Opera groups plead for funding and facilities

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 May, 2006, 12:00am

Cantonese opera groups will meet the convenor of the advisory group for the tourism and performing arts facilities of the West Kowloon cultural district project tomorrow to discuss concerns over funding and facilities for training and performances.

Since the list of members of Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee's advisory group was announced last month, Cantonese opera groups have complained about under-representation in the project.

The 18-member advisory group is part of the 67-strong consultative committee headed by Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan to rethink the West Kowloon development.

There is only one Cantonese opera representative in Mrs Chow's group, Stephen Chow Chun-kay, the Cantonese Opera Advisory Committee chairman, who has never worked in the field.The government had announced the addition of Cantonese opera experts to the committee, but Dr Chow remains chairman, despite criticism of his professional knowledge.

Chan Kim-sing, chairwoman of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, said they did not have high expectations that their voices would be heard at tomorrow's meeting.

'We have been talking about the same issues for years,' Ms Chan said. 'We have been unable to compete with government-subsidised art groups in renting venues for training or performance because of funding.'

For example, the association has to offer night-time lessons at the squash courts beside a park in Shamshuipo. There are no mirrors or iron bars for stretching exercises, and about 40 students, mostly female, have expressed concerns for their safety because the area is isolated.

'We need proper places for our students, and our audiences,' Ms Chan said.

Mrs Chow said the opera groups should not use her advisory group to air their grievances with the government's policies.

'We have always recognised the importance of Cantonese opera to the arts and cultural development of Hong Kong,' Mrs Chow said. 'However, we are not in the position to change any government policies which may have affected the development of Cantonese opera.

'We have already understood the needs and concerns of Cantonese opera [within the West Kowloon project], and we will try to cater for them.'

She said that a statutory authority, which would be established to oversee the project's operation, should be responsible for the selection of content.

'Such decisions can't be made by a government department because it has its hands tied with rules and policies ... It can't apply any commercial or artistic judgment,' she said.

'The [statutory] authority should be artistically accountable. Sometimes you have to stick your neck out and make decisions which may not seem commercially sound.'

The advisory group is to report to the chief executive by the end of this year.