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Shi Mengqi, a wedding cameraman from Sichuan who has worked in Beijing for six years, is organising a Lunar New Year gala for other migrants and will broadcast it online and on television. His show has drawn a lot of attention and has been described as a 'mountain village version', or amateur copycat, of the traditional CCTV gala aired every Lunar New Year's Eve.
How did you come up with the idea of your own version of a Lunar New Year gala?
I couldn't make it home for the Lunar New Year celebrations once, so I know what it feels like to celebrate the festival alone in Beijing That's why I wanted to have a fun gathering for migrants like me. I'd had the idea for several years, but it wasn't until I got into the wedding business that I had access to an event site, audio-visual systems and hosts who were not afraid to speak in front of hundreds of people and make them laugh. I thought it was time to put my plan into action.
It seems your plan is about to be realised soon, and in a big way. What happened?
I initially thought it would just be a party for people who could not go home to celebrate the Lunar New Year. We could sing and dance and broadcast it online for families at home, so we would not feel alone in Beijing. But after the idea was reported by the media, it got an overwhelming response. Even people who were not in Beijing wanted to travel to the city to take part in the New Year's gala event.
People say you are brave to challenge a long-standing programme on the most famous television station. What's your response?
I think people who like the CCTV style will still watch it on television and those who are more into a grass-roots style will watch our version. You can take the CCTV one as a main course people have had on Lunar New Year's Eve for many years, and ours as just a small, alternative dish. Actually, they can watch both online and on TV. My understanding of 'copycat' is 'do it yourself'. We are a bunch of amateurs, and are just amusing ourselves.
What kind of acts will your show have?
We have received more than 700 submissions and are auditioning now. Most people sent their videotaped performances and some came to my office to audition. The quality varies, and we will select around three hours of performances. Generally, the programme must be original, healthy and creative. It should be funny but not vulgar.
Where will the gala be held?
We have borrowed a studio and cameras from Guizhou Television. There will be several hosts and some interaction between performers and the audience. A website has agreed to broadcast the gala live online. In the beginning, I thought there would be hundreds of performers plus an audience and no more than 2,000 people - the performers' family members and friends - watching the gala online. But now I guess we have attracted more attention and will get more viewers.
Will celebrities feature in the gala?
We have invited a famous host to present the gala. Some celebrity performers will also be there but I cannot disclose who, for the moment.
Are you having any problems arranging the gala?
There is just a month to go and we are running short of time to select a programme. We also need to find means to finance those who will travel to Beijing to perform. Ideally, we will get some sponsorship, but if we can't find the money I think the performers will understand. It's a voluntary New Year's celebration, after all.
Critics say you are raising funds for yourself.
I am organising the event as an individual and it is not for profit. If we secure any sponsorship, I hope I do not have to touch the money and that performers can get reimbursed for expenses directly from the sponsor. If the sponsorship surpasses the cost, we can decorate the gala site more cheerfully. We could also donate the money to a public cause.