West Kowloon Cultural District

Culture won't take second place to hardware, vows new Hong Kong arts hub chief Duncan Pescod

Culture will not take second place to hardware, vows Duncan Pescod, as he shrugs off critics who question his expertise to lead project

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 July, 2015, 3:38am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 5:47pm

His expertise may be in buildings and construction, but the new chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District vowed to ensure that development of the arts hub is not reduced to finishing a mere infrastructure project.

Former housing chief Duncan Pescod pledged not to let hardware development overshadow its cultural side.

"It is an arts project. It is a cultural project. The development side is to facilitate the arts and culture, and that is something none of us can forget. And that is really the commitment that I make today," the 56-year-old said yesterday at the announcement of his appointment to succeed outgoing chief executive Michael Lynch from next month.

A civil service veteran, Pescod served the government for 32 years, including at the Lands Department, Tourism Commission, and the then Home Affairs Branch, Security Branch and Urban Services Department.

His most senior roles were as permanent secretary for commerce and economic development (communications and technology) - which he undertook from August 2008 - and then as permanent secretary for transport and housing and director of housing, from May 2010 to April last year.

In October he was named chief operating officer of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, in charge of infrastructural development and commercial and operational planning. But his appointment as chief executive raised eyebrows given his lack of a cultural background and professional art experience.

In response, Pescod told the media the success of the arts hub would not depend on him alone. "If an organisation depends on just one person, then that organisation will fail," he said. "We have a very strong team here, a strong board and a chairman with members of tremendous experience in the arts and culture field. If it was just down to me, frankly … the whole thing will fail.

"It's my job to make sure all the bits fit together, come together and we deliver on the project. Let's never forget that this project isn't just about development of physical buildings.

"It's about the development of the software and the structure that allows culture and arts facilities in Hong Kong to develop. It's the cumulative effort of everybody, not just one person."

Pescod has a three-year term ahead of him after Lynch, who resigned in February, steps down before completing his contract for "personal reasons".

The arts hub's chairwoman, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, said the recruitment committee she headed decided unanimously after a global search that Pescod was the most suitable candidate. Lam praised Pescod's local knowledge and vast experience in administration and management.

Lynch also expressed optimism about Pescod's knowledge of the city and the government's operations, saying this would ensure delivery of the project.

He said the authority had a strong team of 210 to support Pescod and that the arts hub had immense potential to change the role of arts and culture in Hong Kong and subsequently transform the city.

The authority said it had received "a few" job applicants locally and from abroad, but declined to say exactly how many applicants there were.