Hanoi Our Place in Space
Tuesday 14 November 2023
  • Programme of events strengthening connections between Viet Nam and Northern Ireland across culture and education begins in Hanoi
  • Our Place in Space, the award-winning sculpture trail and scale model of the solar system, designed by artist Oliver Jeffers, touches down in Viet Nam

Marking the British Council's 30-year anniversary in Viet Nam and 50 years of diplomatic relations between the UK and Viet Nam, the UK/Viet Nam Season, themed on Climate and the Environment and Shared Heritage, is bringing together thought leaders, academics, educators, entrepreneurs, and artists from various organisations in the UK and Viet Nam to share ideas and experiences and discuss existing and future collaborations in the areas of arts and culture, education and English.

Alongside this week’s launch of Our Place in Space in Hanoi, the British Council is facilitating a programme of events strengthening connections and partnerships between Viet Nam and Northern Ireland across higher education and the cities of Belfast and Derry-Londonderry. These include a higher education wrap-around programme, featuring Queen’s University Belfast, with Professor David Rooney, Dean of Internationalisation, and Ulster University, with Director of Ulster Screen Academy, Professor Declan Keeney.

As part of Hanoi Creativity and Design Festival, the British Council is collaborating with Hanoi City on the Creative Cities conference, with Northern Ireland featuring prominently. Chris McCreery, Culture Development Manager, Belfast City Council will be sharing Belfast’s experience in securing the UNESCO City of Music status and the city’s music strategy, while John Peto, Head of Development at Nerve Centre in Derry-Londonderry will be speaking about the experience of working in the inaugural UK City of Culture, the legacy from achieving that accolade and their role in supporting the development of a creative community in the city.

Our Place in Space, a scale model of the solar system incorporating a three-dimensional sculpture trail, interactive AR app, and learning and events programmes touches down in the centre of Hanoi until 24 November and is being delivered as part of the British Council’s UK/Viet Nam Season, which runs from June until December 2023.

Led by Northern Ireland’s leading creative media arts organisation, Nerve Centre, in partnership with Hanoi-based social enterprise Think Playgrounds, Our Place in Space is an 8 km recreation of our solar system designed by artist Oliver Jeffers and astrophysicist Professor Stephen Smartt. Following a hugely successful tour of UK cities during 2022 and 2023 that attracted over a million visitors, this is the first time the space odyssey is going  international.

Speaking about the opportunity to connect Northern Ireland with Viet Nam through the Season, Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland said: We are excited to be building on the success of Our Place in Space when it opens in Hanoi this week as part of the UK/Viet Nam Season.  Several Northern Ireland organisations, including Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, are taking part in the British Council supported wrap-around programme of events, strengthening connections and forging new partnerships in English, education and arts and culture between Northern Ireland and Viet Nam.  As part of this unique opportunity for cultural exchange we are delighted to be able share the inspiring story of Belfast becoming a UNESCO City of Music and Derry-Londonderry’s legacy 10 years on as the inaugural UK City of Culture.”

Donna McGowan, Director of the British Council in Viet Nam said: “Our Place in Space is more than an epic art installation; it's an exploration of our place in the cosmos, an opportunity to contemplate our existence from a unique perspective, across multiple sectors, whilst connecting with the wider community. As we engage with this inspiring project, thanks to Northern Ireland's Nerve Centre and Viet Nam's Think Playground it underscores the importance of collaboration and partnership in addressing our shared challenges here on Earth. 'Our Place in Space Hanoi' is a testament to the creativity and influence that emerge when the UK and Viet Nam come together, and it exemplifies the spirit of collaborative inspiration throughout the UK/Viet Nam Season. We are proudly presenting 'Our Place in Space Hanoi' as a pivotal part of the UK/Viet Nam Season in the British Council’s 30th year in Viet Nam.”

David Lewis, Executive Producer at the Nerve Centre, added: “The success of Our Place in Space over the last 18 months has shown the project’s universal appeal. The imaginative and playful experience created by Oliver Jeffers invites us all to look at our solar system in a different way — exploring what it means to live on Earth now, and how we might better share and protect our planet in future. We’re really excited by the opportunity to showcase the best in creativity from Northern Ireland and to collaborate with amazing partners in Viet Nam on what will be a truly memorable experience.”

Our Place in Space was originally conceived through a research and development project and presented as part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, co-commissioned by Belfast City Council. UNBOXED was designed to celebrate creativity and innovation, with funding from the Northern Ireland Executive, UK Government, Scottish Government and Welsh Government.


For more information, please contact:

Colette Baillie – Colette.baillie@britishcouncil.org

For images, please click here

Notes to Editor

Oliver Jeffers is a visual artist and author working in painting, bookmaking, illustration, collage, performance, and sculpture. Curiosity and humour are underlying themes throughout Jeffers’ practice as an artist and storyteller. While investigating the ways the human mind understands its world, his work also functions as comic relief in the face of futility. Jeffers’ engagements and practice are truly international in scope. His critically acclaimed picture books have been translated into over fifty languages and sold over 14 million copies worldwide. His original artwork has been exhibited at such institutions as the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Palais Auersperg in Vienna. Jeffers has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award, Bologna Rigazzi Award, An Irish Book Award, and a United Kingdom Literary Association Award. Oliver grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he currently lives.

Professor Stephen Smartt FRS is professor of astrophysics at Queen’s University Belfast and has previously worked at the University of Cambridge and the UK’s Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes. He uses telescopes around the world to survey the sky in search of exploding stars. An exploding star is called a supernova, which can shine with the power of 11 billion suns. Professor Smartt leads several international teams using telescopes in Chile (in the southern hemisphere) and Hawaii (northern hemisphere) to search for these spectacular explosions. He also searches for light emitted by sources of gravitational waves which are thought to be dense neutron stars that smash together. Professor Smartt is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, and was awarded the George Darwin Lecture and Herschel Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society and the RIA Gold Medal in the physical and mathematical sciences.

Nerve Centre is Northern Ireland’s leading creative media arts organisation with a vision of ‘changing live through creative technologies and the arts’. More than 120,000 people a year benefit from a wide-ranging programme of arts events, innovative projects, creative learning, and production facilities. A successful social enterprise, Nerve Centre employs 50 staff in Derry~Londonderry and Belfast. At an educational level, Nerve Centre has developed the Creative Learning Centre model, empowering teachers and community learners to engage with creative technologies to unlock learning in the curriculum. Nerve Centre’s artistic output has gained an international reputation with Oscar, BAFTA and Turner Prize  nominations.

Think Playgrounds is a social enterprise in Vietnam committed to increasing the number of public playgrounds in city centres.

Professor Declan Keeney Declan Keeney, PhD, MA, BMus(Hons), LTCL, PgCHET, PgDIP, SFHEA, FRSA is a Professor (Chair) of Screen Technologies & Innovation at Ulster University & Director of the Ulster Screen Academy. He is Co-Founder & Interim CEO of Studio Ulster Ltd, a £72m commercial Virtual Production Studio complex currently under construction at Belfast Harbour Studios in Northern Ireland, one of the Belfast Region City Deal Pillar Innovation projects.

Professor David Rooney David Rooney is the Dean of Internationalisation and Reputation, within the faculty for Engineering and Physical Sciences, and Professor of Chemical Engineering, in the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, at Queen’s University Belfast.  He is Director of the Sustainable Energy Research Group at Queen’s and has a long history of working with international partners, including time in China developing the Queen’s College at the China Medical University in Shenyang.

About the UK/ Viet Nam Season:

Marking 50 years of UK–Vietnamese diplomatic relations, and 30 years of the British Council’s presence in Viet Nam, the Season will ignite new collaborations that celebrate the best of UK–Vietnamese partnerships, and strengthen the connections between the people of the UK and Viet Nam. The Season will imagine our future together by bringing together artists, universities, and civil society leaders. People across Viet Nam and the UK will have the opportunity to experience innovative and exciting creative work from some of the best UK and Viet Nam companies, artists and institutions creating together.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language.  We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2022-23 we reached 600 million people.