Sharon Harroun Peirce is an executive committee member for BritWeek, an annual festival highlighting the relationship between Los Angeles and England for the purposes of generating U.K.-friendly publicity and encouraging financial investments between the two locales. Peirce and the BritWeek team are gearing up for the second annual festival, with Peirce overseeing the major events during the England-focused event series, which runs today through May 10. Peirce's role with the British consulate in Los Angeles also includes planning other events throughout the year, including a recent tea party for British Oscar nominees and a dinner party honoring Prince Andrew’s visit to L.A.
How have BritWeek events expanded in the program's second year?
The first BritWeek [in September 2007] was a pilot for the event and primarily encompassed a fashion show, a few special screenings, panel discussions, and some musical entertainment. This BritWeek contains dozens of events, including a Duran Duran concert at the Nokia Theatre, three days of screenings at the Egyptian Theatre offering a variety of new [films] and a retrospective of British films, BritWalk with participating British retailers, and a press launch and grand celebration at the British consulate's residence.
What are the strategies behind the launch and grand celebration and other significant BritWeek events?
The idea for the launch is to continue to familiarize the press with BritWeek and an opportunity to thank V.I.P.s. We expect some American Idols, Dame Judy Dench among established actors that we invited, and the mayor, who will address the crowd. We kicked it up and made it fun by having a Brit-ini bar, the most fabulous fish and chips provided by the Four Seasons, and a jazz band. In addition, we’ll have an exhibition of 50 years of U.K. ties in L.A., with panels that tell the story of the last six decades, and a 10-minute movie that accompanies it. It will be on display for the press launch and grand celebration, and then it will move to the Pacific Design Center next week.
The reason why we decided to hold BritWeek at this particular time is because April 25, the day of our grand celebration, marks 50 years of the official permanent residence of the British consulate. We thought it would be a perfect reason to celebrate 50 years of contributions that Brits have made to Los Angeles.
Tell us about the Bafta/LA comedy festival.
Another important part of BritWeek, this was [executive committee member] Nigel Lythgoe’s brainchild—he conceived the idea of the comedy festival, which will [feature] celebrity hosts and great programs. Bafta members have been voting on their favorite television and film programs, and we will have a gala at the Four Seasons on May 1, where we will present awards to the winners.
What were some of the major planning challenges?
Initially, getting sponsors was a challenge, but we are very fortunate to have industry giants that are part of the executive committee, like [film director and producer] Nigel Lythgoe and [musician and record producer] Peter Asher, among others.
What do you hope to accomplish by growing the BritWeek events?
Acknowledgment of the British tie with Los Angeles through the events and the exhibition, and also to get the public involved with BritWeek, because it's here to stay. On a more personal level, I really want people to have a fabulous time. There’s no doubt in my mind that BritWeek will be duplicated and built upon next year. It’s already expanded far beyond our expectations, and I’m certain it will continue to expand.