Sunday, 3 July 2011

Summit Meetings.

I was up early and back across the bay to catch the jaw dropping Peak Tram which winches passengers from central Hong Kong up an almost vertical gradient to spectacular views at the highest point on the island. Despite the sloping floor it's impossible to stand on the journey, gravity forces you to lean back in your seat and wait for arrival. It's an incredible feat of engineering, made even more impressive by the fact that in its 125 year history it hasn't had a single accident.

From the summit you get a real sense of how the territories map out. Look back down to the familiar north shore and you recognise how condensed the commercial space is. Turn round and you understand how green the rest of the island is. In the distance are other destinations, wonderful weekend escapes, each with their own culture, history, way of life: Lamma, Peng Chau, Cheung Chan, Po Toi.

I only had an hour to catch the views before heading back down and onto the British Council for my meeting with Peter Upton, director for South China as well as consul for education and culture in the region. His office was an air conditioned nirvana from which to escape the midday heat. He offered welcome water and we chatted.

'This region is absolutely ripe for the creative industries,' he began 'In four years time a 200 million pound arts centre in Asia is going to open on reclaimed land in West Kowloon. It's going to turn Hong Kong into the hub for culture and the arts in South East Asia. China are taking the arts seriously and the investment here is impressive.'

We moved on to how a UK University might engage with institutions in the SAR.

'What's really interesting is that every year 8,000 students leave Hong Kong to go to English Universities, but last year only 22 made the journey in the other direction. That's strange and frankly a bit unhelpful for cultural relations. There's real opportunity for internships here as well as partnerships. If you are wanting to link in with the HE sector here you've got to decide what to focus on and offer real quality and expertise in that field. Hong Kong is highly competitive and performance driven. It'll take time to develop relationships, but once you have you'll find genuine loyalty from the institutions here.'

Back at the recruitment fair numbers had dropped off and it was a quieter afternoon which gave me a chance to have a look at the way the Australian Universities were marketing their courses. It's clear that the Creative Industries are increasingly seen as important players in the sector and I was fascinated to see the similarity in approach between a number of the institutions in trying to create a hybrid model of conservatoire/ university which Drama St Mary's has been pioneering in the UK for the last three years.

Packed up and headed back to Kowloon for an evening stroll amongst the herbalists, fortune tellers and open air opera singers of Temple Street. Hong Kong Communication Art Centre in the morning.


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