West Kowloon Cultural District

More worries over how to pay growing arts hub bill

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 11:46am

Fresh concerns emerged yesterday about the extra funding needed for the expanded West Kowloon arts hub, as the venue staged its first big event under the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority umbrella.

Ronald Arculli, chairman of the authority's development committee, said there had been a double-digit increase in construction costs since the government approved project funding of HK$21.6 billion in 2006.

The building of environmentally friendly facilities, which was not included in previous agreements, was expected to add to the final bill, he said.

Arculli said further discussions were needed to see who would bear this additional burden.

'We still have HK$21.6 billion unused,' he told a radio station. 'It's too early to say we are running out of funding.'

Some of the options being considered are a bond issue, private sponsorship and bank loans.

Louis Yu Kwok-lit, the authority's executive director for performing arts, said one way of saving public money would be to let sponsors name facilities. He gave the example of New York's famed Carnegie Hall, which was named after industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

The authority would seek private partnerships for the three most commercially viable facilities: a 15,000-seat performance venue, an exhibition centre and a 2,000-seat musical theatre, he said. They are scheduled for completion by 2020.

However, the authority would need to determine some principles before approaching possible sponsors, such as the type of facilities suitable for naming and the mechanics of establishing sponsorship deals, he said.

Yu anticipates around 10 performances will take place each night when the first phase of the project was completed in 2020. He said there would be abundant smaller venues and tickets for shows would be affordable.

Meanwhile, outdoor shows for the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival began at West Kowloon yesterday, though not without controversy. Local musician Ku Chi, who composed songs for Eason Chan Yik-shun's album Stranger Under My Skin, was invited to perform on a 'mobile stage' at the festival. But he walked out when he noticed the 'stage' was in fact a pavilion in the park, with no backdrops or shields to protect musical equipment in case of rain.

It was also much smaller than the biggest square stage, where the audience paid to watch performances, or a second, circular stage where musicians played free of charge. Both these venues were protected by tents.

'I was promised a proper stage, not somewhere in front of a rubbish bin,' Ku said, claiming there was a lack of respect for local musicians.

Six local bands were invited to play at the festival and while they had their transport costs covered, there were no performance fees.

Hong Kong Jazz Association president Peter Lee Kai-kwan said the mobile stage's backdrop was blown away by the typhoon.

'There was a lack of venues for bands. All we wanted to do is to offer them an extra venue ... we can't help if they don't like its size,' he said.