2015 is an important year for UK-China relations as it sees the launch of the first UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange.   

Following the UK-China Summit in London in June 2014, the 2015 UK- China Year of Cultural Exchange showcases the very best of British culture in China and of Chinese culture in the UK. 

This exchange was formally announced when Premier Li Keqiang visited the UK in June 2014 and comprises of two phases. The UK season in China runs from March to July and is led by the the British Council and the China season in the UK is led by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and runs in the second half of the year.

The British Prime Minister’s visit to China in December 2013,  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 as a central theme. 

The 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange provides an opportunity to strengthen existing relationships and build new links between individuals and organisations in the arts and creative industries, as well as between governments.

Digital media at the heart of the UK season

During Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge’s visit to China, the UK season in China was announced. It includes a series of contemporary, adventurous, multi-disciplinary and innovative digital media works. A new online portal ‘UK NOW’ was also launched in March 2015 and brought artists from both countries together to showcase the best in the contemporary digital arts.  

One highpoint of the UK season was the GREAT Festival of Creativity in Shanghai, which was held on 2-4 March and explored the role of innovation and creativity in commercial success, as well as bringing together Chinese and British industries. 

Launching the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange, Carma Elliot, Minister, Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy hoped that it would provide “a great opportunity to deepen and strengthen the UK’s relationship with China across the arts and creative industries. We can build on long-standing foundations of mutual respect and appreciation for our long and rich cultural histories, which continue to inspire innovation and creativity”. 

The UK Season of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange is sponsored by IELTS. It is supported by strategic communications partner, BBDO and strategic media partners including China Daily, ifengart, Modern Media Group, Tencent and Youku Tudou. 

New British Inventors: Inside Heatherwick Studio

5 – 21 June 2015, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing
9 July – 8 August 2015, Power Station of Arts, Shanghai

The British Council’s major touring exhibition New British Inventors: Inside Heatherwick Studio toured China in the summer. The exhibition offered a window into the London-based design practice, Heatherwick Studio, and featured 1:1 scale prototypes, models, test pieces, drawings and photographs, providing a fascinating insight into the studio’s exploration of new ideas, materials, techniques and processes.

Work, Rest and Play – British Photography from 1960s until Today

9 May – 5 July 2015, Shenzhen
12 July - 23 August, Shanghai

This was an exhibition curated by the Photographers' Gallery, documenting 50 years of British life through the work of leading UK photo artists. With work from over forty photographers spanning the worlds of fashion, documentary, landscape, as well as other approaches including moving image and mixed media, the exhibition introduced the diversity and dynamism of photographic practices from the UK to a new creative context.

Mother River

16 May – 11 October 2015, Chongqing, Wuhan, Shanghai

This photo exhibition saw British Chinese photographer Yan Preston reconnect with her motherland through China’s most iconic waterway, the Yangtze River. Following a five-year development with images taken at 63 equidistant points along the river, this remarkable exhibition brought to life the river’s diverse scenery and communities.


28 June 2015 - November 2016, Shanghai 

CURRENT showcased the broad spectrum of contemporary art practices in Scotland, making contemporary art accessible to a range of audiences. It included 8 solo exhibitions contextualised by a programme of research and critical dialogue between the arts scenes of Scotland and China.

National Theatre Live

June 2015 - December 2015, Beijing, Shanghai

From the National Theatre of Great Britain, National Theatre Live broadcasted the best of British theatre live to cinemas around China. Since 2009, National Theatre Live has showcased more than 30 productions at more than 1,000 venues in 30 countries, featuring some of the biggest names from British films and theatre, including Kenneth Branagh, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.

Forest Fringe

28 June 2015 - 9 July 2015, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou

Launched at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007, Forest Fringe brought its philosophy of building bridges between audiences and performers, to enable exciting, improbable and spectacular things to happen, to Beijing. Informed by Forest Fringe’s collective-based approach to arts, this event included activities such as world dance, independent art exhibitions, and grassroots creative projects.

UK Music on the Go

18 May 2015 - 18 July 2015, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Chongqing

Interactive QR codes on buses across the country allowed audiences to hear the best of British music on the move with The Selector, and win tickets to the hottest music festivals in the UK. Broadcasting on radio stations across China, The Selector features interviews, mixes and exclusive live sessions from some of the most exciting British music artists.

Art Shaun and Shaun the Sheep Movie

March 2015 - September 2015, National

In terms of quality, humour and inventiveness, the British animation industry is second to none. This programme of screenings and industry networking showcased the best of UK animation - including the China premiere of Aardman’s feature film Shaun the Sheep.

Free Your Style 2015 RIBA Windows Project @Shanghai Xintiandi

4 April - 31 May 2015, Shanghai

Shanghai Xintiandi today was delighted to host “Free Your Style 2015 RIBA Windows Project @ Shanghai Xintiandi,” in partnership with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the British Council. They invited RIBA architecture firms from the UK and ten tenants in Shanghai Xintiandi, Xintiandi Style and Corporate Avenue to participate. Continuing the success of “Design Your Style 2014 RIBA Windows Project @ Shanghai Xintiandi” in March 2014, the 2015 edition lasted from 4 April through 31 May 2015. The architectural inspiration and cross-over creative retail concepts was consider to have enriched the public space and created an artistic, inspiring and interactive offline consumer experience. 


29 March - 31 May 2015, Guangzhou

An audio experience for passengers on the Guangzhou tram, this experience was designed to make the passing world into an imaginary film, with the windows of the tram becoming a cinema screen with an evocative soundtrack to bring the illusion to life. Circumstance’s signature music compositions were combined with voices that told stories about the city and the people who make their lives there. 

Martin Parr: The Chinese Photobook

4 April – 31 May 2015, UCCA Beijing
17 April- 5 July 2015, Photographers’ Gallery London

Martin Parr’s critically acclaimed exhibition on the unexplored history of Chinese photobook publishing opened near-simultaneously  in London and Beijing. This exhibition explored China’s modern history through the singular prism of the “photobook” and was curated by the UK’s famous documentary photographer, photojournalist and photobook collector, Martin Parr, in conjunction with the photography group Lu Xiaoben. The Chinese Photobook combined a rare collection of original publications with materials mounted and projected on walls.

Michael Craig-Martin: Now!

3 February - 12 April 2015 , Shanghai
23 April - 21 June 2015, Wuhan

This exhibition marked the debut of Michael Craig-Martin (1941- ), a leading figure of the British contemporary arts scene, in mainland China. Fifty new paintings in varying sizes, which are all painted in acrylic on aluminium, were put on display, each of a single everyday object. Collectively, they composed a story of contemporary life, with everyday objects with simple shapes and bright colours recognized as the signature of Craig-Martin’s art. Hailed as “the high priest of ordinary things” by the Telegraph, Craig-Martin’s work is in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Gallery, London; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. He also created large-scale site-specific installations upon the commissions of the Kunstvereins in Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, and Hannover and National Art Center Tokyo. 

China-UK Literary Theatre Exchange

27 March - 11 April 2015, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Jinan

Ulysses by Tron Theatre will be invited by Xinchan to tour in Chinese city of Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Jinan. Two Directors Mr. Andy Arnold and Gerry Mulgrew worked with young performers and stage designers from Xinchan for two theatre productions. These two productions, produced jointly by Sino-British artists, were performed publicly in Beijing and Shanghai. Alongside these productions, theatre exchange activities andworkshops on theatre and literature for youth were be held in many cities. 

Jarman Award Screening Tour in China

28 March - 12 April, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing

Moving Pictures was an innovative programme of  film which brought together 18 filmmakers who were nominated for the prestigious Film London Jarman Award over the past seven years. The programme was selected by the British Council and Film London and showcased the rich and diverse range of artists’ moving image work currently being produced in the UK.