Bahrain: All Aboard For GREAT British Week

British Embassy Bahrain

January 2014


Hugely successful GREAT British Week built around Bahrain Airshow and Duke of York’s visit. 50 events during the week. Embassy and British Council keynote events showcased education and research, advanced engineering and innovation, entrepreneurship, fashion, food and culture. Commercial deliverables. Small amount of GREAT seed funding helped generate considerable sponsorship. Successful marketing and media campaign helped by the GREAT British Bus. Strong foundation for celebrating 200 years of bilateral relations in 2016.



First British Week in Bahrain in living memory.  The object was to promote British excellence and expertise at a time when Bahrain’s economy is recovering, with growth of c5% in 2013, and there are significant commercial opportunities for British companies.  But also to kick off preparations for the bicentenary of bilateral relations in 2016. 


With patronage from King Hamad, and seed funding of just £16000 from the GREAT Programme Fund, we designed a GREAT British Week, 15-22 January, around the Bahrain Airshow and HRH the Duke of York’s visit.  The Embassy and the British Council organised 3 keynote events.  In addition, we drafted in, among others, clubs, schools, hotels, supermarkets and retails outlets, resulting in 50 events over 7 days. 


Senior royals attended each of our showcase events, with the Crown Prince opening the Week with the Duke of York on the opening morning of what he described as the ‘Bahrain British Airshow’.  The Culture Minister sponsored a performance by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra that was received with huge acclaim.


The Embassy’s main event was a GREAT Advanced Engineering and Innovation conference at Bahrain’s Formula 1 circuit, working in partnership with McLaren and Bahrain’s Economic Development Board, with invitees from the region.   The Duke of York and the King’s second son, Sh Abdullah, attended the opening.  The event was also supported by Rolls Royce (Aero), BAE Systems, Formula 1 in Schools, Silverstone UTC, URS, Bluewater Bio and Ordnance Survey.  Delegates were greeted by a glittering array of UK manufactured cars, motorbikes and a welcome arch of JCB diggers. McLaren showcased their new P1 supercar, whose international launch was linked to the GREAT Week.


The GREAT Knowledge event, organised by the British Council, saw seven top British universities showcase their scientific and research programmes alongside designers from UK creative firms through interactive presentations.  Attended by the Deputy PM Sh Ali, son of the PM, the event was designed to present UK innovation in science and research as accessible and vital, matching both countries’ agenda of encouraging science as a career choice for young people.  The event was highly successful with around 350 Bahrainis attending, as well as achieving impressive media coverage.


A celebration dinner, attended by the King’s fourth son Sh Nasser, to mark the end of GREAT British Week and to thank our sponsors and partners, showcased UK high-street fashion with the Kuwait-based Alshaya group, who hold many of the UK retail franchises in the Gulf, working with a British Embassy for the first time to stage a fashion show at the dinner, coupled with a promotion campaign in shopping malls.


No stone was left unturned in terms of promoting the UK.  On the defence side, RN ships held open days and members of the Royal Marine Corps of Drummers mesmerised audiences with their drumming and bugling skills.  Sport was also covered, with a golf tournament sponsored by Jaguar/Land Rover, a visiting rugby team from Scotland and an evening in the company of football legend, John Hartson.  All 3 events raised money for cancer charities in Bahrain and the UK.


Deliverables.  Rolls Royce (Aero) secured a major contract during the week, and Ordnance Survey built on their landmark deal to deliver spatial data modelling for Bahrain’s Survey and Land Registration Bureau.  In addition to visits by the Duke of York and the Defence Secretary, high-level business representation from the UK, led by Robin Southwell, CEO of EADS UK and the PM’s Business Ambassador for Manufacturing and Advanced Engineering, and the CEO of BAE Systems, sent a strong message of support for the Week.


It became clear at an early stage that it would be impossible to stage such an array of events without significant financial sponsorship and partnerships.  Using the seed funding as a foundation, we generated over £90,000 of financial support and considerably more in kind.  UK and Bahraini business and the Economic Development Board all stepped up to the plate.


A professional marketing and media strategy helped to promote events and make GREAT British Week a huge success.  UKTI put in a successful bid for the GREAT British Bus, which proved to be an inspired decision, as it became the symbol of the Week, appearing at the majority of events.  One of the most memorable highlights was the bus journey from the Airshow to the King’s palace with the Duke of York, the Crown Prince and many other dignitaries on board.  The Crown Prince said that the sight of the bus outside his father’s palace would live with him forever.  GREAT British wrapped Minis and a McLaren were featured throughout the island in the lead up to and during the Week.  The resulting imagery and the huge coverage in the local media were truly outstanding. 




Following nearly nine months of planning, the smallest Embassy in the Middle East and North Africa led one the most remarkable GREAT British Weeks that the region has ever seen.   Our objective to significantly raise the profile of the UK and to generate more business has been demonstrated by the commercial wins and the enormous publicity that the Week generated, which will act as a strong foundation for the celebrations to mark 200 years of bilateral relations in 2016.



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Countries: Bahrain
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