UK and Australia Announce a New Cultural Exchange Initiative

This inaugural cultural exchange program, involving over 200 live and digital music and arts events, will launch in both countries this coming September

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(Australian Chamber Orchestra/Photo credit: Nic Walker)

Entitled the UK/Australia Season it is the largest cultural exchange ever made between the two nations as part of the new Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Centered around the theme "Who Are We Now?" the exchange aims to bolster cultural connections, inviting those in both countries to reflect on their shared history, current relationship, and imagined future.

"Australian audiences will experience some of the UK’s famous companies and artists; UK audiences across the nation will experience new and innovative work coming out of Australia right now, alongside our globally recognized and world-class artists, major performing arts companies and cultural institutions," said George Brandis QC, High Commissioner for Australia to the UK, in a press release. 

The program includes the first visit to the UK by the Australian World Orchestra, to be conducted by Zubin Mehta. Founded by Alexander Briger and attracting leading conductors like Sir Simon Rattle and Riccardo Muti, all the Australians in this group are musicians who have been brought together from the best orchestras and ensembles worldwide. 

The Australian Chamber Orchestra, led by violinist Richard Tognetti, will return to London to perform three concerts, including "River," a musical and cinematic collaboration with BAFTA-nominated Sherpa Director Jennifer Peedom.

Visiting the Royal Opera House (ROH) for the first time, the Queensland Ballet’s (QB) Young Artist Programme will present a triple bill. ROH’s Jette Parker Young Artists will collaborate with QB's company dancers in original works by QB’s choreographers. The performances will be part of The Royal Ballet’s Next Generation Festival at the ROH.

The Adelaide Festival in South Australia will present the "Chineke! Orchestra," the first professional orchestra in Europe, comprising Black, Asian, and ethnically diverse professional musicians from the UK and mainland Europe. 

Following a sold-out season at the Barbican in London, Blast Theory will showcase at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Aiming to create new forms of performance and interactive art exploring social and political questions, this performance will invite participants to cycle through the city streets guided by a narrator and score. 

"The fact that the UK/Australia Season even exists at this moment is extraordinary," said Helen Salmon, Season Director of UK in Australia and Director of the British Council in Australia. "Over the past 18 months, our arts and education colleagues have shown steely tenacity, but also flowed like water, re-forming time and again to adapt to and reflect these times."

"If the past year has taught us anything, it is our deep yearning for connection, something which sits at the heart of everything the British Council does. I am so inspired to see our two nations emerging from opposite sides of the globe to share experiences, collaborate, and re-imagine. 

"We are in a liminal period, a time of great change, and it will be our artists and thinkers who help us make sense of things. They will show us who we really are, and who we might become."

The initiative will also present art, photography, circus, dance, and film projects. It all begins in September 2021 and will conclude in March 2022 in Australia and in December 2022 in the UK.