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Report urges UK-Chinese artistic collaborations following Brexit vote

Rehearsals for Coriolanus. Photo: Zhejiang Xiaobaihua Zhejiang Xiaobaihua Yue Opera Troupe in rehearsals for Coriolanus, the Chinese company's first Shakespeare production, staged earlier this year. Photo: Zhejiang Xiaobaihua
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Policymakers in the UK and China are being called upon to exploit possibilities for cultural collaboration, as part of a report claiming “crucial opportunities” exist for both countries.

The report, published by the Department for International Trade and cultural organisation BOP Consulting, claims that the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote has moved collaborations with non-European countries such as China further up the UK’s agenda.

However, fostering short-term or profit-led relationships are unlikely to succeed, the report argues, highlighting the emphasis should be on building a long-term, sustained collaboration between the two nations.

Recent projects to build collaborations between the UK and China have included a Chinese-language production of War Horse, produced by the National Theatre of China in collaboration with the UK’s National Theatre.

Last year, organisations such as Shakespeare’s Globe and the NT were awarded a share of £7 million of government funds aimed at strengthening cultural ties with China.

The new research highlights that China, whose culture spending grew eightfold between 2000 and 2014, is increasingly looking internationally for cultural collaboration, while the UK is also keen to unlock opportunities for trade and exchange.

“The museum and theatre sectors in both the UK and China are developing rapidly as they adapt to new audiences, new technologies and new economic contexts. Cultural collaboration is increasingly on the agenda, as institutions in both countries recognise that sharing best practice can enrich the sectors as a whole,” the report says.

The research aims to address a lack of knowledge among sector professionals about one another’s countries. By comparing practice and attitudes in the UK and China, it has identified four main areas of potential.

The first is based around audience development and profiling, which the report highlights is already “robust” in Britain. While audience profiling is common in the UK, Chinese institutions are behind the curve in understanding their audiences, the report claims.

However, China is experimenting with methods to reach new audiences, which, coupled with the UK’s experience in the area, could allow both countries to thrive.

Earning commercial revenue, artistic collaborations and developments in digital distribution are also listed as areas in which the two countries could partner, with the report adding that long-term relationships would allow smaller institutions to benefit as well as larger organisations with pre-existing international reach and experience.

It goes on to call for the “establishment of a platform supported by policymakers that, beyond this work, enables regular sharing of best practice between China and the UK”.

Published in both English and Mandarin, the report was commissioned by the Department for International Trade, formerly UK Trade and Investment, and follows a period of analysis and consultation with stakeholders in both the UK and China over the past year.

On publishing the report, BOP Consulting director Paul Owens said: “Both countries are facing many common challenges including reaching new audiences, addressing new technologies and adjusting to new economic contexts. There is a real appetite for collaboration.”

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