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Time to pay attention to the British Council

The British Council recently launched the UK/Nigeria 2015-2016 season of cultural collaboration. The line-up of events for this project are worth noting



A season of opportunities for artists

Had a Nigerian artist criticised the government for lack of investment in the arts and described it as being dominated by “neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture”  as did New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton of her government, he would not receive the kind of flak Eleanor got because, frankly, it is a common gripe among artists in Nigeria: the paucity of sponsorship for the arts.

The artist depends on foreign organisations, mostly, for occasional acts of charity in the form of residencies, prizes, workshops, and grants. The British Council recently launched a season of cultural activities, tagged the UK/Nigeria 2015–16, with the objective of building new audiences for Nigerian and UK artists while building collaborations between them, and increasing prosperity for artists, according to the Director of Arts, British Council Nigeria, Ojoma Ochai, on Inspiration FM 92.3, Lagos.

L-R, Lola Shoneyin and Ojoma Ochai at the season launch. Photo: British Council

L-R, Lola Shoneyin and Ojoma Ochai at the season launch. Photo: British Council

The British Council has been involved in the arts since its inception in Nigeria in 1943. Its Creative Enterprise Programme, Creative Industries Development, Lagos Theatre Festival, and Young Creative Entrepreneurs, are a few of its previous outings which have made celebrities of some beneficiaries, cue in Audu Maikori. However, the UK/Nigeria 2015–16 is its most ambitious project yet, spanning seven months (September 2015-April 2016), across cities in the UK and Nigeria, encompassing diverse sectors of the arts.

The season will feature over 30 projects and over 80 events in art, fashion, design, theatre, dance, music, literature and film. So far six events are scheduled for Lagos, two in Abuja, one in Calabar, and one in the UK, with more to come.


“It is a concerted effort to build new audiences for the arts, to create new collaborations and to strengthen relationships. We will provide opportunities for British artists and institutions to engage with the burgeoning Nigerian creative scene and for new Nigerian work in the UK,” said the Director Arts for the British Council, Graham Sheffield, in the Huffington Post. The programme has a focus on creating access to art, innovation, education, new digital work, art in public spaces, trade and investment, and working with young people. Partnerships between Nigerian and British artists, institutions and organisations will be central to the season.

“Both our countries are renowned for the breadth of our cultures and for our dynamic creative industries so it is fitting to come together to initiate new collaborations,” said the Country Director Nigeria, British Council, Connie Price, in a press statement.

L-R, Simon Shircliff and Wana Udobang at the season launch. Photo: British Council

L-R, Simon Shircliff and Wana Udobang at the season launch. Photo: British Council

What’s on?

Some of the projects, like the workshop for culture journalists, kicked off pre-season. The workshop – which featured Nigerian participants from across print, radio, tv, and online – had local and international facilitators. This seems to be a model for most of the projects for the season: workshops, mostly Nigerian participants, mix of local and foreign trainers, and new audiences.

There are more opportunities for writers in the schedule. The Script Junction is an initiative to connect 12 UK and Nigerian screenwriters through workshops and mentoring programmes.

Filmmakers have Naija Street Stories, an opportunity to submit true life stories about Nigeria for a documentary production.

L-R, K-Peace and Lala Akindoju at the season launch. Photo: British Council

L-R, K-Peace and Lala Akindoju at the season launch. Photo: British Council

Meanwhile theatre practitioners and performing artists have the Lagos Theatre Festival, which will be bigger than ever. There are calls for proposals in all aspects of theatre including playwriting, acting, production, directing, and dance.

For architects, there is Open House, an exhibition of exceptional architecture for free public viewing.

On Mass will feature series of workshops for musicians and dancers at the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON). This will end in an innovative one-off performance.

Other programmes include Creative Cities, a training to boost the capacity of art managers; Interwoven: Go Woman Go!, a workshop for women in Abuja willing to learn new textile designs including tie and dye; and a series of pop-up events that brings together the best of Nigerian and British culture. The opportunities are infinite.

L-R, Tope Oshin and DJ Sose. Photo: British Council

L-R, Tope Oshin and DJ Sose at the season launch. Photo: British Council

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