The British Council is continuing its bilateral seasons by launching a collaborative series of events between the UK and Italy throughout Autumn 2020 under the theme ‘Being Present’. This digitally led programme, organised in close cooperation with the British Embassy in Italy, will connect prominent arts and education professionals from both countries to support cultural resilience, share creative innovation and establish new international networks.  

The theme ‘Being Present’ comes as the world collectively reassesses what it means to be present physically, virtually and mentally. The UK and Italy, as close allies, are well-placed to help shape global cultural responses to Covid-19, and the Season will act as a launchpad for that collaboration. A series of virtual Culture Salons and mixed-media events will explore how both nations can come together during the global pandemic to embrace challenges and opportunities, share knowledge, and celebrate enduring bilateral connections.  

 Season highlights from England include: 

·         17 Sept – 15 Nov 2020: Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare: At Home 

The award-winning, Sheffield-based drama group Forced Entertainment will perform innovative, condensed versions of all the Shakespeare plays directly from their own homes as part of the 35th Romaeuropa Festival. 

·         2 – 4 Oct 2020: Alexander Whitley Dance Company – Chaotic Body 

The premiere of a new digital dance film from Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Alexander Whitley’s Dance Company, inspired by chaos theory and geometric patterns in nature. The film will be streamed online following a Q&A with Whitley and members of the public.  

Culture Salons

The 2020 Season will also convene virtual Culture Salons responding to the pandemic.  Stakeholders from both countries will champion a shared ambition to place culture at the heart of resilient cities, including implementing effective crisis responses and establishing strong socioeconomic infrastructures for creative industries.   

·          19 October Culture for Resilience: Festivals & Cities Looking Ahead 

A session that explores the role of culture at the heart of resilient cities with a focus on the potential of festivals in guiding us through crisis recovery.  

Our speakers will explore the impact of digitization and Covid-19 on citizen/ audience behavior and expectations when it comes to placemaking in our cities and regions. They will share perspectives on how festivals are developing imaginative responses to making cities safe, sociable and welcoming again.  

An urgent question for our session speakers to address is the tension between festivals that support the visitor economy and those which build citizen engagement and social cohesion. How can we reconcile this dilemma whilst engaging beyond the city centres involving people from the peripheries? How is this challenge developing in the Covid-19 era? What can be done to engage hard to reach audiences, blending online and physical programmes and how can this work be both local and global at the same time?  

In the session we will hear from city leaders, directors of large-scale city-wide festivals and producers of small-scale festivals that punch above their weight in terms of impact.

Chair: Stella Kanu – Executive Director, LIFT
Season host: Rachel Launay - Country Director, British Council 

Speakers (UK)

  • Dave Moutrey - Director of Culture, Manchester City Council
  • Chenine Bhathena - Creative Director, Coventry City of Culture
  • Richard Wakely - Artistic Director & CE, Belfast International Arts Festival   

 Speakers (Italy)

  • Assessore Filippo del Corno - Councillor for Culture, City of Milan
  • Fabrizio Grifasi – General and Artistic Director, Romaeuropa Festival

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·          4 November New Business Approaches for Culture 

The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates the importance of culture for the resilience of our societies, but is the culture sector infrastructure fit to handle the grand challenges of our times? How can we ensure that as we move into economic recovery, we have fit for purpose business models to support sector resilience?

Speakers to be announced.

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 Rachel Launay, Director of the British Council in Italy, said: 

“The British Council UK/Italy Season 2020: ‘Being Present’ offers a vital opportunity to nurture the long-standing friendship between the UK and Italy at a critical moment in the world’s response to Covid-19. Cultural encounters, sometimes online and sometimes in person, will open a window to re-connect with each other, with art and with the world again. Through the Season, we hope to bring solidarity and resilience to both countries and to move forward into 2021 with hope and optimism for the future.” 

For the latest updates on the British Council’s UK/Italy Season 2020, follow the hashtags #UKIT2020 and #BeingPresent on TwitterFacebook and Instagram