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"Our/their international work in communications and humanitarianism"? Well, not quite. Translating from the Príncipe de Asturias Foundation's website we discover:

"The jury decided to award the Premio Príncipe de Asturias de Comunicación y Humanidades to “la candidatura conjunta integrada por los Grandes Institutos Culturales Europeos” – the joint candidacy (well, that clears that up) formed by the Great European Cultural Institutes ie Alliance Française (France), Società Dante Alighieri (Italy), British Council (Reino Unido), Goethe-Institut (Alemania), Instituto Cervantes (España) e Instituto Camões (Portugal).

The jury explained that its decision to award the prize to these institutions, some of them over 100 years old, was in recognition of their contribution to the common task of preserving and distributing Europe’s cultural heritage through the teaching of their respective national languages in every continent and to millions of people, as well as their literary and artistic traditions and the ethical and humanistic values which constitute the bedrock of Western Civilisation."

Note 'humanistic' - ie classical literary tradition - rather than 'humanitarian' - feed the world,etc and "language teaching" rather than the altogether more cutting-edge "communications". Which, in the context of the rest of the citation, makes a lot more sense, even if the idea of the Council's 'ethical' values being worthy of a prize brings a chill to the heart.

The Príncipe de Asturias Foundation's website also helpfully explains the British Council for the uninitiated:

"The British Council was conceived as an international propaganda organ to promote the values of parliamentary democracy against the growing threat of fascism. Among its functions are the promotion of the teaching of English and English culture overseas, as well as the teaching of English to immigrants in the UK, running information centres, collaboration with governments and NGOs, support to British Institutes, societies and schools in other countries, the distribution of innovation, creativity and excellence in British Science, Arts, Literature and Design, organising cultural events."

It's interesting to speculate where this text originated: The Foundation's own experience of the Council, or the Council's own reply to a "can we have 100 words for the programme to explain exactly what you do' request? I know which one my money's on. How else to explain the wonderfully non-conflictive 'promotion' of the English Language rather than the teaching of it for money (un-taxed) in full-on competition with private-sector providers? Or the delicate distancing of 'supporting' British Institutes rather than registering the words "British Institute" as a trade name and running a world-wide network of British Institutes/language schools whose income feeds back (un-taxed again) into the organisation's budget?

In the word's of Paul Auster, one of this year's Príncipe de Asturias Foundation's prize winners "What is real always exceeds what we might imagine."


that sexual orientation question is appalling. It wasn't on the form I filled in to sign up to this fiasco. If it had been, I would have left before I'd started.

Keep up the good work ;-)


It's interesting, and in a way reassuring, to see that so many who are evidently insiders feel the same disgust about this organisation as those outside. Wouldn't it be nice if somebody - the trustees, the FCO, the Charity Commission, the Ombudsman, the NAO, Clarence House, just somebody - decided that enough was enough.


What did you do in the war, Council?

The Council's website records that the organisation was formed because "the Foreign Office realised the need for an organisation responsible for the promotion of British culture, education, science and technology in other countries, along the lines of existing French, German and Italian cultural organisations." So far, so good. "...with the entry of Britain into the Second World War in 1939, the Government at first considered amalgamating the British Council with the newly formed Ministry of Information, which was responsible for propaganda. However, the British Council Chairman, Lord Lloyd, successfully argued for the value of the British Council as an independent organisation, responsible for building long-term relationships."

Even in 1939, ploughing a lonely furrow.... Independent even in WWII. War effort? Solidarity? "We'll do it our way thanks. We don't want to appear too closely linked to government."

So it's interesting to see how in the context of the award of a Spanish prize, the Council was formed to "promote the values of parliamentary democracy against the growing threat of fascism" (a political system of which the Spanish, and its relatively recently restored Royal family, had nearly 40 years' hideous experience).

"Go Council! Press that button! Tailor your message to your audience! Say what they want to hear!"

No! That's Council communication! You might even win a prize for it....

Sorry to return to this post so soon, but in addition to its standard Doublethink, the Council is now moving effortlessly into re-writing its own history. Never let the Council have a photograph of you: you'll be air-brushed out into the dustbin of History before you can say Jack Robi....


How is the Council supposed to work when even the people who work in it don't trust them? And if you don't trust them, then one must ask what the hell are you doing working for them?? Why not leave now considering you've just discovered sexual orientation on the form!


Hey Joss... ever heard of looking before you leap? Some of us can't simply leave our jobs overnight. I believe that when you make a commitment, you should follow it through. Despite commitments made to BC staff having been broken in the past, I'd rather honour mine. I'll work out my contract...and then I'm history.


Book lovers wanting to jump ship might like to check this vacancy in Scotland: www.edbookfest.co.uk
Scotland is under new management!



Mm, yes - I worked for the Council twice, in very different locations, and did notice one common factor - that it was becoming an outpost of the Pink Mafia. I used to wonder how they managed to bring this about, but now I know - they just ask on the application form! I wonder if there is now a place on the form to state that you are a frustrated 40-something ugly boozer of a fat woman - I met more than enough of those there!

Anyway, keep up the BC-bashing , David - they certainly deserve it!

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