Tai Kwun: a revitalised heritage site that brings arts to local communities

02 2019 | Issue 31

Text/Jasper Hou

The former Central Police Station compound, which is a historical heritage recognised by the Hong Kong government, was renamed as Tai Kwun after revitalisation and open to the public in May last year. Tai Kwun has become one of the must-go destinations for tourists and local residents. It offers an array of historical sites, modern art exhibitions, performances, and other leisure activities. Besides JC Contemporary and JC Cube, two new exhibition and performing spaces, a total number of 16 historical sites in the compound and several outdoor spaces are also revitalised. Eddy Zee, Head of Performing Arts of Tai Kwun will share with us his take on the operation of Tai Kwun revitalisation project and the planning of performing arts programmes at the art centre.


The revitalisation concept

From Zee’s perspective, Tai Kwun Revitalisation Project has been a bold idea. “We have a revitalisation concept for Tai Kwun that integrates historical heritages, modern arts, performing arts and cultural leisure activities into one compound. We make use of Tai Kwun’s facilities to set up tours, workshops, exhibitions and performances. The compound can provide an immersive visiting experience,” Zee explained. “We are hoping all visitors can appreciate arts at Tai Kwun while enjoying themselves with friends.”


Performances are more appealing to the audience in comparison to other art programmes. They are programmes that can gather a large number of visitors. “Tai Kwun utilises outdoor spaces to build unique performing venues. Visitors will come across performances when walking around the art centre,” Zee said. “We wish to use this approach to connect arts with local residents in Hong Kong. We believe that art appreciation doesn’t have high thresholds. And we don’t think art exhibitions are exclusive events for only a small group of people. We want to bring art to peoples’ life.”


Diverse art performances garner a grand audience

Outside Tai Kwun, there sit Laundry Steps, Prison Yard, Parade Ground, F Hall Studio and Auditorium. Each week, different shows including comedies, dance performances, drama plays, music concert and film screenings will be held at these spaces. “Tai Kwun will organise different types of shows. Besides the weekly art performances, we also organise themed shows for different seasons,” Zee said. “For instance, every year in July we will have a theatre play season. From mid-September to late October we will have a dance season. At the year-end, we will have a modern circus show. We design various types of performances in hopes of attracting tourists and Hong Kong residents to constantly come back to Tai Kwun. We think through this way we can boast a visitor flow that will revitalise the heritage effectively.”


Bringing arts to the local community

Tai Kwun’s facilities require high-level software infrastructure to function well under the revitalisation project. “We have opened Tai Kwun to the public for over six months. During this period, Tai Kwun has attracted many art groups to apply to have regular performances. To be selected to enter Tai Kwun, the shows must be relatively good in terms of artistic value,” Zee said, talking about how Tai Kwun selects regular performances. “Tai Kwun is a non-profit organisation. It positions itself in a higher place in the art world and therefore we have higher standards for the quality of the performances and shows. This is a common ground for any art centre in the world. We have our own selection standards.”


“Tai Kwun has been insisting on the idea of bringing art to the local community. Art performances should provide contents that are easy to understand for a general audience while sparking deeper reflection. Apart from that, we will have regular internal meetings to discuss what aspects we should pay more attention to for the upcoming performances,” Zee explained. “Then we will follow the discussed direction when looking for potential performances. In addition, we prefer to have performances that are not very common in Hong Kong, for example, modern circus shows and street performances that showcase some local culture and history.”


Making use of the strengths to drive art development in Hong Kong

Driving the development of Hong Kong’s art industry is one of Tai Kwun’s goals. “We will give more time to art groups to rehearse and perform at Tai Kwun if their works are selected by us. For artists, this is a very rare chance that will provide them with more opportunities to improve their works,” Zee concluded.


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