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UK in China

London 15:51, 07 Jan 2011
Beijing 23:51, 07 Jan 2011

Shanghai Expo: Park Life

29 April 2010

Leigh Gibson, Director of Content & Programme for UK Expo describes the diversity of UK creativity and performance that will welcome visitors to the UK’s 'urban park' Pavilion, as well as across the whole Expo site and Shanghai.

UK Pavilion

As the Shanghai Expo officially opens this weekend, Leigh Gibson, Director of Content & Programme for UK Expo describes the diversity of UK creativity and performance that will welcome visitors to the UK’s 'urban park' Pavilion, as well as across the whole Expo site and Shanghai.

Anyone who has seen some of the press coverage of the UK's plans for Expo or in recent weeks travelled across the Lupu Bridge and caught a glimpse of Thomas Heatherwick's stunning "pugongying" will be in no doubt that our Pavilion will be a real highlight of the biggest and best Expo the world has ever seen. It is by no means the largest or the most high tech structure   although its apparent simplicity belies the incredibly complex challenges it posed for our engineers, project managers and construction workers. It is unique:a striking and beautiful demonstration of UK creativity and ingenuity in action. It stands out by being completely different to everything around it, it confounds the stereotypical view of the UK and with its focus on the importance of nature in the urban environment it responds directly to the Expo theme of "Better City, Better Life".

In the same way, our programme of events and activities has been developed to emphasise what is different and special in our relationship with China. The Expo provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase the best of what the UK has to offer, whether in business, in education, arts and culture, sport or climate change and the environment.We'll be taking advantage of this opportunity with some performances from world class artistic companies   especially on 8 September which has been designated UK National Day   and throughout the six months we'll be welcoming visitors to the UK Pavilion with a whole range of performances and activities designed to entertain, intrigue and excite. We also want to celebrate the on going relationship between China and the UK and so our programme will not be confined to the UK Pavilion or even the Expo Park but will extend to other venues throughout Shanghai, to other cities in China and, through our website and the world of social networking, to millions more people who are unable to visit the Expo in person.

For the UK, the Expo is not just for Shanghai and not just for six months.Our programme will demonstrate partnership between the UK and China in a whole range of areas directly related to making life in cities better for everyone, whether that is bringing music and dance to public spaces, reducing energy consumption in buildings or encouraging children to "green" their school.We are building on existing partnerships and developing new ones which will continue to grow long after the Expo closes its gates on 31 October.

So What will it all look like?

We are expecting to welcome an average of 40,000 visitors a day to the UK Pavilion, every day for six months.We want to give them an experience which will be fun, stimulating and above all memorable.We know that for many people the UK is the land of Dickensian characters fumbling their way through the fog of Victorian London or perhaps elegant ladies and gentlemen sipping tea on green lawns — and we'll make sure that there are some familiar characters for them to meet.Who wouldn't want to have their photograph taken with a Buckingham Palace Guardsman or a famous footballer?

Our troupes of performers from all parts of the UK will also present some more surprising aspects:you might come across TheTriffids, taking their daily exercise on the Pavilion landscape or be directed by one of the British Bobbies guiding the crowds. Perhaps you'll be entertained while you queue by our fabulous feathered stilt  walkers, take part in a five minute Midsummer Night's Dream or even create your own Pavilion in an impromptu drawing class.We're not forgetting the Olympics with our own "fun games" created by young British and Chinese actors and gymnasts while Janis Claxton and Alan Grieg will bring some of the very best of contemporary dance all the way from Scotland.Whether it's relaxing on the landscape in the evening and listening to a jazz band or a group of players from one of our well known orchestras or taking your children to see the Premier League trophy, every day will be different.

The UK will also be present in the wider Expo Park, with performances by the  Teletubbies and contemporary bands amongst the highlights on the stage in Europe Square. On our National Day, 8 September, the English National Ballet will perform with dancers from the Shanghai Ballet in the world premiere of a work commissioned especially for the event.They will be joined by young people from the UK and China whose performance will be the culmination of many months of hard work on a project intriguingly entitled "Swanning Around". In the evening, the London Symphony Orchestra will take over the Expo Centre for a gala concert — and watch out for details of more contemporary music events elsewhere in the Expo Park and throughout the city.

Watch out too for some very special deck chairs if you visit the Shanghai Botanical Gardens from July to October and don't be surprised if you see something unusual in the windows of Marks & Spencer at some point in the next six months.The whole calendar of the UK's events for Expo is on our website at and will be updated with new events throughout the six months of Expo.The website is also the door to a whole programme of virtual activity as well as the place to find out more about anything which has especially interested you.

We're confident that the UK programme will, like the amazing pugongying, be a real highlight of the World Expo — but we are still very much open to suggestions for new activities and new events. If you would like more information about any aspects of the public programme or would like to talk about developing a new event please do contact the UK Expo team.

Leigh Gibson is Director Content & Programme for UK Expo.
She worked previously as Director Arts for the British Council.


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