Wales, music and cultural relations

Thursday 8 December 2011, 14:28

Sir Vernon Ellis Sir Vernon Ellis

Sir Vernon Ellis, chair of the British Council, shares his thoughts with us as he visits Wales this December

I was delighted to visit Wales this week. As chair of the British Council's Board of Trustees I am responsible, along with my fellow board members, for the organisation's performance, strategy and policy. Arts stand alongside education and society and English as cornerstones of the British Council's mission to build trust and understanding between peoples of the world.

During my visit to Wales I had an opportunity to meet with the chairs and CEOs from a number of arts organisations and companies in Wales. This deepened my understanding of partners' priorities and how British Council Wales responds to these in order to meet their aims through cultural relations.

In music we work with the best creative talent to develop innovative, high-quality events and collaborations. We do this to strengthen the international profile of UK music and creativity, to communicate the diversity of UK society, and to establish long-term partnerships overseas.

Wales is contributing its unique voice to the British Council's exciting international music programme and that came across to me clearly in conversations with Music Theatre Wales and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, amongst others, last night in Cardiff.

Examples of the international reach and impact of Welsh music include: acclaimed Welsh folk artist Gareth Bonello is participating in a highly ambitious residency project in China organised by the PRS for Music Foundation and British Council. Gareth is collaborating with musicians from China to experiment with traditional Chinese instruments and interweave Welsh and Chinese folk styles. This exciting six-week residency in Chengdu, Sichuan province will result in an album of new material, exploring new musical territory and reaching new audiences.

In September the indigenous Australian performance group The Black Arm Band and members of Welsh band 9Bach came together for a unique project supported by the British Council, that explores place, identity, culture and the preservation of language. The two musical ensembles both perform and record in their respective country's historical languages; the Welsh language and the many tongues of the Australian Aboriginal people. The results of this collaboration will be staged in a performance during the River of Music as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The website for Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales states that 'Music is in the soul of the Welsh nation'. Led by the Welsh Music Foundation, Wales Arts International and the Arts Council of Wales this partnership is supported by the Welsh Government and British Council.

Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales is at the heart of our music partnership work in Wales. This partnership aims to accelerate the export-ready music sector, promote the music sector of Wales internationally and to bring the world stage to Wales. Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales is doing just that by winning the opportunity to bring WOMEX, the leading world music expo to Cardiff in 2013.

This truly prestigious international showcase will bring over 450 artists, 650 exhibiting companies and more than 400 national and international journalists to Cardiff in 2013. The event will show off the fabulous facilities Cardiff has to offer, including the Wales Millennium Centre, and will create substantial opportunities for UK musicians to access new opportunities in developing markets.

Finally I am delighted to announce that British Council's The Selector radio showcase will collaborate for the second time with the organisers of Cardiff's Swn Festival, to bring the latest music from Wales to the world. The Selector, a weekly two-hour British Council radio programme, plays new British music for a global following with an audience estimated to be in excess of two million listeners. Selector Live in Cardiff will take place in March 2012.

Sir Vernon Ellis is chair of the British Council. He has been chairman of English National Opera since June 2006 and is also involved on the boards of several other musical organisations. In addition, he supports many arts companies, artists and charities through his foundation.

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