Britain is launching a new export drive in Switzerland with a series of events involving one of its best-known raw materials - the British sense of humour.
Entitled "You cannot be serious... short cuts to comedy", the programme was organised by Barbara Mosca, arts manager of the British Council in Bern. "Winter can be fantastic in Switzerland, with the snow and sunshine, skiing, snowboarding and so on," she says.
"But down in the cities it can be very grey and we thought it would be great to have a humour programme to brighten up the winter and chase away the winter blues."
Mosca's original idea was to hold a festival of British humour in Switzerland, with drama, dance and stand-up comedians. But budgetary constraints forced her and her colleagues to scale down their plans, and confine the event to literature and cinema.
She approached Kevin Franklin of the films and television department at British Council headquarters in London and he was only too happy to put together programmes of short films and cartoons. These will be screened in Bern and five other Swiss cities over the next few weeks.
Mosca said British Council colleagues around the world would be following the Swiss event closely. "My counterpart in Berlin has already expressed an interest in doing something similar," she added.
A leading British poet, Wendy Cope, accepted an invitation to open the programme in Bern with two readings from her published works. These include "Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis" (1986), which contains a number of literary jokes and parodies.
Cope says she would think twice about agreeing to participate in a similar event in Britain because she does not want to be categorised as a writer of comic verse. But she adds that she could not resist the challenge of the readings in Bern.
"Normally my readings are of poems which are funny and poems which are not," Cope told swissinfo. "But I believe that a humorous poem can also be serious and deeply felt, saying something that matters."
by Richard Dawson