And so UK Now comes to an end. After 200+ events in 160 venues in 29 cities over 257 days involving 776 artists & performers and attracting (physical) audiences of over 4m, to say nothing of the digital stats… it’s over.
We ended with a one-day forum about – wait for it – the value of arts festivals, chaired by Jonathan Mills, Director of Edinburgh International Festival, with speakers from UK and China and a keynote address from British Council CEO, Martin Davidson. It looked at how festivals can promote a country or a city to physical audiences via real events, as well as to much wider audiences through digital channels.
Nigel Hinds talked about London 2012 and Peter Florence about Hay; we learned about Chengdu Biennial, Hong Kong Arts Festival and the legacy of Shanghai Expo; and then a raft of digital platforms which called into question the whole meaning of “festival”. Given that the British Council is now re-embracing them – in China, Brazil, Australia, Qatar, Russia and South Africa – then it was all very appropriate.
The Forum gave way to a pretty packed reception and then a modest party and then that was it. Except that it isn't. There's the book to finish and evaluation and deciding what to do with the website and mopping up the finances... But at least there are no more events to organize. I wish I could say something profound and conclusive, but there are no more words, just sleep.