Britain has never needed much help when it comes to promoting itself abroad: a solid-gold rock ‘n’ roll pedigree, an iconic capital city and a reputation for surreal comedy, to name a few of its merits, have been drawing visitors in their droves for decades.
Capitalising on the wave of attention that will be focused on the country during the upcoming Olympic Games, the UK government launched its ‘GREAT’ campaign in 2011, to promote Britain as a tourist destination. The taglines for the campaign (‘Shopping is GREAT’, ‘Music is GREAT’, etc.) haven’t exactly inspired us. But then we’ve always suspected that the country’s real, grassroots cultural exports do a finer job of bigging up Britain than any Foreign Office initiative ever could.
Indeed, government attempts to capitalise on the UK’s rock scene have been known to backfire spectacularly at home, most notoriously in 1997, when the new Prime Minister Tony Blair held a ‘Cool Britannia’ party, attended by cultural movers and shakers including Noel Gallagher of Oasis. Many of the attendees have been trying to live it down ever since, not least because the word ‘cool’, once uttered by a serving prime minister, instantly plummets a chilly set of notches in the coolness stakes.
Our spirits were raised, though, when the events for the month of May started to flow in, packed with some of the best of British culture, from a major show by the artist Antony Gormley to the Cultura Inglesa Festival, complete with Franz Ferdinand and The Horrors. Plus a brilliant dance music lineup at Sónar, crammed with British talent we’re pretty sure no government minister has ever heard of. The weekend-long festival includes some of the cream of Britain’s electronic scene, including dubstep innovators Skream, old-schoolers Squarepusher and Mogwai, and young bloods James Blake, Rustie and Hudson Mohawke, exponents of the new Glasgow sound.
So heads up, anglophiles: In May and June, São Paulo looks set to be one of the highlights of the year for fans of Really Great British culture.
The best of British culture in São Paulo
The British artist is back in Brazil for a major retrospective, plus a popup exhibition of new works. Look out for 31 life-sized sculptures of naked men, lurking downtown. 9 May-15 July. Read more