West Kowloon Cultural District needs to develop a 'human side': expert

Long-term plan is needed to develop the human side of West Kowloon Cultural District and to place it in city's grander scheme, says expert

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2014, 4:21am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2014, 4:21am

Arts figures called yesterday for a long-term plan to develop the human side - or "software" - of the West Kowloon arts hub after hearing that the lack of such a plan is hampering the huge project.

But the arts hub management said that besides events and programmes, long-term software development would require broader cultural policy planning involving the government.

This emerged as members of the Legislative Council subcommittee monitoring the project were being briefed on progress yesterday.

West Kowloon Cultural District Authority board member Danny Yung wrote that the arts hub could be the missing piece in a grander scheme of making Hong Kong a cultural metropolis.

But Yung, co-artistic director of theatre group Zuni Icosahedron, said it lacked a blueprint connecting it with the rest of the city's cultural infrastructure, including arts funding and education.

"The current budget does not include software development. And what is West Kowloon's role in Hong Kong's cultural development in the long run? Is it only a venue operator?" asked researcher Leung Wai-sze.

Arts hub management had earlier outlined the plans for venues in the first two phases to be ready by 2020.

These included the live-performance venue Freespace, the Xiqu Centre for Chinese opera, visual culture museum M+ and the Lyric Theatre for dance.

The Centre for Contemporary Performance and Medium Theatre, black box theatres with 150 to 600 seats, will focus on theatre but they will be held up by the two-year delay in construction of the cross-border express railway.

Opera Hong Kong director Gordon Jones said while there were no dates for the larger venues such as the Great Theatre and concert hall, the Lyric Theatre should be made a multi-purpose venue for all performing arts.

Arts hub chief executive Michael Lynch said the HK$21.6 billion upfront endowment from the government had now grown to HK$24 billion after investment. Phase-three facilities would definitely be developed but the plans would need to be reviewed in future, he said.

But in response to the role of West Kowloon, Lynch said the arts hub "can't be divorced from the whole system". Its direction required "broader cultural policy" development.