Major UK/Australia cultural season launches across both nations

The UK/Australia Season, the largest cultural exchange between Australia and the United Kingdom (UK) launches in both countries today. 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 Season centres on the theme Who Are We Now? to reflect on our history, explore our current relationship, and imagine our future together.

From 1 September, 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.

Highlights of the programme in Australia across September – December 2021 include the return of The British Film Festival; a new exhibition and online programme by international art platform Art et al presenting collaborations between neurodivergent UK and Australian artists; a six month digital programme presented by Sydney Opera House featuring performance works by artists and organisations from across the UK, exploring the question ‘Who Are We Now?’; Jeremy Goldstein’s internationally acclaimed digital theatre event Truth to Power Café; an exclusive online event commemorating the republication of Beryl Gilroy’s 1976 memoir Black Teacher with readings by British academic and former fashion designer Darla Gilroy and performance by playwright John Agard; a series of live panel discussions delving into the artists and artwork presented in the 2021 Ballarat International Foto Biennale; a new immersive and sensory theatrical experience by Oily Cart (UK) and Polyglot Theatre (Australia), two of the world’s leading theatre makers for young audiences; and a virtual conversation between the National Portrait Galleries in Australia and London.

Helen Salmon, Season Director and Director of the British Council in Australia Said:

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. 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. The Season Ambassadors announced today are 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.

Ambassador Cate Blanchett AC Said:

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. 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.

Ambassador Rudi Dharmalingam Said:

The arts have always had an innate ability to inspire and initiate change in all corners of society. The only way to truly break down barriers is for us all to share our stories with each other. International collaborations like this partnership between the UK and Australia create a disruptive platform to challenge prejudice, to manifest a borderless mutual appreciation and understanding of each other’s complicated cultural intricacies.

Ambassador Bernardine Evaristo OBE Said:

Culture is essential to the advancement of humankind, but for it to flourish and progress, we need to replenish it through global engagements, influences and partnerships. The UK/Australia Season is an amazing opportunity for both countries to bridge the geographical and creative divide through sharing the exciting ways in which our societies are enriched by our many different communities and unique approaches to the formation of culture. This is an ambitious and inspiring initiative, and I expect it will be transformational.

Ambassador Dr Gaye Sculthorpe Said:

I am excited that the UK/Australia Season will highlight aspects of the unique culture and art of the First Nations of Australia. The origins of these artistic traditions predate British colonisation by millennia yet in their evolving forms are amongst the best of contemporary artistic practice in Australia.

The Australian High Commission in the UK and the British Council will launch the Season at the British Museum in London today with Nigel Adams MP, Minister of State for Asia at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Australia. The event will be marked by the publication of Ancestors, artefacts and empire; Indigenous Australia in British and Irish museums, a major new book co-edited by Dr Gaye Sculthorpe, Head of the Oceania section of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the British Museum.

An Australian event is planned at the Sydney Opera House later this year.

Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Said:

In the UK/Australia Season 2021/22 artists, policy makers, thought leaders and academics will come together through vibrant and diverse art forms, exploring our national identities, elevating our First Nations voices, and examining who we are together in a very different 2021/22. The Season will remind us of the bonds of history we share and the exciting future ahead of our great nations.

The Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Australia’s Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Said:

Our artists have lifted spirits over these difficult months, and the UK/Australia Season 2021-22 will take the spirit of our artists and showcase them to an international audience. I’m proud to support this major cultural exchange, collaborating with the British Council to provide an important avenue to grow cultural understanding and establish new international audiences for our talented artists and performers, which will be increasingly important as we emerge from the pandemic.

Nigel Adams MP, Minister of State for Asia at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) Said:

The UK/Australia Season provides an unprecedented opportunity to further strengthen the UK’s relationship with Australia as two open, diverse and forward-looking nations in this truly collaborative endeavour with the Australian Government. The UK is committed to strengthening its relationships with countries in the Indo-Pacific and the Commonwealth as we look to build back better after the pandemic. Through the work of the British Council and many partners in the UK and Australia, the breadth and scale of this ambitious Season – spanning culture, education and business – enables us to develop networks and to drive collaboration, investment and attraction for the benefit of our two nations.

Oliver Dowden MP, UK’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Said:

Despite the many challenges presented by the pandemic, our cultural and creative sectors have shown immense resilience and flexibility in helping to shape the ambitious UK/Australia Season with the British Council and Australian Government. By providing the opportunity to showcase the excellence and innovation of UK and Australian arts and culture, the Season will help to develop new partnerships and ensure these vital sectors build back better from the pandemic. I look forward to experiencing the wealth of content within the Season which will represent the whole of the UK across many artforms.

The Season will take place in Australia from September 2021 to March 2022 and in the UK from September 2021 to December 2022. Programme highlights have been announced today, with further programming information available at

The Summer events in Australia (December 2021 – March 2022) will be announced in November 2021.

Highlights of the programme in Australia from September – December 2021:

  • 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 al, an 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 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’ Reflections, a 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 from September – December 2021:

  • 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).

The Summer events in Australia (December 2021 – March 2022) will be announced in November 2021.

Events Details

Venue: UK/Australia
Date:  Sept- Dec 21

For more information click HERE


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