UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Prince Badr bin Abdullah Al Saud, the Saudi Minister of Culture, have signed an agreement promising greater cooperation between the two countries in the arts and culture sectors. The agreement is expected to promote film, music, design and fashion collaborations between the two nations.
Dorries visited the Gulf earlier this month, following a similar itinerary to French President Emmanuel Macron in December.
Just as the French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot signed an agreement with Prince Badr, so too has Dorries signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi minister.
The UK-Saudi agreement will pave the way for increased collaboration and knowledge transfer in film and music production, architecture, design and fashion, according to a statement by the Saudi Ministry of Culture. The two countries will also collaborate further in archaeology and publishing, and in expanding artists’ residency and other cultural exchange programmes.
The agreement was signed in the newly created JAX District, in the Ad Diriyah area in the western part of Riyadh. The warehouses in JAX, formerly an enormous industrial complex, are currently being transformed into artists’ studios, galleries, and exhibition spaces. Last December, the Ministry of Culture launched the first Diriyah Biennale at JAX, and the well-known artist Ahmed Mater has also set up his collaborative studio there.
Dorries also visited Expo 2020 Dubai during her visit to the Gulf. Speaking at the UK Pavilion on the country’s national day, she likewise pushed for greater cooperation between the UAE and British creative industries.
“As world leaders convene at Expo 2020 Dubai, I’m proud to be promoting the very best of global Britain at UK National Day, encouraging people to come and experience our spectacular year of sport and culture,” she said, noting that the UK government already has a strong trading relationship worth £32.5 billion ($44.3b) with the GCC countries.
Despite this amount of trade, the UK is seen as lagging behind other western countries in its partnerships with Gulf countries — and in particular behind France, which has taken an active role in cultural collaborations.
On his December trip, Macron extended the Louvre Abu Dhabi intergovernmental agreement for another 10 years, allowing the UAE to use the Louvre name until 2047 for a further €165 million ($187.6m) to be paid to France. The country is also a key partner for Saudi cultural growth, for instance in AlUla, through the French Agency for AlUla Development.
The Saudi-UK agreement does not suggest any high-level partnerships are on the cards, and according to the details released, is focused more on tying together connections between the two countries’ cultural industries. Many Saudi artists and cultural producers completed their studies in the UK, and English remains the primary language of use after Arabic.