Soft Power

Rebrand Britain— Global


Great Britain hasn’t seemed quite so great in recent years, its image damaged by unpopular wars and the banking crisis. But with the new coalition government bedded in and the Olympics on the horizon, experts from the fields of politics, culture, and academia tell us how Britannia can rebrand itself and rule the waves again.

Ben Page, Danny Sriskandarajah, Howard Davies, JOhn Jungclaussen, Julia Peyton Jones, Mami Mizutori, Martha Lane Fox, Nick Brown, Richard G Whitman, Simon Anhold, Vicky Richarson

1 - Time for a makeover

Andrew Tuck, editor

Everyone in the UK knows what lies ahead: cuts. The new coalition government has made it an urgent priority to slash the nation’s budget deficit but as yet it’s still not clear how they will lower spending by up to 40 per cent. One thing is obvious: the country is in for a dramatic makeover of everything from social welfare to the military.

The risk is that this could become the only national narrative, leaving the electorate miserable and making the country look like the land of “sorry we can’t afford…

Q&A Martha Lane Fox

Business insight

Martha Lane Fox

Chair, Race Online 2012
and Campaign, Efficiency
and Reform Board member, Cabinet Office

What do people think of Britain as a business nation?
I think Britain has a great reputation within the creative and digital industries – our advertising and media markets punch way above their weight, we have one of the best gaming industries in the world and we are in the premier league on the next phase of web development, the semantic web and linked data – a Brit did invent the web after all.

How has it suffered, or held up, compared with other nations in recent years?
We have suffered, like everyone, from a lack of credit, and the number of under-24-year-olds out of work is very depressing – there are now millions of young people who cannot find work and are not in education.

What should be the future for Britain in business? What challenges does it face?
I think we’re actually a very inventive nation, but we are not good at commercialising our inventions – we seem to have trouble moving from academia to business. The venture capital community in the UK is more risk-averse than other countries – we need more and better seed funding to ensure that we create many entrepreneurial businesses.

Q&A Richard G Whitman

Politics insight

Professor Richard G Whitman

Chair, University Association for Contemporary European Studies

How is the UK currently seen as a political force abroad? The perception of the UK overseas is a curious and contradictory mixture. There’s a grudging respect that the country has been able to maintain an international role for so long – but this is accompanied by a sense that the UK often overplays the degree to which it is a political force of international significance.

How has this role changed in recent years? A key change in recent years has been the diminution of the brand-strength of British diplomacy. The UK was credited with having a bespoke diplomatic service that exuded quality, but the Iraq War took the lustre off and suggested that British diplomacy lacked differentiation from that of the United States.

How can the UK remain relevant and influential internationally? Cultural and creative power give Britain its greatest resonance overseas: for this the best diplomacy is no diplomacy.

Q&A Vicky Richardson

Architecture insight

Vicky Richardson

Director architecture, British Council

How does architecture fly the flag for the UK abroad? Architecture is one of Britain’s best exports at the moment. Many firms are setting up satellite offices in China and India, and are contributing to the development of new cities on a scale that is unheard of at home.

What are some of the best recent examples of this? British-trained Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI in Rome is an incredible building that shifts perceptions of what architecture can be. British architects also excel at the contemporary refurbishment of historic buildings. David Chipperfield’s and Julian Harrap’s restoration of the Neues Museum in Berlin is a good example.

**Is there a coherent brand to British architecture? ** It is incredibly diverse. At its best, for example by Tony Fretton, Hadid and Chipperfield, it’s enquiring, imaginative and open-minded. Unfortunately, a lot of British architecture is really bad and reflects parochialism and low horizons.

On home soil, what approach to architecture should define the British city of the future? I’d like to see architects being more proactive in their attitude to building new cities in the UK. There’s too much acceptance of limits to development.

Q&A Julia Peyton Jones

Art insight

Julia Peyton Jones, Director, Serpentine Gallery

What role does creativity play in the UK’s global presence?
The UK is a hub for creativity, fostering homegrown talent and attracting practitioners from around the world. Internationally renowned artists, architects and designers from the UK act as ambassadors on a world stage.

Has this suffered or been strengthened in recent years?
The UK has maintained its position as one of the leading international cultural destinations over recent years, despite the challenging economic climate. The arts here have a history of resilience and entrepreneurialism in the face of economic adversity.

What are your top three fixes for fostering the UK arts?
We firstly need investment, and a mix of public and private funding is essential. Education is also key, from the earliest age, to foster the next generation of artists and audiences. Finally adaptability – arts organisations need to be flexible and entrepreneurial to adapt to the new economic climate.

What international role should the UK be aiming for?
The UK should develop its role as a global creative hub. Our creative practitioners should continue to operate on the global stage as ambassadors for the UK’s unique contribution to the arts internationally


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