British Council marks 75th year in Turkey with continued interest
Deniz Çiyan – ISTANBUL
British Council Turkey Director Margaret Jack says they have a number of programs aiming to boost relations and understanding between the two countries.Celebrating its 75th year in Turkey, the British Council continues to see huge potential in the country and aims to establish deeper ties and collaborations between Turkey and the U.K., thus reaching out to more and more people.
“Turkey is among the 10 most important operations out of 100 globally for the British Council because of the opportunities that are available and open to us, and the benefits both of the countries get,” British Council Turkey Director Margaret Jack told Hürriyet Daily News, as she spoke on a number of programs which aimed to boost relations and understanding between the two countries.
“We certainly want to do more here. We see a huge potential and opportunity and interest in Turkey and vice versa in the U.K.,” she added.
Jack said they had just been involved in launching a five-year bilateral large-scale university partnership program in science and technology with Turkey called the Newton-Katip Çelebi program, adding the results were going to benefit social development, as the focus areas of the program were water, sustainability and green technologies.
Jack also said they had specifically brought the world premiere of an exhibition by Turner prize-winning artist Grayson Perry to Istanbul because the artist’s works were a strong statement about Istanbul’s position as a global hub in the contemporary arts world.
“The medium in which he works – textile and ceramic – is so fundamental to Turkey’s own artisanal traditions. He has huge respect for artisan, workmanship and craft so I thought that has a very strong echo and strong resonance with Turkey,” Jack added.
Turkey among initial British Council countries
With roots in the mid-1930s and formally established in 1940, Turkey was among the first countries with which the British Council signed a deal and began operations.
Noting the concept of the British Council was initiated during the interwar period and formed during World War II, Jack said the main aim grounding the institution was to find a way to respond to fascism, which had begun to take over the minds and ideas of people across Europe at the time.
“The war will finish at some point; what do we want to do now that will make people after the war be able to connect again?” was the question the founders of the institution asked themselves, Jack said.
A delegation was sent to meet with the then Turkish President İsmet İnönü and the government in 1940 to establish the British Council in Turkey, which, according to Jack, was welcomed by İnönü for the idea of creating friendship, trust, knowledge and understanding between the U.K. and Turkey.
“The founding belief of the British Council is still the same, which is to create a friendly knowledge and understanding of the U.K. and an overseas country,” said Jack, stressing only the scope of their work had changed throughout the years.
While there were 43 students sent from Turkey to the U.K. in 1943 to study, this figure had increased to 40,000 students by 2014, and the field of studies also enlarged.
Jack said the British Council has tried to reach various points in Turkey through organizing and supporting cultural events not only in Istanbul and Ankara but also across the country, including in Çanakkale, Sinop and Mardin.
London Book Fair featured Turkish works
The British Council not only aims to make the U.K., its culture and the English language better known in Turkey, but also works for the better presentation and wider publicity of Turkey in the U.K.
An example of this, according to Jack, was the London Book Fair in 2013, during which Turkey was the feature country.
Through book deals reached at the fair, the British audience found more opportunities to read literature produced in Turkey and get to know the writers better, said Jack, adding there was reciprocity, as more books were sent to Turkey for translation via these book deals.
Asked about their future programs, Jack said they would be doing a global program titled “Shakespeare Lives” to mark the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death, a program which would involve Turkey.
“We want to have actually every line of Shakespeare spoken in every language around the world and recorded digitally so it will be a big, big digital event,” Jack said. “So much of what Shakespeare wrote about and his themes have just become a part of a global [world].”