China\'s largest British arts and culture festival will kick off in early April, the British Council announced in Beijing Thursday. The festival, UK Now, will reach tens of millions of people across China this year, bringing hundreds of events to 17 cities across the country between April and November 2012. It will be the largest festival for the British arts and creative industries ever held in China. It is organized by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy. The program will feature a cross-section of the UK\'s most celebrated and established artists as well as up-and-coming talents in dance, design, film, literature, music, fashion, theater and visual arts. \"This festival is a major event in an auspicious year that marks not only the London Olympics but also the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and the UK,\" British Ambassador to China Sebastian Wood said. He acknowledged that China and the UK have a wide range of cultural links, calling them the most fundamental parts of the bilateral relations. \"The UK has one of the world\'s most active and vital arts scenes, where heritage and tradition continue to influence and inspire popular culture and contemporary art,\" said David Elliott, director of arts at the British Council. \"So we\'re delighted to be able to bring a taste of this to China through UK Now.\" Festival highlights in April and May will include exhibitions from Turner Prize-winning sculptor Tony Cragg and photographer Rankin, tours by the English National Ballet, and performances by the Philharmonia Orchestra, according to the British Council. \"The British Council has led extensive arts projects in China over the years, and has the experience to deepen and widen opportunities for people in China and the UK to understand each other better through the arts,\" director of the British Council Joanna Burke said. \"Through the British Council\'s experience in China and the educational outreach programs of participating museums, galleries, artists and performing groups from the UK, we\'re well placed to bring quality British arts to the wider community in China,\" she added.