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Paul Madden

British Ambassador to Japan

Part of UK in Japan

26th March 2018 Tokyo, Japan

Shall we dance

You may have seen the 1996 Japanese movie  Shall We Dance, about a “sarariman”, or office worker, who found meaning in his humdrum life by taking up ballroom dancing classes. It was one of the most popular Japanese films ever to reach an international audience. I was delighted that its star, Tamiyo Kusakari, and its director, her husband Masayuki Suo, came round to my Residence this week.

The occasion was a lecture by “national treasure” Dame Darcey Bussell, sponsored by the Daiwa Anglo Japanese Foundation. Darcey talked about the importance of dance in people’s lives, in a fascinating presentation vividly illustrated with videos from her own career. They ranged from performances with the Royal Ballet, where she reigned as a prima ballerina for around 20 years, to more recent appearances as a judge on “Strictly Come Dancing”, Britain’s most popular TV show.

We were also joined by Darcey’s great friend Miyako Yoshida, who used to share a dressing room with her at the Royal Ballet.  The audience included ballet fans, “Strictly” viewers, people from across the performing arts, and representatives of the diplomatic and business community who had just come along to be wowed by Darcey’s presentation.

Darcey explained that her great project now is to get schoolchildren dancing, to benefit their health and confidence. She showed us videos of her DDMix programme, where children get to experiment with a high energy fusion of many different dance genres from around the world. It was hard to keep our feet still. I really hope we can bring the programme to Japan.

Japanese know and appreciate many of the great cultural institutions based in the UK, from the Royal Ballet, to the London Symphony Orchestra who will be touring here in September and the Natural History Museum who exhibited some of their treasures in Tokyo last year. With the British Council,we will be presenting a British cultural season in Japan running from the Rugby World Cup in 2019 right through to the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.

The following night, inspired by Darcey, we dropped into a beginners’ Zouk class in a neighbourhood bar with some friends. It was not a great success: we were all fingers and thumbs, or whatever the feet equivalent of that is. Darcey’s colleague Craig Revel Horwood, who plays the role of the mean judge on Strictly, would have had a field day. But we’ll have another go sometime and try to recapture just a little of the magic that Darcey brought into our lives that evening.

About Paul Madden

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017. He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia…

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017.

He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia until February 2015. Prior to this he was British High Commissioner in Singapore from 2007-2011.

A career diplomat, he was previously Managing Director at UK Trade and Investment (2004-2006), responsible for co-ordinating and
implementing international trade development strategies to support
companies across a wide range of business sectors.

As Assistant Director of Information at the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (2003-2004) he was responsible for public diplomacy policy,
including managing the FCO funding of the BBC World Service, the British
Council and the Chevening Scholarships programme. He led the team
responsible for the award-winning UK pavilion at the Aichi Expo in Japan

He was Deputy High Commissioner in Singapore from 2000-2003 and has
also served in Washington (1996-2000) and Tokyo (1988-92). Between
1992-96 he worked on EU enlargement and Environmental issues at the FCO
in London.

Before joining FCO he worked at the Department of Trade and Industry
(1980-87) on a range of industrial sectors and trade policy, including
two years as a minister’s Private Secretary.

He has an MA in Economic Geography from Cambridge University, an MBA
from Durham University, studied Japanese at London University’s School
of Oriental and African Studies, and is a Fellow of the Royal
Geographical Society. His first book, Raffles: Lessons in Business
Leadership, was published in 2003.

Married to Sarah, with three children, he was born in 1959, in Devon.