The largest cultural exchange between Australia and the United Kingdom has launched in both countries

The-UK-Australia-Season-Jeremy-Goldstein-Truth-to-Power-CaféThe UK/Australia Season, the largest cultural exchange between Australia and the United Kingdom (UK) has been launched in both countries. Marking the official beginning of The Season, the UK/Australia Season Ambassadors and details of the programme for September – December 2021 have been revealed.

A collaboration between the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen, the UK/Australia Season is a unique programme of more than 200 live and digital events, collaborations and sector engagement symposiums, celebrating the diverse and innovative artist community and cultural sectors of each nation.

“The fact that the UK/Australia Season even exists at this moment is extraordinary. The arts and education sector has shown steely tenacity, collaborating from opposite sides of the globe, to continually adapt how they can present their work to audiences during the pandemic,” said Helen Salmon, Season Director and Director of the British Council in Australia.

“During the first months of the Season, we have a large programme of digital work exploring topics including identity and belonging, our relationship to technology and Covid-19 recovery, in addition to in-person exhibitions, film, visual arts and performance.”

“In this time of ongoing change, it is the artists and thinkers who help us make sense of things. They will show us who we really are, and who we might become.”

“Representing the UK and Australian sectors, the Season Ambassadors have long standing connections with both nations and will work with the Season Directors to highlight the rich and diverse artistic practices in each country,” said Ms Salmon.

The Season Ambassadors include: Academy-award winner Cate Blanchett; former Principal of The Royal Ballet Dame Darcey Andrea Bussell DBE; stage and screen actor Rudi Dharmalingam; award-winning author of Girl Woman Other Bernardine Evaristo OBE; satirist and author Barry Humphries AO CBE; and leading British Museum curator and academic Dr Gaye Sculthorpe.

“I am thrilled and honoured to be an Ambassador for the UK/Australia Season. Art breaks down the borders and boundaries of our imagination, poses questions, expands reality, and by sharpening our feelings into ideas offers pathways to insight,” said Ambassador Cate Blanchett AC.

“Living works of art in performance being shared cross-culturally provides a genuine opportunity for audiences and artists alike to expand their horizons at a time when many fear they are closing down.”

“I am excited that this Season will facilitate a cornucopia of visions which speak to the depth and breadth of the ongoing artistic exploration in contemporary Australia and Britain,” said Ms Blanchett .

The Season centres on the theme Who Are We Now? to reflect on our history, explore our current relationship, and imagine our future together.

Artists, thought leaders and academics from the UK and Australia will collaborate to create a diverse programme of panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions, theatre, film, dance, design, architecture, music, literature, higher education and public engagement.

The Season will take place in Australia from September 2021 to March 2022 and in the UK from September 2021 to December 2022. The Summer events in Australia (December 2021 – March 2022) will be announced in November 2021. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Jeremy Goldstein’s Truth to Power Café (supplied)

Highlights of the programme in Australia across September – December 2021 include:

  • The British Film Festival returns across the country for its 2021 programme, presented in Palace Cinemas. Celebrating the finest filmmakers and acting talent British cinema has to offer, the festival includes true stories, literary adaptations, biographies and documentaries (November – December, nationwide).
  • A new programme of exhibitions, panel discussions and mentoring sessions by Art et alan international art platform commissioning and presenting collaborations between neurodivergent artists. An exhibition at Art Project Australia’s new gallery in the Collingswood Yards complex will launch the program in October featuring work by British and Australian artists including Emily Dober, Alan Constable, David James, Alasdair McLuckie, Andrew Omoding, Thom Roberts and Cherelle Sappleton (Collingswood Yards, Melbourne, exact dates to be announced).
  • Across six months, Sydney Opera House and the British Council present a season of new digital performance works by artists and organisations from across the UK, exploring the question “Who Are We Now?” Tackling themes of identity and community, the season will feature new works from diverse voices across a range of art forms and formats, responding to unprecedented global challenges (September 2021 – March 2022).
  • Jeremy Goldstein’s Truth to Power Café – an internationally acclaimed performance and digital theatre event told through memoir, poetry, image, music and film. Inspired by the political and philosophical beliefs of Nobel prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter and his Hackney Gang, this profound theatrical event reflects on loss, hope and resistance, and features participants from the community sharing their own stories, in response to the question: “Who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?”. Opening at Adelaide Festival Centre, digital theatre events follow from Bunjil Place (VIC) and across homes in lockdown in Western Sydney (17 September, Adelaide Festival Centre, 24-25 September, Blacktown Sydney, 1-31 October, Bunjil Place, Victoria, Online).
  • Griffith Review presents a series of live digital panel discussions delving into Australia’s relationship and history with the UK. Speakers include Miles Franklin and Stella award winning author Melissa Lucashenko, Vice Chancellor at Griffith University Carolyn Evans, Executive Producer of WOW Australia Cathy Hunt and Director of Natasha Cica (15 September, Online).
  • This is Who We Are: Mentoring the Margins, connecting and amplifying women of colour in collaborative leadership across the UK and Australia. The programme commences with an exclusive online event commemorating the republication of Beryl Gilroy’s 1976 memoir Black Teacher. Black Teacher recounts Gilroy’s experiences as a young teacher who faced racism in London but forged a revolutionary career as one of Britain’s first Black headteachers. Presented in partnership with Faber & Faber, the evening features readings and discussions of the impact of the work with British Academic and former fashion designer Darla Gilroy, Assistant Principal at The Totteridge Academy Yansé Cooper and poet Hannah Lowe (Chair), with a special performance responding to the book’s themes by playwright John Agard (21 September, Online).
  • Ballarat International Foto Biennale presents a series of live panel discussions delving into the artists and artworks in the 2021 programme. A panel discussion on the Linda McCartney: Retrospective on 11 September launches the series, with Sarah Brown, photographic curator of the Linda McCartney Archive and Artistic Director and CEO Fiona Sweet discussing the details surrounding touring the exhibition to Australia for the first time, Linda’s lasting influence and career, and the photographic medium as an art form. The second panel will feature contemporary UK based photographer Alix Marie on the creation and presentation of her new work Styx, enabling audiences to compare the lens on who we are across generations (11 & 30 September, Online).
  • A ten-part series of online webinars between Photo 2022 in Melbourne and Autograph in London. PHOTO LIVE will explore ideas of identity and belonging in the context of human rights, representation and social justice. This programme highlights the importance of centring black, Indigenous, feminist, queer and other marginalised voices and storytelling in photography. The first talk in the series on 22 September features Melbourne-based artist Phuong Ngo in conversation with Salma Tuqan, Deputy Director of Delfina Foundation, London (September – October, Online).
  • NGV + British Council: A Musical Companion to Cerith Wynn Evan’s C=O=D=A – a programme of music performances from musicians at the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne inspired by Cerith Wyn Evans’s monumental work, C=O=D=A 2019–20 (15 & 16 October, National Gallery Victoria, Melbourne).
  • Arts Centre Melbourne brings together Oily Cart (UK) and Polyglot Theatre (Australia), two of the world’s leading theatre makers for young audiences, to create a new inclusive work called PARKED for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities. Presented as part of the Alter State Festival, PARKED is a unique immersive and sensory experience combining nature, plants and landscape (1-14 November, Arts Centre Melbourne).
  • Hold Still/Living Memory: Curators’ Reflectionsa virtual conversation between the National Portrait Galleries in Australia and London. Representatives from National Portrait Gallery of Australia and National Portrait Gallery, London discuss the power of the photograph and how the exhibitions Hold Still/Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize (NPG, London) and Living Memory: National Photographic Portrait Prize (NPG, Australia) reflect each nation’s identity and our shared human experiences at this unique point in history (5 October, Online).

Highlights of the programme in the UK across September – December 2021 include:

  • Ben Quilty: Free Fall will be presented at Pavilion Gallery, Cromwell Place in London. Widely known for his thick, gestural oil paintings, Ben Quilty has explored a range of themes throughout his career. From the dangerous coming of age rituals of young Australian men, to the complex social history of Australia, he is constantly critiquing notions of identity, patriotism and belonging. In recognising Australia’s relationship to the United Kingdom as a former British colony, Quilty’s exhibition focuses on the geographical relationship of Australia internationally – as the world’s largest island and smallest continent – and the historical consequences of violent encounters originating from the frontier wars with his nation’s Indigenous people that have served as a foundation in shaping a national psyche (8 – 19 September 2021).
  • Patricia Piccinini: Kindred is a solo presentation of a monumental work by leading Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, best known for her transgenic menagerie of disturbing, hyper realistic creatures. Constructed from silicone and fiberglass, these hybrid sculptures investigate the potential rise of new and troubling developments through the advance of biotechnology and genetic manipulation (15 – 19 September 2021, Gallery 10, Cromwell Place, London).
  • Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters – the National Museum of Australia’s extraordinary immersive exhibition featuring over 300 paintings and objects by more than 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, will make its European premiere at The Box, Plymouth in October 2021. The project was developed over five years in collaboration with First Nations communities, and has been described as ‘a triumph of 21st century museology’ when it was first shown at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra (Opens 21st October, The Box, Plymouth).
  • London based, Tasmanian born designer Brodie Neill presents his latest work, Recoil – an elliptical table comprised of over three kilometres of reclaimed Hydrowood veneer in a homage to the annual growth ring formations of Tasmania’s treasured old growth trees (4 – 30 October, London Craft Week).
  • The Barbican presents the Emmy award-winning Awavena by Lynette Wallworth, screened to international acclaim at the 2018 Venice International Film Festival. Set in the Brazilian Amazon and told by the Yawanawá people through stunning 360° virtual reality (VR), Wallworth melds cutting edge technology and transcendent experience. Awavena is an intimate, immersive meeting with a people who have ascended from the edge of extinction (24 November to 4 December 2021, Barbican Centre, London).
  • The Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London hosts the online world premiere of Who Are You? – a poem by British writer Zsuzsanna Ardó performed by Australian vocalist Amber Evans and set to music by American composer Hayes Biggs. The exclusive performance is followed by an online panel discussion with the artists reflecting on their collaboration and creative piece (24 September, online).