British Council

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  • The United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.


    Arts, Education and Society

    We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Through our arts, education and society programmes, we give opportunities to hundreds of millions of people worldwide each year.

    Our work in arts

    Since 1934, the British Council has existed to create a basis of friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and the wider world. Our work in the arts has been central to this mission for more than 80 years, seeking to find new ways of connecting with and understanding each other through creativity.

    Our work in arts creates new relationships between artists, organisations and audiences to develop stronger creative sectors around the world. We help artists to break new ground, support creativity and innovation, increase capacity by building skills to support livelihoods and cultural enterprise, extend safe spaces for creative exchange and contribute to research and policy.

    Our work in the arts has grown substantially over the last five years. We operate in over 100 countries around the world, across eight art forms covering the full breadth of UK creative industries. In 2016–17 our work in the arts reached 15.5 million people face-to-face and a further 198 million people online and through the media.

    The ambition for our programme has also grown. By 2021 it is our aim to have increased the number of cultural connections between the UK and the world, doubling the scale of international activity of the UK culture sector. To achieve this our programme will span five key pillars:

    Sharing UK arts with the world – introducing audiences around the world to the best of UK creativity and creating new opportunities for artists and organisations to work internationally. We will also support reciprocal work into the UK.

    Fostering collaboration and networks – supporting creative people to collaborate and experiment with new ideas and developing sustainable ways of working for long-term prosperity.

    Arts for social change – extending safe spaces for culture, creative exploration and exchange; building trust, enabling dialogue and presenting marginalised voices; and supporting the protection of cultural heritage and expression of cultural identities

    Capacity building – strengthening the arts sector worldwide by developing its capacity to innovate, reach new audiences and develop skills.

    Policy and research – shaping cultural policy and sharing research with the cultural sector in the UK and overseas.

    Our full set of our 2021 ambitions and how we plan to achieve them can be found in our refreshed strategy for the arts here.