Monday, 20 February 2012

HKCAC and The China Club

Spent the day at the Hong Kong Communication Arts Centre in Tin Hau with Dr Eng talking through some of the possibilities for future collaboration between the Centre and Drama St Mary's. We're hoping that they'll host a third year top up of our degree from September this year.

Dr Eng was keen to show some of the institution's work and so I spent the afternoon over at the Central Library looking round a very impressive exhibition of student art. The centre has a really pro-active relationship with the communities on the East of the Island and alongside the undergraduates' art were special areas dedicated to local schools. HKCAC offer the exhibition and the prizes - competition is very important here, even in the Creative Arts. It's a soft marketing exercise that helps celebrate local creativity.

The Arts have a credibility issue out here and are very often seen as a second class subject in comparison to Medicine, Law or Business Management. This is borne out by the small number of 16-18 year olds who study the related subjects. I think we can contribute significantly to changing these attitudes. The building of the Kowloon East Arts Complex will provide a huge boost to the creative industries - especially as a high speed rail link is planned to bring the 13,000,000 people who live over the border in Shenzen, within half an hour's reach and what's needed at local level is a persuasive argument that suggests it's this younger generation who need training up to fill the space with performers, technicians and innovators. I wonder though whether Hong Kong, as a trading port, is more used to shipping in what it doesn't produce - opium, horse racing, art - rather than learning to do things for itself.

The debate was carried on during a lively dinner, organised by Peter, at the sumptuous China Club at the top of the old bank of China building -which in the 1950s was one of the first skyscrapers in Hong Kong. Now it's brick facade hard to spot amongst the sleek metal giants which have sprung up in the last thirty years.

We were joined by Kevin Thompson and Connie Lam, who run the Hong Kong Centre for Performing Arts and the Hong Kong Arts Centre respectively. Local directors Sean Curran from Theatre du Pif, David Yip from Theatre Noir and Gerard Tsang from the Hong Kong Dance Company, Mark Howard, the British Council director for Singapore, who's in town for a few days and Level 3 Drama St Mary's student Jocasta, who's on placement out here with the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation.

It was really inspiring to hear about some of the work going on out here and get a sense of optimism from those producing them. Behind the brand image of the international companies are some really exciting projects which look carefully at ways to tell stories representative of the huge diversity of experiences and histories in the region. It struck me that in the, careful and strategic, negotiations over what a Chinese Hong Kong might look like, the local artists have a huge protectionist role. We're 15 years into the handover now and only 35 years away from full integration. The theatre will be the site where the evolving possibilities and inherent dangers of this transition will continue to be explored. Making sure the conditions to allow the creation of these texts is absolutely vital to the future of the many communities that make up the Hong Kong.

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