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March 11, 2012

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Showcasing the UK's best creative arts

In early April, UK Now, an eight-month British cultural festival, will be launched with hundreds of events in 17 Chinese cities. The festival, the largest ever in China held for the country's creative industries, will bring works by top British artists and groups like Turner Prize winning sculptor Tony Cragg, famed portrait and fashion photographer Rankin (born John Rankin Waddell), and acclaimed dance group Candoco Dance Company, among many others, to China.

The festival's reach will be extended virtually through online campaigns and competitions on its website, a microblog and its official mobile application.

The festival follows in the footsteps of China Now, which showcased Chinese arts and culture in the UK in 2008. It also further deepens the already-strong bilateral relationship between the two nations.

"During the Expo, we organized lots of activities that created much energy and interest from Chinese audiences and developed a very strong link between China and UK. It will be great to have UK Now to maintain such energy and momentum," Matt Burney, consul (cultural and education) at the Cultural and Education Section of the British Consulate General in Shanghai, tells Shanghai Daily.

The activities will go beyond the major cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou and reach areas where such events were perhaps not usually received.

The events will also compliment the auspicious year that marks the London Olympics, the 40th anniversary of the China-UK ambassadorial relations and Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee.

An exhibit of 12 London Olympics posters, designed by top UK artists, will be held in different Chinese cities leading up to the summer Olympics.

The festival, which has been planned for a year, is intended to contain activities that demonstrate a real picture of a contemporary and forward-looking nation. The events include classics by the English National Ballet and modern art by well-known sculptor Tony Cragg.

"Quality was a really important criterion in our selection process," Burney says. "We tried to get world-class quality works that represent the best of the UK creative industry in order to share with our partners and audiences in China, to have them engaged in discussions that will further deepen the bilateral relationship."

Burney worked in Chongqing Municipality in western China in 2000, a time when he would hesitate whether Chinese audiences were ready for such events. He has seen a great change in the past 12 years and doesn't tend to ask that question now.

"Over the past 12 years, there's been a massive development in China in various aspects, and one of them is that people are more outward-looking, more open about ideas, more willing to use different ideas and ways of looking at things," he says.

"Chinese audiences have become quite adventurous and sophisticated now, as any international audience."

Highlights of the festival's Shanghai program

(all dates and venues mentioned are tentative)

? Shop Windows Project

The project, organized by the Royal Institute of British Architects, was originally held on Regent Street in London. In Shanghai, British architects will be paired with voluntary shops at Xintiandi and create installations using the products of the respective retailers.

Date: September and October

Venue: Xintiandi

? English National Ballet

The prestigious ballet will present an evening of the English National Ballet's principal dances at the old and elegant theater, where the world-class British ballerina Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991) made her debut.

Date: May

Venue: Lyceum Theater

? Tony Cragg Exhibition

The influential Turner Prize winner and one of the most eminent sculptors in the UK will return to Shanghai with an exhibition of some of his best works.

Date: September-November

Venue: Shanghai Himalayas Art Museum

? Rockarchive Photography

The exhibition will be filled with photos illustrating 50 years of British pop and rock music, recorded by iconic photographs of top British photographers illustrating 50 years of British pop and rock - from the Beatles to Amy Whitehouse.

Date and venue to be decided.

For more details, visit


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