Now in its sixth year, BritWeek showcases British connections with California and has become a major cultural event on the calendar for local Anglophiles. “The fact that it actually runs for two weeks shows just how popular it has become, and how much ground there is to cover in all things British — from entertainment and art to food, fashion, design and business,” says BritWeek chairman and co-founder Bob Peirce.
He goes on to stress that, for all the great parties and exciting events, BritWeek has a serious educational side: “It was founded with the idea of drawing attention to the creative fusion between Britain and California, and Los Angeles in particular” — an idea that originated in a conversation between Peirce and power producer Nigel Lythgoe (“American Idol”).
“We were talking about the prominence of Brits in the entertainment business, and the more we discussed it, the more it became clear that Brits are doing innovative, creative things in just about every walk of life,” Peirce says. “So it’s about British ideas meeting Californian opportunity. This is very fertile ground for inventive Brits, and not just in movies and TV, but in design, science and art.”
The entertainment business has always welcomed British talent, “especially all the period and historical stuff, which Brits are famous for,” notes Peirce. “Then there’s the great tradition of comedy, stretching from Chaplin to Monty Python, Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais.”
What’s not so well-known, he adds, is that reality TV “is basically the invention of Brits like Mark Burnett and Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe. And the videogame industry sources a lot of its creative content from the U.K.”
Peirce notes that the Business Innovation Awards, a joint venture between BritWeek and the U.K. Trade and Investment Agency, has grown tremendously in its third year. “We’ve added two new awards, Innovation in Marketing and Communications, and Innovation in Business Philanthropy, which I’m particularly interested in, which join our existing awards in technology, design and customer service. And Sir Ken Robinson is our keynote speaker and one of our judges.”
This year’s BritWeek also sees its second annual Christopher Guy Design Award and an “art battle” between British artists flying in from the U.K. and local L.A. street artists.
Although he has been an L.A. resident since the ’70s, Peirce reports that it was a dinner conversation with Anglophile director Taylor Hackford that fully opened his eyes to the long tradition of British influence in the city — and by extension, the country.
“I hadn’t known that Raymond Chandler was a Brit, and he became the quintessential L.A. voice in literature,” he says. “And British architect John Parkinson and his company built practically every iconic L.A. building, from City Hall to the Coliseum, Union Station and Bullocks Wilshire — quite amazing. Then you have David Hockney as the iconic painter of L.A., and William Mulholland, without whom there’d be no water system and no mega-city, and Griffith Griffith, who funded the park and observatory. So that ‘U.K. Invasion’ saying that started with the Beatles and the ’60s is actually far older. Brits have been a key part of the California culture and landscape for well over a hundred years.”