Great Festival large

Above: Presenting UK creativity to the world's most populous nation - the Great Festival of Creativity in Shanghai.


The GREAT Festival of Creativity, which ran from 2-4 March at the Long Museum in Shanghai, was attended by more than 500 world-leading British companies from the fields of technology, fashion, healthcare, design, luxury goods, food and drink, innovation, entertainment and education.

The festival was opened by HRH Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, and aimed to showcase British creativity to the world.

Opening the Festival, Prince William said: "This is my first trip to China, but less than 24 hours into my first visit I have a strong sense of the opportunity for collaboration and partnership that exists between our two countries."

Several hundred Chinese buyers and investors attended the festival which included panel sessions, keynote speakers and exhibitions to address themes such as technology, smart cities and new forms of entertainment and healthcare.

A series of unique creative projects on show included:  a state-of-the-art virtual reality VR, experience from Framestore; a Paddington Bear ‘Film is GREAT’ model designed by Stephen Fry; a new ballad called ‘Home’, sung by Katherine Jenkins and produced in Abbey Road studios; and an interactive model of the No.10 front door, designed and built by installation artist Jason Bruges.

The event was attended by GREAT campaign ambassadors Kelly Hoppen MBE, Jo Malone MBE, Angela Hartnett, Thomas Heatherwick and Rupert Sanderson, as well as self-taught British designer Tom Dixon, and supported by the likes of HSBC, Jaguar Land Rover and PwC.

The festival also provided a platform for two major film releases: Paddington, which opened in 4,000 screens in China, and Shaun the Sheep, from Aardman Animations.

Below, we have summarised some insights from the Festival.

You can watch video clip highlights from the Festival below, follow the Tweets about the event here and read an overview from the China-Britain Business Council here

Day 1 highlights from the GREAT Festival:



Day 2 highlights from the GREAT Festival



Day 3 highlights from the GREAT Festival



Despite the diversity of topics covered by the festival, a number of common themes emerged.

1. China's market is changing: Several speakers believed that mainstream urban Chinese consumers are becoming less tolerant of counterfeit and lower quality goods, and demanding authentic branded products from trusted sources. This, in turn, is putting pressure on retailers and distributors to ensure they are not selling pirated product. This applies as much to children's text books as it does to high end fashion lines.

Whilst piracy and copying are not going to disappear from China overnight, there is a growing belief that there is an opportunity here for UK brands with a heritage of quality and consumer trust. 

Jo Lusby, Managing Director for Penguin China, which is predominantly a children's publisher in the country, said: "Chinese consumers don’t want to be cheated, particularly when we are talking about children's books. The atmosphere has definitely improved. We can make money here."


2. Chinese clients are increasingly seeking innovation

Several speakers, including notable practitioners from the design sector, challenged stereotypes about Chinese clients as risk-averse and conservative. They also underlined the speed of development of the Chinese market, which requires creative businesses to be flexible and open to new ways of working.

Designer Neville Brody said: "The Chinese are embracing creative risk. We have to move on from the clichéd view of China as a copying market. That is over. It was just a phase."

Paul Priestman, co-founder of Priestman Goode, the design agency which has worked on redesigning trains for China's rail network, said: "We're learning a lot by operating in China. Setting up an office in China was quite an experience. The thing about China is that things will change, almost on a daily basis, and you just have to embrace that."


3. Creatively-led UK brands are developing long-term investments in China

Jaguar Land Rover exemplifies a UK brand owner which is building on its brand heritage and creative history to expand its global operation, including in China.

In a detailed presentation about the success of Land Rover and its recent Evoque model launch, design studio head Phil Simmons, said that more than one in four sales of Evoques are in China. Versions of the car with Union Jack coloured details have proven particularly in popular in China's major cities including Shanghai.

The group, which is owned by India's Tata conglomerate, is investing more than £1bn in its new production plant in Jiangsu, which is expected to produce more than 130,000 vehicles a year, including the Evoque. The investment is made in partnership with Chery Automobile Company, one of China's leading car makers.

Phil Simmons said: "Our vehicles are designed and engineered in Britain. Until very recently they were always built in Britain. But we will expand the global manufacturing footprint beyond the UK as Land Rover’s global footprint is expanding, and we're selling more vehicles at higher prices.

"Our Jiangsu plant is already producing Range Rover Evoques at a level of quality equal to the UK." 


4. Creative traffic between UK and China is two-way  

UK creative organisations are looking to source skilled creative partners in the Chinese market in order to help them fulfil larger international commissions. This is particularly evident in the film, high end TV and post-production sectors. 

 Mike McGee, co-founder of Framestore, the post-production and VFX company, said: "China is full of very talented artists and there are opportunities to use larger number of people to take on projects of larger scale."

David Heyman, producer of Paddington, added: "This is a great country and I am so excited about the possibilities. Now we have to bring the Chinese to Britain to get them to share their greatness."