Wednesday 12 October 2016


The British Council launched their global arts strategy in Belfast today, aiming to double the scale of UK activity internationally.

The new strategy will see the cultural organisation double activity by partnering with or lending support to more than 100,000 artists and organisations worldwide and by positioning the UK as a global hub for collaboration, for capacity building, and policy development.

The strategy is unveiled as new figures reveal the impact of the British Council’s Arts programme since 2010/2011. In financial terms, its global Arts programme has grown by thirty per cent since 2011, to £49.5 million, meaning that the organisation is investing more in the UK cultural sector than ever before.

Since 2010/11, the number of artists who have directly benefitted from working with the British Council has doubled; as has its digital reach around the world, from 5 to 10million, through flagship programmes engaging with priority countries including South Africa, Mexico and Nigeria, as well as the Venice Art and Architecture Biennales, and the on-going Shakespeare Lives programme.

Recent Northern Ireland beneficiaries include performance artist Amanda Coogan, who will perform as part of this year’s Belfast International Festival on October 20-22.  Her production, Run to the Rock, was inspired by a 2015 visit to South Africa’s Robben Island, which houses the complete works of Shakespeare. This production is part of British Council’s worldwide Shakespeare Lives programme and will combine live multi-media messaging, projected images, sound and movements inspired by translations of Shakespeare’s texts into sign language.

Other upcoming festivals supported by the British Council include the 10th Outburst Queer Arts Festival in November, which aligns with the organisation’s diversity strategy. Last year, Creative Director Ruth McCarthy, and the organisation’s Chair, Cian Smyth, headed to Brazil, Venezuela and Jamaica through the British Council, and were able to make new and inspiring connections, which will play a vital part in this year’s landmark festival.

They will participate in an international symposium on queer arts, which joins LGBTQ+ artists, performers, producers and activists from Brazil, Venezuela, Trinidad, UK, Ireland, Jamaica, Colombia, United States, Canada, Argentina and many other countries for a day of talks, discussions and presentations on queer arts practice and the role and development of queer arts as a global catalyst for change.

Future British Council work will move to more creative approaches to peace building. The organisation  will build upon recent work with broadcast journalist Stuart Bailie and Darren Ferguson, the CEO of Intercultural arts organisation, Beyond Skin, who both recently visiting Colombia to talk about music’s role in peace and reconciliation.

Director Arts, Graham Sheffield said: ““We are particularly excited about the work that Ruth McCarthy of Outburst Queer Arts Festival has been developing over the past year with British Council Americas and British Council Northern Ireland, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Outburst.

“With Ruth, British Council will welcome over 25 delegates from the region to Belfast this November.  They are producers, curators and activists from Brazil, Venezuela, Trinidad, Jamaica, Colombia, the United States, Canada, Argentina as well as the UK and Ireland.

We are delighted to be working in partnership with Outburst, one of this city's most exciting festivals, on the discussions and presentations on queer arts practice and the role and development of queer arts as a global catalyst for change, themes that are so important to our work across the world”.  

The complete Arts Strategy can be found at

For more information on British Council Northern Ireland and their work in Arts, visit, follow on Twitter BCouncil_NI or Facebook: 

Notes to Editor

For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley, Communications Manager: T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI

About the British Council

British Council Northern Ireland creates international opportunities for the people of Northern Ireland and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.  A quarter of our funding comes from a UK government grant, and we earn the rest from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for, and from partnerships. For more information, please visit: