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West Kowloon Cultural District
[Space] West Kowloon Cultural District
Writer : Lee Siu Yee, Bobo_West Kowloon Cultural District Authority 2015.04.06 Asia > Hongkong

What We Talk about When We Talk about Community
[Venues] West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD)



A Major New Cultural District for Hong Kong

West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) was established in 2008 to form a mega arts, and cultural hub in Hong Kong. The district comprises 40 hectares of reclaimed land on the north side of Victoria Harbour, and is set to become one of the world’s largest cultural quarters, blending art, education and public space. The arts and cultural facilities in the plan will occupy 40 percent of the district’s 40 hectares and house theatres of various sizes, outdoor performance spaces, and a visual art museum. The remaining grounds will be made into23 hectares of open public space, featuring two kilometers of a vibrant harbor-front promenade. The vision is to create a lively cultural space in Hong Kong where local arts practitioners can interact, develop, and collaborate.

2014 Freespace Fest

The West Kowloon Cultural District, (WKCD)

2014 Freespace Fest The West Kowloon Cultural District, (WKCD)

In January 2013, a development plan for the district, based on the Foster + Partner’s City Park concept, was approved by the Chief Executive-in-Council. The district will begin to take shape over the next decade, with the first batch of facilities – The Xiqu Centre for Chinese Opera, M+, a visual art museum, and Freespace, a black box theatre – set to be open to the public from 2017 onwards. The second batch of facilities, due to be completed by 2020, includes a lyric theater, a center for contemporary performance, and resident company facilities.

Although the whole project will take time to complete, a wide range of cultural activities have been held on site since 2012; for example, the West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre Festival and the cross-disciplinary outdoor event, Freespace Fest, organized by the Performing Arts Department (PA). Both of these festivals are annual flagship programs designed not to be public promotion or branding, but to serve as platforms for collaboration with local artists and for building relationships with our audiences. The feedback and comments we receive from various parties after such events are considered throughout the design process of the performance venues. This type of communication and discussion is important input that helps to ensure that the spaces we create meet the needs of all stakeholders and contribute to a community that serves both artists and the public.

West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre

2014 Freespace Fest

West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre 2014 Freespace Fest

Since day one, we have had regular and continuous professional development discussions with artists, producers and organizers. However, the picture cannot be complete without public participation.

A healthy cultural ecology includes artists, organizers, and the public. Freespace Fest, an outdoor festival, has always encouraged audience participation. An audience should be more than just a group of passive consumers watching a performance quietly inside a theatre. At Freespace Fest, audiences are able to take an active role, participating in the cultural ecology and directly contributing to artistic creation. When the audience becomes active in the creative mechanism, sustainability in art forms and venue development are secured, and a unique identity is forged for the venue.

Social Acupuncture , the Art project for the Community

In 2014, with this understanding, the Artistic Development Team of the PA department began to initiate programs dedicated to establishing a community with both the artists and the public, one that emphasizes creation as a joint effort, with all participants on an equal footing. The New Works Forum Series, which started last year, is a scheme for developing new local works to be put on by WKCD at Freespace, one of the Performing Arts Phase 1 facilities of the cultural district. The first two programs of the New Works Forum Series focused on local arts practitioners, playwrights, dancers, theater practitioners, etc. The third program, Social Acupuncture, was our first attempt to develop an art project in and for the community. This program addressed the ideas associated with a community.

For Social Acupuncture, Darren O’Donnell, Artistic Director of Mammalian Diving Reflex (Canada) collaborated with local artists from the fields of theatre, dance, and visual and media arts to explore the Tai Ping Shan area (a small community in western Hong Kong) in a five-day intensive workshop. A local concern group was invited to help and provide information about the neighborhood, and participating artists engaged with local residents and businesses to explore the idea of a socially-engaged local artwork. In the first phase of the program, participants had a short but intensive residence period in the area to understand the needs of the locals and the problems they faced.
On the last day, there was an open house at the workshop space to serve as an open forum. Darren and the workshop participants shared their inspiration and discoveries about creating community-based projects, discussing how to draw attention to common issues, bring people together, and strengthen community connections.

For the second phase of the project, participants who were interested in developing projects with the Tai Ping Shan community are now in discussion with Darren, continuing research into the neighborhood that will enable them to realize an on-site project for this coming April. The aim is to deliver programs not in a one-time showcase format, but as regular activities run by the local residents for all members of the local community. The success of this program so far has encouraged us to move forward this year with a community-based program targeting residents in a neighborhood in Kowloon.

What I have learnt from this on-going development process is that working with the community is like a marriage: you need commitment regarding time, continuous communication, and good understanding of each other’s background and culture --all the things that are essential to a sustainable relationship. We also need to work closely with our colleagues in the Research Team, who play a major role in the process. Conducting research and analysis at various stages of each project in parallel to the production of the works, their findings are crucial in helping us improve our methodology to create new programs.

New Works Forum Series : Social Acupuncture

New Works Forum Series : Social Acupuncture

New Works Forum Series : Social Acupuncture

Long before our physical venues are ready, we hope to have established strong relationships with different local communities. The work we create together with the artists and residents will form a new language of community-based projects, and will be further developed and presented at the Freespace black box theatre.

The West Kowloon Cultural District, a Community for All

We are also striving to build a community within the district that will connect different communities from various parts of Hong Kong, helping the district function as a creative hub that offers professional technical and artistic support while helping members gain exposure to a wider audience base.

To reflect our goal of integrating many communities within the district, we have named the platform “Cultural Kitchen”: A kitchen owned by everyone opens its door for people to develop new dishes and share new ways of “cooking.” We hope that the Cultural Kitchen will prove that, despite its size, a venture such as the WKCD mega project can establish its own community and build successful relationships with other districts in Hong Kong. It is our aim to make the WKCD community an open platform for the public at large, one that enables easy access to information and provides the support required to turn creative ideas and concepts into concrete, workable projects.

The district is owned by everyone, and should be developed by everyone working side-by-side.



ⓒWest Kowloon Cultural District Authority

기고자프로필

Lee Siu Yee, Bobo_West Kowloon Cultural District Authority
Lee Siu Yee, Bobo is a creative producer from Hong Kong. Before joining WKCDA in 2013, she worked for a number of major arts and cultural groups/institutions, including Hong Kong Arts Centre, Zuni Icosahedron, and the School of Creative Media at the City University of Hong Kong.
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