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Canny Creatives head to Ukraine

8th May 2015

A group of leading cultural professionals from NGCV and the North East are heading to Ukraine as part of the British Council’s ‘Canny Creatives’ initiative, which seeks to forge relationships between arts and cultural organisations from the UK and Ukraine.

Canny Creatives will involve six professionals working within the arts organisations in the Ukraine for a total of one month (one week in September and three weeks in October).  It is hoped that from the connections made through the programme, links and activities will grow.  The main aims are to help organisations develop cultural policy, as well as support organisational development and skills sharing, providing advice coaching and mentoring, and help to develop links between organisations here and there.  The scheme will also help participants develop skills around international working.

Anna Bubnova, Head of Arts for British Council in Ukraine said, “This unique opportunity will assist in the development of Ukraine’s creative sector as it joins forces with world-class specialists in brainstorming creatively and strategically novel approaches to the arts.  We chose the North East and NewcastleGateshead in particular, to be focus of the programme in 2015, as it an area celebrated for its rapid cultural transformation and dynamic creative industries scene.” 

NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues worked with the British Council to promote the opportunities and hosted a briefing session for the region’s cultural sector in March, at a time when the reporting of conflict in Ukraine was at its height.  Despite this, there was a lot of interest and following an open call for applications and interviews, six leading professionals from the region were chosen for the secondments, three of whom are from NGCV organisations. 

The group as a whole represents a range of experience and cultural forms, including theatre, visual arts and dance, as well as marketing and communication expertise. 

  • Anthony Baker, Joint Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Dance City
  • Cait Read, Marketing Manager, Live Theatre
  • Graeme Thompson, Producer, Live Theatre
  • Clymene Christoforou, Executive Co-Director,Isis Arts
  • Sarah Kemp, Artistic Director of Théâtre Sans Frontières
  • Rebecca Shatwell, Director, AV Festival

Anthony Baker  said: “I am incredibly excited to be heading out to Ukraine to support in the development of their cultural strategy, particularly in contemporary dance. I am sure it will be a huge learning experience for me and I hope I can be useful to my Ukrainian counterparts.  It is also a fantastic opportunity to explore new relationships for Dance City in a part of the world we have previously had little contact with. 

It is expected that those taking part will share their learning and experiences through a range of  networks, to provide insight and learning and will build on the relationships forged.


Picture: Kiev panorama


British Council

The British Council was founded in 1934, now covers 110 countries and employs 7000 people worldwide. The British Council connects with 10m people per year through their work on arts, education and society, as well as their English teaching and exams administration, which also raises income.  They manage the Erasmus Plus scheme. Currently 20% of their income comes from government, but there is an imperative to increase earned income.  Arts activities cover a wide range from architecture, design and fashion, film, literature, music, theatre, visual arts and creative economy and the British Council encourages cross artform work. To find out more about the British Council, click here: www.britishcouncil.org

Canny Creatives

Canny Creatives was originally piloted two years ago.  In the first iteration of the scheme, UK expertise from cultural organisations was brought into the British Council for up to 6-month secondments.  There were 25 applications from senior executives and a small number were selected.  It was a successful scheme which affected the practice of those involved, created new partnerships with external partners, provided energy and galvanised people. It supported skills development, as well as encouraging work across programme and creating links and partnerships with other organisations.  Since the programme ended, new connections are being made by those who took part.  The 2015 scheme builds on this experience, but seeks to link organisations in the Ukraine with practitioners from the North East.

Find out more about Canny Creatives Ukraine, click here

For a short film about NewcastleGateshead made by the British Council and narrated by Clymene Christoforou, one of the six secondees, click here

For profiles of the individual secondees going to Ukraine, click here


Ukraine is the largest country in continental Europe in terms of continental land mass, with a population of 46 million, 6 million of whom live in Kiev (Kyiv).   The country is divided by the River Dnieper into two parts, one closer to Russia and one closer to Western Europe and their attitudes and affinities reflect this, as well as the languages used in both.  The British Council operates across the whole country and Canny Creatives is open to the whole Ukraine, apart from the combat zone. Some of the areas where Canny Creatives may operate, include:

  •  Kyiv: The capital with a broad spectrum of arts organisations and activities
  • Kharkiv: In the North East of the country, it is Ukraine’s second largest city and famous for constructivism (for example Derzhprom, in Freedom Square).  It has one of the best visual arts scenes, a great publishing industry and good schools, with the largest student population
  • Odessa: Situated in the North western shore of the Black Sea, the famous film Battleship Potemkin was filmed here.  Odessa International Film Festival was held in July last year and was the largest project supported by the British Council in 2014.  It built on the recognition of Odessa as a film city.
  • Lviv: Located near the Polish border, Lviv has a different feel and mentality. It is known for its small publishing houses and innovative work in new drama and new writing

There are a lot of pioneers and artists who were born in Ukraine, but are often not recognised as being Ukrainian, including composer Tchaikovsky, writer Nikolai Gorgol, Artist Kazimir Malevich, Aviation Pioneer Sikorski and Writers Joseph Conrad and Stanislav Lem.

Ukrainain language British Council web information:  www.britishcouncil.org.ua

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