Scene Change is a cultural skills exchange project aimed at fostering creative learning between cultural institutions in the UK and Brazil via digital technology and international study visits.

Initiated in August 2014, Scene Change was a collaboration between the British Council, the Royal Opera House, High House Production Park and Creative & Cultural Skills in the UK and Brazilian partners Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, FUNARTE, Spectaculu – Escola de Arte e Tecnologia and CIEP Alberto Pasqualini. Facilitated by People’s Palace Projects and part of British Council’s strategic Transform UK-Brazil programme, the project aimed to connect students and teachers in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) with Further Education technical colleges in Thurrock, Essex and the rest of the UK. By connecting with each other’s work and practices they developed a dialogue around technical skills practice.

Scene Change’s first step was to internationalize Royal Opera House’s successful live-brief annual competition, Design Challenge, which gives students the opportunity to test and develop design skills, based around an opera or ballet production. Each participating student works from a real director’s brief, building a portfolio of their process and a final piece in one of the four categories:

Spectaculu – Escola de Arte e Tecnologia incorporated the creating of portfolios into their working methodology and proposed a new challenge, the 5 minute Film Challenge, which encouraged students in Brazil and the UK to dive into the world of opera and make short films based on the themes of three operas: Madama Butterfly (2014-15), La Traviata (2015-16) and Lo Schiavo (2016-17).

With the support of Creative and Cultural Skills, Scene Change linked students from UK and Brazil through Skype conversations and a Facebook group where they could share messages and images of their work in progress.

“I adored communicating with the other students over Skype, it was an incredible experience I really valued.” Shane Barr, student from Stratford-upon Avon College.

Each year, the Brazilian students were able to show their portfolios in the foyer of the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, and the winners of the Design Challenge at the Royal Opera House, in London.

In order to celebrate the achievements of all students who took part in the project in the last 3 years, British Council and People’s Palace Projects organized an exhibition at the Brazilian Embassy in London where they presented a selection of short films, costumes, set model boxes and marketing material. Designed by internationally acclaimed designer and art director Gringo Cardia, the exhibition was mounted with the help of three Spectaculu students on an exchange visit and supervised by photographer Ellie Kurttz.

It was a real celebration and recognition of all the hard work, creativity and ingenuity of the students and staff of all the colleges together”, James Dibiase, Art and Design teacher at Sussex Downs College.