Duke of Cambridge launches Year of Cultural Exchange

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HRH The Duke of Cambridge today officially launched the UK Season of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange in Beijing.

This first ever UK-China Year of Culture Exchange will be a showcase of innovative UK culture in China and Chinese culture in the UK. 

In an auspicious ceremony at the start of his first visit to China, HRH The Duke of Cambridge heralded the start of the UK season of the Year of Cultural Exchange by dotting the eye of a sculpture of Aardman Animation’s internationally acclaimed character, Shaun the Sheep.

At the start of the Year of the Sheep, the Duke’s gesture echoes the auspicious ceremony of dotting the lion’s eye in a traditional Chinese lion dance, bringing good fortune and happiness to this Year of Cultural Exchange.

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The United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid MP and independent Chinese artist, Xu Bing, also joined the ceremony.

The chosen sculptures are part of a unique art exhibition for the Year of Cultural Exchange, celebrating the UK’s animation sector and partnerships with China. This initiative, by Aardman and Chinese partners UYoung Culture and Media Co, will feature 50 Shaun the Sheep sculptures with designs by British and Chinese artists in five cities across China.

HRH The Duke of Cambridge and Vice President Li Yuanchao will later witness the signing of a formal agreement marking the start of the Year of Cultural Exchange.

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the United Kingdom said:

“We are incredibly proud of our creative industries, they are one of our biggest success stories and a tremendous driver of economic growth. The Year of Cultural Exchange will be a wonderful celebration of UK and Chinese creative talent, and will help forge new business relationships between our two nations.”

The Year will be an innovative showcase of great UK culture in China and Chinese culture in the UK. The UK season will see a carefully curated series of contemporary, adventurous, multi-disciplinary and innovative works, with digital media at the heart. For China, it is the first Chinese state-level cultural festival to be held in a Western European country which will also highlight China’s modern cultural creativity. The year will inspire and support creative talent in the UK and China, stimulating increased collaboration between artists and creative organisations in both countries.

The Shaun the Sheep exhibition forms part of Animate UK – a wider animation programme within the UK-China Year of Culture Exchange. Animate UK will celebrate the best of UK animation – also including the premiere of Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep feature film in China.

Aardman’s Co-Founder and Executive Chairman David Sproxton said:

“We are delighted that in China’s New Year of the Sheep, our own world famous sheep ‘Shaun’ will have a small part to play in celebrating this year of cultural exchange between the UK and China. It’s fitting that Shaun the Sheep which is made in the UK by a highly talented group of creatives is going to be embraced by an equally talented range of Chinese designers and artists.”

Wang Guoyu, Senior General Manager of Consumer Products at Uyoung Culture and Media said:

“On the occasion of today’s dotting ceremony, Aardman and Uyoung have joined with International Copyright Exchange, to launch a series of art and creativity themed Shaun the Sheep charity initiatives supported by Beijing Cultural Development Foundation and an exhibition tour. These will enable more Chinese artists, fashion designers and celebrities, as well as the general public, to actively participate in our activities.”

The UK Prime Minister’s visit to China in December 2013 (during which the UK-China Cultural Agreement was renewed), the High Level UK-China People to People Dialogue in Beijing in April 2014 and the UK-China Summit in June 2014 all demonstrate the growing strength of UK-China relations, with creativity and cultural exchange at the heart of developments. The UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange provides a unique opportunity to further deepen and strengthen the UK’s strong relationship with China across the arts and creative industries.

The Creative Industries contribute 5.0 per cent of the UK Economy (2013), growing 10 per cent year on year. By 2016 – China’s own ambition is that its cultural industries will account for a similar figure, as one of China’s ‘five pillars of growth’. As well as celebrating creative excellence and partnership, culture means business too: the Year provides an excellent platform to develop UK-China business ties in the creative industries.

Starting most immediately, this programme gets off to a flying start with the GREAT Festival of Creativity in Shanghai from 2-4 March, showing UK innovation at its very best in sectors such as fashion, luxury retail, health, technology, education and entertainment and demonstrating the UK’s track record in bringing competitive advantage through commercial creativity.

The impact of the UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange will extend far beyond 2015 itself. The Year will create a lasting legacy in the culture and arts for the UK and China, enabling creative talent in the UK and China to flourish over the long term, and for the UK-China relationship in culture and creativity to thrive.

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