Hong Kong's mixed feelings over the handover will be explored at a new arts festival which starts this month. Festival Now 1996, billed as a pioneering local contemporary arts event, opens next Friday and runs until October 27. It will include a seasonal Halloween theme - also linked to the handover. 'Knock, knock. Trick or treat?' reflects Hong Kong's position as it prepares to knock on China's door but cannot predict the outcome, organisers say. Modern, innovative and unconventional artists from the territory have produced works which explore local people's feelings towards the mainland. Hong Kong Arts Centre's exhibition director, Oscar Ho, said he hoped it would be mischievous, mysterious and surprising. It will include films, fashions shows and picture exhibitions. 'The exhibition will show China's varied faces. Older people think of the highly-classical picture of rural China, while younger people connect with the more recent Communist and post-Cultural Revolution China,' said Mr Ho. The exhibition will also include how youngsters view the impending change of sovereignty. Form Four students and above have been invited to draw their impressions of the mainland, with 30 of their works to be exhibited alongside those of major artists. Students attending a series of workshops are also busy preparing their own books for publication about Hong Kong's culture. The contemporary festival will include high art and popular culture, with an unconventional fashion show at a public housing estate. Designers including William Tang will show what they mean by 'Fashionably Chinese'. Film producers have been commissioned to produce a 1990s video version of the Government's 1960s propaganda programme Hong Kong Today. A cut in the budget, from $3.5 million to $2.4 million, has shrunk the festival, but performing arts director Louis Yu said he was confident it would still be a success. He said audiences would be able to see 'work-in-progress' productions of plays. Two of the five planned productions will be 'in progress', where audiences will not actually be watching the finished product. 'It is very rare for artists to develop works slowly,' he said. Audiences would be able to see plays developing and artists would be able to respond to their reactions. Mr Yu said the works would not be 'incomplete or imperfect'. He said they represented a crucial stage in audience maturity by striking up a dialogue between artists and audiences. Theatre Fantico's Miss Julie Doesn't Live Here Anymore - a murder mystery - will be a sequel to Entering Miss Julie, and a third play next year will continue its exploration of the effects of the handover. Disasters of War III, Nan Meng Yat Tiew - translated as Only One Old Life - performed by the Sand and Bricks company, will use innovative techniques to involve the audience in the production itself. Audiences can participate in post-performance talks and artists will map out the history and future path of local arts development. Tickets are available at Urbtix outlets. Telephone 2582 0225 or 2582 0200 for programme information and 2734 9009 or 2582 0232 for telephone bookings. Next year's Now festival is already being planned, and is timed to actually bridge the handover.