I've the energy for the job, says new arts hub chief

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 May, 2011, 12:00am


Newly appointed arts hub chief Michael Lynch greeted the media for the first time yesterday, asking people to ignore his age - and the cane he was leaning on - and to insist that he has the energy to drive a HK$21 billion project.

'If they think I'm going to fall over, this is not the case. Sixty years old is not too old, I don't think,' the Australian arts veteran joked, addressing public fears that the second chief of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in a year may leave, citing health reasons like his predecessor Graham Sheffield.

'I assure you that I can still dance and sing and do all the things you expect of a chief executive,' said Lynch in response to repeated questions about his health. 'Do I look that bad?' he asked, explaining that he needed a stick because of the effects of polio, which he contracted when aged three.

The new chief, whose previous jobs included leading the Southbank Centre in London and the Sydney Opera House, pledged that he would defend the city's freedom of expression in arts and culture. He said the immediate task of his three-year term was to turn the ambitious conceptual plan of British architect Norman Foster into reality.

Briton Sheffield quit earlier this year on the grounds of ill health after just five months in the job but was employed by the British Council as arts director within two months.

Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, the authority's chairman, said Lynch underwent a health check as part of the authority's risk management, adding that the contract terms had been revised to ensure fairness to both sides.

Lynch said: 'I'm unclear whether there are sanctions on the contract. I'm not really interested and at my point in life I'm not interested in taking on other roles in other places ... this is the job that I want to do for the next number of years.' He said he would stay for at least three years - the length of his contract.

Despite his confidence, there are challenges with rising construction costs and development of the 42-hectare site.

A person close to Foster's architectural team said complicated planning details had yet to be sorted out.

Apart from integrating a cross-border express railway terminus into the arts hub, the team must also ensure that access to emergency services will not be undermined by predominant pedestrian networks at ground level and underground traffic arrangements.