National days may offer the chance to show off military pageantry and recite long speeches. But such pomp will be overshadowed in parts of Hong Kong today by a feast of music, song, dance and food. At the centre of celebrations will be youngsters trained in traditional dance by two teachers who are members of the Bangladesh Cultural Centre Hong Kong. The organisation is without a permanent venue, but members are raising funds to find a location to host educational and social activities, and to promote the rich culture of their homeland. Supported by a 1,000-plus strong community of expats, the preservation of language and culture is seen as vital to Bangladeshi identity. At the same time, the cultural centre's leaders work with the Hong Kong government to ensure good race relations, the integration of their youngsters with others and encouraging a positive attitude so youth shun drugs and street gangs. 'We can't forget our culture, so it's important that our children should know about their origins,' says cultural centre president, Dewan Saiful Alam Masud. 'But we also work with the Equal Opportunities Commission and other community organisations to build up relations with the local community and ethnic minorities.' Activities organised by the centre are a big part of family life for the community alongside observance of their Muslim faith and the learning of Arabic to read the Koran. International Mother Language Day on February 21 is another important fixture. Events on that day recall the sacrifices made in 1952 when students rose up to defend the Bangla language against the imposition of Urdu by then Pakistan rulers. Bangladesh was East Pakistan until independence in 1971. 'Bangladesh has a very rich culture, and the 1952 language movement is an example of this,' Masud says. Unesco, the United Nation's science and cultural organisation, has declared February 21 International Mother Language Day to recognise the defence of minority languages the world over. Masud says community leaders and the Bangladeshi consulate are hoping to persuade the government to erect a plaque commemorating the language movement, as has been done in other cities with minority communities. Local Bangladeshis also celebrate Pohela Boishakh, the Bengali new year which falls on April 17. At other times of the year, weekend camps are organised in Sai Kung involving scores of youngsters. It is also hoped badminton and a fledgling cricket team will also give Bangladeshi youth further outlets for enjoyment. For bigger events, facilities are hired at exhibition centres in Wan Chai. Though costly, Masud says it gives those with musical talent the chance to perform on stage. Music lovers will find no shortage of genres when sampling what the nation's artists have to offer, from folk and classical, to rock and hip hop. Most members of the community in Hong Kong run their own businesses and are also home owners, Masud says. Aspirations for their children are also high with some having obtained university places in Hong Kong or abroad. Most Bangladeshi-run businesses are linked to the garment trade, which Masud says is 'booming' as the nation celebrates 39 years of independence, and hopes to build prosperity with the help of foreign investment and the remittances sent home by expats. Masud, who came to Hong Kong nine years ago as a textile engineer for a Bangladeshi company before setting up his own business, says rather than simply making garments, Bangladesh wants to develop mills and facilities for other processes that were previously the domain of mainland companies. With Bangla music, song and language showing promising signs of flourishing, the need for an adequate base to rehearse and organise activities is a priority, Masud says. The dance teachers have to book squash courts at sports centres in Jordan. Alongside the cultural efforts, Masud says business leaders have discussed the formation of a Bangladeshi chamber of commerce. Whatever the outcome, any such organisation is sure to have little problem finding musicians or dancers for its social events.