Australian-UK collaborations driving artistic exchange and innovation

The British Council’s Connections Through Culture Grant Programme 2023 will see four new projects take shape at the forefront of cross-cultural exchange and catering for a global audience.
‘FANGIRLS Residency and Response’. Photo: Herman Vewey. Stage dance performance with red lights and a dark background. Five dancers are doing energetic moves with their bodies on stage.

Four new projects involving Australian creatives will see ideas come to fruition thanks to the British Council’s Connections Through Culture Grant Programme 2023 – a platform fostering collaborations between artists in the UK, Australia and across East Asia. 

Projects include FANGIRLS Residency and Response(Lyric Hammersmith Theatre with Paige Rattray), A Sun Dance at Tate St Ives (Tate with Rochelle Haley), INNOVATE: Legacy and Learning (Young Vic with CREATE Centre, University of Sydney) and Taking Up Space (Yolanda Mercy with Australian Theatre for Young People). 

To date, the Connections Through Culture Grant Programme has delivered over £645,000 (AU$1.2 million) in support to artists and arts organisations, with this grant round awarding a total of 76 innovative projects from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines. These projects sit across a diverse range of art forms, including film, creative technology, literature, visual arts, theatre, dance, circus, architecture, design, fashion, craft and music. 

The most recent round had a focus on two distinct areas– championing diversity and inclusion, and projects that address the climate crisis. Collaboration sits at the heart of these applications, crossing geographical boundaries and artistic disciplines to channel innovation and new ideas faced by the global community. 

Director, British Council in Australia, Helen Salmon says: ‘We’re proud to be supporting new collaborations between the UK and Australia through our Connections Through Culture Grant Programme.

‘These collaborations not only exemplify the power of artistic exchange, but also open doors to new and exciting opportunities for artists on an international stage. The diverse projects supported in this round foster relationships that lead to more interconnected and innovative global arts community,’ she continues. 

Three of the four UK/Australia collaborative projects focus on working with young people and the importance of education.

INNOVATE: Legacy and Learning will look at the arts as vehicles for change and explore the relationship between arts organisations and learning in school settings. Meanwhile, Yolanda Mercy will work with the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) to create a piece of work that amplifies the voices of youths who identity as Plus Size. Director Paige Rattray and Rob Lehmann from the Lyric Hammersmith will use the grant to embark on a residency to develop a new concept for a UK-based response project for Lyric Hammersmith’s production of FANGIRLS – a musical comedy ‘about the danger of underestimating teenage girls’.

‘A Sun Dance’ to be performed at Tate St Ives. Photo: Leanne Mason for the National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra.

Rochelle Haley will take her National Gallery of Australia (NGA) commission, A Sun Dance, to the UK for its international debut at Tate St Ives, while testing and developing new principles of performance preservation with Tate Conservation. 

The British Council’s Connections Through Culture Grant Programme is not bound by a static or set approach, but remains flexible, whether projects take the shape of art residencies, exhibitions, performances, publications, webinars, conferences or more. 

These projects represent the crucial role cross-cultural and cross-geographical collaborations play in fostering connections and creativity, and stand as testament to the British Council’s commitment to cultivating exchange between the UK, Australia and East Asia.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. Most recently she took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne.