The Culture UK partnership will develop three arts festivals each year, while a new £4m fund will help arts organisations create work for broadcast and online.

Crystal Pite
Cedar Lake dance company performing Grace Engine, choreographed by Crystal Pite

The BBC is joining up with the UK’s four arts councils to “excite the nation about arts” and increase opportunities for emerging and diverse talent.

It will create opportunities for arts organisations of all sizes to show their work on the BBC via a £4m fund, ‘Artists First’, that will commission artists and organisations to make new works for broadcast and online.

The new Culture UK partnership, with Arts Council England (ACE), the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Arts Council of Wales and Creative Scotland, will also see the development of three major broadcast and live event festivals each year.

“We’ve come together because we want the UK to be the most culturally engaged and creative country in the world, where everybody, wherever they come from, can take part,” Director General of the BBC Tony Hall said.

“There are real challenges that make working together more necessary and more urgent than ever. Culture is one of the things that unites us all and expresses our identity. We ignore that at our peril.”

Broad scale

The partnership will support projects based on annual themes, which aim to have the scale and breadth to attract both new and existing audiences to the arts. 2017’s themes are poetry and opera, and 2018 will focus on the centenary of women’s suffrage.

Culture UK will form a planning and development group to develop the new festivals and broadcasts, drawing people from across the country. The BBC will also appoint “cultural leads” in each of its major national and regional offices as additional support.

Several new projects were announced alongside the partnership this week, including a TV adaptation of the National Theatre’s play ‘My Country: A Work In Progress’; a screening of Betroffenheit introduced by choreographer Crystal Pite; and a new iteration of the spoken word project ‘Words First’ on BBC 1Xtra.

These join a series of new arts and digital commissions from The Space – the partnership between ACE and BBC – and Battersea Arts Centre (BAC)’s Performance Live strand, which was inspired by a live broadcast of four independent theatre performances on BBC Four in November 2015.

Digital trend

A Culture UK digital working group will encourage ‘digital pioneers’ from the cultural sector and BBC Research and Development to collaborate on new experiences around performances, live events and museum collections. The group will develop the BBC’s work on virtual reality and immersive storytelling.

The BBC has also pledged to share its online platform for live events with arts and cultural organisations, starting with Manchester International Festival, Hay Festival and Edinburgh Festivals. It will then use the technology to underpin a major digital festival in the autumn, called #OperaPassion, which it is producing alongside the V&A, Royal Opera House and UK opera companies.

“In challenging times, the diverse cultural riches of the UK provide some of our most potent assets, and play a vital role in presenting the UK as an international, outwardly focused and creative nation,” said Graham Sheffield CBE, Director of Arts at British Council.

“We look forward to working closely with Culture UK to bring an international dimension to the programme and help to broaden audiences around the world for the best of UK creativity and innovation.”