Monday 12 June 2017

The spring programme, marking the first half of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration (UK/UAE 2017), is nearly at an end, having engaged with over 88 thousand members of the public across the UAE.

UK/UAE 2017, the cultural exchange programme between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, celebrates the long-standing relationship between the two countries and looks to strengthen existing cultural and economic ties. 

UK/UAE 2017, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, is organised by the British Council and supported by the Ministry of Culture & Knowledge Development, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and the British Embassy in the UAE as strategic partners. Taking place throughout 2017, it includes collaboration with numerous British and Emirati organisations who are delivering a wide range of cultural collaboration including exhibitions, musical and theatrical performances, film screenings, conferences, showcases, masterclasses and educational workshops. 

Gavin Anderson, Director UAE, British Council said, “The engagement we have seen so far with the spring programme has been incredible. Looking at the numbers, from January to June, 26 projects, including 140 events in 6 Emirates and 90 film screenings, have taken place in the UAE as part of UK/UAE 2017. We have seen over three thousand people participate in talks, workshops or events; and a further 85,000 people have attended exhibitions, performances, film screenings or festivals as part of UK/UAE. The diversity of the programme that ranged from art to science, helped us to engage with a diverse audience across the UAE. Working alongside our British and Emirati partners, we look forward to build upon the momentum we have achieved so far, bringing together another rich public programme in the autumn, which looks to inspire the youth and continue the cultural dialogue between our two nations.”

Hannah Henderson, Head of UK/UAE commented, “UAE residents and visitors can look forward to many more opportunities to attend and participate in the autumn programme of UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration. Expect to see more exhibitions, workshops, performances and screenings spanning the arts, literature, education, society, sport, science and trade. We look forward to announcing the autumn programme after the summer.”

The UK/UAE 2017 explores the themes of community, inclusion and the next generation, in line with UAE Vision 2021. Throughout the year, the British Council is working with a wide range of British and Emirati partners, strengthening existing relationships and creating new collaborations. Top UK institutions and creative practitioners are partnered with their UAE counterparts, showcasing British and Emirati talent to engage and inspire audiences across the UAE.  

The programme is supported by the UK Government’s GREAT Britain campaign.

The UK/UAE 2017 autumn programme will be announced at a later date.

For more information about UK/UAE 2017 and its upcoming programming, please visit: To join the conversation follow the UK/UAE 2017 on the British Council’s Facebook (@BritishCouncilUAE), twitter (@uaeBritish) and Instagram (@britishcounciluae) pages and use the dedicated hashtag #UKUAE2017. 

Spring Programme Highlights


Science Strand at Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word, featured a host of science sessions with leading British writers. Highlights included a brilliant session by author Lucy Hawking, a session by molecular biology and genetics expert Emily Grossman, and an all-ages introduction to the wonders of science by author Jo Marchant and author and comedian Ben Miller.

The Shakespeare Globe Storytelling Workshops

Organised by Art for All, performative storytelling sessions by Globe Education were offered to young pupils in Ras al Khaimah, Fujairah and Dubai. Through interactive versions of The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry V and Macbeth, students experienced the thrill of live performance and explored Shakespeare’s narratives not just as listeners, but as storytellers too.

The International Storytelling Festival in Sharjah

Sharjah’s Al Noor Island played host the 2017 International Storytelling Festival, bringing together the best storytellers from across the world under the theme 'Tales on the Island'. Making their debut in the UAE, leading UK-based performers Michael Harvey and David Ambrose led workshops and performances focusing on folktales from British and Middle East traditions, leading participants through basic and advanced techniques of oral storytelling.

Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox writing competition for children

Together with Art For All the Roald Dahl Literary Estate and ADMAF, a writing competition was held for children aged 6 to 12 years old. Budding authors celebrated Roald Dahl’s centenary by writing a story inspired by the theme: Fantastic Mr Fox in the UAE. The competition was judged by the Roald Dahl Estate, with prizes including airline tickets to London.


Sugar Science exhibition and workshops at Think Science

Think Science students and visitors worked with the artists-in-residence, architectural sculptors Brendan Jamison and Mark Revels, at the British Council’s Think Science Stand. Through fun and playful workshops, participants were encouraged to create their own building designs in sugar whilst learning about diabetes through a 'learning through doing' approach. Over the three-day run of the fair, more than 1,000 people participated in the workshops and contributed to the sugar metropolis.

University of Oxford at Think Science 

In their first ever admissions trip to the UAE, the University of Oxford  joined the region’s largest scientific fair, Think Science, where two academics from the Biochemistry Department gave hands on demonstrations of biochemistry principles, as well as course and admissions processes to Oxford for students and teachers alike.

Science Collaboration Symposium: Smart Cities

This symposium on the  timely topic of ‘smart cities’, held at the Masdar Institute of Technology and organised in collaboration with the UK Science & Innovation Network (SIN) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), was attended by scientists and innovators from top research institutions and start-up companies from the Gulf countries and the UK. 

Visual Arts

Tate Curator of Access and Special Projects visited the UAE 

In collaboration with Sharjah Museums Department, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and Dubai Culture, the British Council partnered with the Tate, inviting Marcus Dickey Horley, Curator of Access and Special Projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain, to deliver three workshops on inclusivity and accessibility for museum staff in Sharjah, Al Ain and Dubai. 

Anish Kapoor: The Creative Act panel discussion

As part of The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence exhibition programme and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi's Talking Art Series, this panel, organised by the British Council in collaboration with Tourism & Culture Authority Abu Dhabi, featured Adrian Locke, Senior Curator at London’s Royal Academy of Arts. The talk, titled ‘Anish Kapoor: The Creative Act’, discussed the world-renowned British artist’s unique body of work and focused on the Royal Academy’s major Kapoor solo exhibition in 2009, which was the institution’s first retrospective of a living artist’s work.

Fully Booked art book fair debuts in Dubai

Straddling the medium of visual arts and the written word, Fully Booked served as a platform for a host of UK/UAE events, in collaboration with the Crossway Foundation. Highlights from participating UAE and UK artists included The Offscreen Collages (UK), 120 collages from the award-winning book: Offscreen, Four Young artists in the Middle East; The Road Tapes (UK), a video work of road footage from across the Middle East by Al Braithewaite; a Zine-Making Workshop with Tulip Hazbar (UAE); and the workshop 'Everyone Can Draw: Blind Drawing’ with Nasser Alzayani (UAE).

Supporting UK artists and educational programme at the Sharjah Biennale 13

As part of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration, the Sharjah Art Foundation  presented new commissions by artists from and based in the UK at the Sharjah Biennial 13, Tamawuj (March-June 2017), curated by Christine Tohme. The new commissions included work by Walid Siti, Oscar Murillo, Lawrence Abu Hamdan and The Otolith Group. The programme also saw a collaboration on a range of community outreach events, education programmes and activities focusing on children, adults and people with disabilities that included art discussions, sketching and sculpture workshops.

Public art installations

The first outdoor public exhibition in the UAE by Tony Cragg, one of the world’s most distinguished contemporary sculptors, was organised by Leila Heller Gallery. Located in front of DIFC’s iconic ‘The Gate’ building, the exhibition featured three largescale works in bronze and stainless steel. With their placement in the public garden space, these sculptures will be on view for six months, inspiring viewers to see their surroundings in new ways.


A triumphant celebration of classical music at BBC Proms Dubai

Staged over four days in March 2017 at Dubai Opera, for the first time the magic of the iconic BBC Proms festival was brought to audiences in the UAE. Bringing the best classical music to as wide an audience as possible, the BBC Proms Dubai concerts were recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

A comprehensive learning programme across the four-day BBC Proms festival

Workshops, masterclasses and open rehearsals provided budding musicians and singers with the opportunity to develop their skills and engage with performers from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers.

WNO Effect workshops

The visit of the Welsh National Opera to Dubai Opera was accompanied by a full and varied schedule of learning activities, including workshops, master classes and open rehearsals providing budding musicians and singers with the opportunity to develop their skills and engage with the performers.

BBC Symphony Orchestra panel discussion

To mark the opening of BBC Proms Dubai, BBC Radio 3 presenter Petroc Trelawny led a discussion about the BBC Proms 'past, present and future', chairing a panel with the Director of the festival, the General Manager of the BBC Symphony Orchestra & Singers, and the Chief Executive of Dubai Opera, alongside the eminent composers whose music was featured in the performances.


Welsh National Opera performances at Dubai Opera

As the Welsh National Opera (WNO) celebrate their 70th anniversary, their performances at Dubai Opera were fabulous spectacles for all music and culture lovers from across the GCC, with Dubai Opera hosting their productions of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly and La Bohème. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox celebrated a beloved British author’s centenary

Conceived in honour of Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, the musical adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox was brought to life by producing partners Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Curve production in association with Lyric Hammersmith. Fans of Dahl’s work were delighted by this rollicking, interactive theatrical production with stunning sets which was brought to the UAE by Art for All.  

Shakespeare Under the Stars: Macbeth

Constellation Productions delivered a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth featuring an all-female cast in this modern, immersive retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This highly innovative promenade production enabled audiences in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ajman to experience Shakespeare in a whole new way.

‘CATS’ came to Dubai for the first time

The legendary musical CATS, seen by over 73 million people worldwide and one of the longest running shows in West End and Broadway History, made its debut in Dubai in January, at the new Dubai Opera. 

Creative and Cultural Industries

Cultural Excellence Fellowship 

The Cultural Excellence Fellowship, a professional entrepreneurship programme devised by Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and the British Council, continues to contribute to the rapidly growing UAE creative and cultural industries, welcoming its second cohort of 10 ‘Pioneers’ (UAE-based professionals) and 16 Emirati ‘Protégés’ in 2017. The five sessions held to date included discussions with Jude Kelly CBE, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre in London, Salim Tannous of the Arab Fund for Arts & Culture and Randa Haidar, Programme Manager, Culture Sector of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority. During the Abu Dhabi Festival, the elite group attended performances and workshops and co-presented concert introductions.

Experience Economy Conference 

Leading executives and thinkers came together for the DEAL Live by Blooloop, the educational conference focusing on trends and developments in the attractions business from the region and beyond. In partnership with Ministry of Culture & Knowledge Development and the British Department for International Trade, the British Council organised a dedicated session giving an overview of the Creative and Cultural Economy Sector in the UAE for visiting international practitioners. The session was led by Professor Kenneth Wilson, Adviser to His Highness Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, United Arab Emirates (UAE).


Notes to Editor

About UK/UAE 2017

UK/UAE 2017 is a year of creative collaboration and cultural exchange between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, organised by the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for education and culture, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and HRH The Prince of Wales. The purpose of UK/UAE 2017 is to celebrate the long-standing relationship between the UK and the UAE, giving it greater focus, depth and contemporary relevance. Throughout 2017, the British Council will collaborate with a wide range of British and Emirati partners to create a diverse programme that spans the arts, literature, education, society, sport, science and trade. Through exploring the ways in which our respective cultural heritage and contemporary creative expression inspires innovation in all sectors and all areas of society, UK/UAE 2017 will strengthen cultural and economic ties between the two nations and identify major opportunities for future collaboration on both sides. 

To stay up-to-date with the latest news and programme, please visit the British Council’s UAE website or follow the social media channels on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

For further information and enquiries, please contact Hannah Henderson at

GREAT Britain

The GREAT Britain campaign is the UK government’s most ambitious international promotional campaign ever and showcases the very best of what the country has to offer to encourage the world to visit, study and do business with the UK.  GREAT is active across 144 countries worldwide and unites the British Government’s promotion of the UK overseas – more than 20 Government departments and agencies – under an effective and widely recognised brand.   Launched in 2011/12, the GREAT campaign has already generated returns of £2.6 billion for the UK economy, with a further £2.7 billion currently being audited and more to come from current activities.  For more information visit

About the British Council

About the British Council 

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of our income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Eighteen per cent of our funding is received from the UK government.