film Festival. Recently we began working with the creative agency Republic of Everyone on the development of our Big Green Idea project. And, we collaborated with the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab at the University of Melbourne on the Deakins Lectures and KPMG to support the tour of Forum For the Future’s CEO Peter Madden in November. We thank each and every one of our partners for their continued support in 2009.

Seasons greetings from all the team!

2009 in Review page 6 of 7


WHAT’S COMING UP 2010 PREVIEW A small taste of our programme for the first quarter of 2010.

January One Small Step by Oxford Playhouse (Sydney Festival) We’re supporting this family show about the exploration of space and the race between the US and the Soviet Union to send the first man to the moon. Eccentric, funny and surprisingly moving, the play is a history lesson, cleverly capturing the obsession and tragedy that accompanied these huge ambitions. Hugh Hughes in 360 (Sydney Festival) Following the success of their first Australian tour in March 2009, we’re working with Wales based Hoipolloi Theatre’s Artistic Director, Shôn Dale-Jones. He’ll bring his highly entertaining alter ego Hugh Hughes back to the Sydney Festival for a one-man show. The Big Green Idea – Winners Announced We’ll announce the first five eco-visionary ideas to be funded under this award.

February Rotozaza present Etiquette, WonderMart (Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne) Described by The Independent as ‘complete theatre melt-down’, we’ll be supporting UK live art collective Rotozaza, who’ll explore the use of instructions given live to ‘unrehearsed performers’ – the audience. Gilbert & George (Sydney and Melbourne) With our support, iconic UK artists Gilbert & George will visit Sydney and Melbourne to celebrate 40 years of Kaldor Art Projects. Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) (Adelaide) We’re assisting UK promoters, producers and presenters of performing arts to travel to APAM to network and collaborate with Australian and international colleagues.

London Sinfonietta: Wind and Glass (Adelaide Festival) Two unique facets of Australian music will feature in this exciting collaboration. The manikay songs performed by the Young Wagilak Group from South-East Arnhem Land form part of the world’s oldest continuous musical traditions. These beautiful, rugged songs of time and space will be performed in a setting never before attempted, realised by composer-performer Erkki Veltheim.

March New Writing We’ll be working with Playwriting Australia to develop a series of residencies and workshops for writers from diverse communities in Sydney and Melbourne. Mem Morrison Company presents Ringside (Melbourne’s Arts House) A huge success at London’s SPILL festival, Ringside is an enormously enjoyable spectacle that is installation, performance and cultural exploration all in one. Mem requests the pleasure of your company at a Turkish family wedding: one that encompasses the horror and pleasure of all those he has attended throughout his life and acts as a potential dress rehearsal for his own to come. Mother India: 21st Century Remix (Melbourne and Sydney) We’re supporting Mother India: 21st Century Remix (MI21), a ‘re-imagining’ of Mehboob Khan’s 1957 classic Bollywood film as conceived by UK producer Indy Hunjan. The screening includes a live soundtrack from noted UK musician DJ Tigerstyle who creates an elegant, haunting score to enhance the emotion onscreen. Check the events calendar at for full details.

Contact us POST: PO Box 88, Edgecliff NSW 2027, Australia T: 02 9326 2022 F: 02 9327 4868 E: 2009 in Review page 7 of 7

British Council Australia - 2009 in review  

Highlights form the 2009 programme

British Council Australia - 2009 in review  

Highlights form the 2009 programme