Ricefield Arts celebrate improving cultural links between Glasgow and China

19 February 2019

Photograph: Qian Zhao

“As a Chinese person in Glasgow, I feel both willing and obligated to pass on Chinese culture to more people,” says Else Kek, president of Ricefield Arts – a registered charity and social enterprise dedicated to promoting Chinese arts and culture in Scotland. On 3 February, the organisation held a celebration of the Chinese Spring Festival in the plaza of Princes Square shopping centre.

Chinese lanterns hung from the ceiling, and a Chinese gazebo, known as a  pagoda, was positioned in the middle of the luxury shopping mall. The event allowed shoppers to experience a slice of Chinese culture by offering access to a number of stalls, each featuring activities such as calligraphy, origami, and dragon puppet making. The event was a hit. Parents and children alike tried their hand at the free activities, with the calligraphy stall in particular drawing a crowd of excited youngsters.

Else says: “A lot of parents have come here with children, showing great interest in the traditions and culture of China. We’ve been noticing that Scottish interest in Chinese culture is growing and growing, which is great to see.”

This growing interest in Chinese culture can be seen throughout the UK: Glasgow’s Confucius Institute is the third in Scotland and the 14th in Britain. In recent years, Chinese has become one of the most popular foreign languages for British students after French, German and Spanish.

Photograph: Qian Zhao

Blair Harvey, a Glasgow-based student, shared how he felt about the festivities, saying: “I think this is a very meaningful event. I’ve been studying Chinese for about a year now, and I’ve always been interested in the country’s long history. Because of our universities, Glasgow has a large number of Chinese students, so I hope that events like this could be held more often to help bridge the culture gap between our countries.”

Harvey showed off his calligraphy, adding: “This is my first time writing with a brush like this. It’s so much more difficult than it looks, but I really would like to keep practising.”

Photograph: Qian Zhao

During the event, many people were keen to explore the traditional red structure taking centre stage. Originally serving as a shrine or resting place for Buddhist scriptures and monks, the pagoda is an ancient type of building found throughout China, which showcases the country’s classical architecture. Its unique shape encouraged attendees to capture it in their numerous selfies.

One shopper, Priscilla Sanderson, expressed her fondness of the Chinese-style gazebo, saying: “If I had the opportunity, I’d love to visit China.”

The Ricefield Arts and Cultural Centre has remained a leader in exploring Chinese art and culture in Scotland by offering arts and crafts workshops, organising cultural events, producing exhibitions, and creating various art development and community engagement projects.

Photograph: Qian Zhao

As president of Ricefield Arts, Else Kek has invested great time and effort into helping Glasgow’s Chinese residents integrate themselves into Scottish society while providing the opportunity to celebrate their own culture with local people.

She says: “The Spring Festival’s global influence has been growing, and now a lot of Western countries launch programmes and activities to celebrate it. Our organisation is committed to allowing the people of Glasgow to enjoy the festival and the chance to increase their understanding of China.”

As the second largest ethnic group in Glasgow, Chinese people have brought with them a number of cultural differences. On this, Else says: “Many people in Glasgow don’t fully understand China. I often accept the thanks of the Scottish people who come to participate in our activities. They thank us for letting them see China from a different perspective, and more and more we’re seeing Scottish volunteers participate in our organisation and contribute to Sino-British friendship.”

Photograph: Ricefield Arts

In 2018, Ricefield Arts was awarded funding from the Scottish Government for its two-year climate change project “When Red, Go Green.” In October 2018, the organisation launched its Chinese Community Library in Glasgow, which is home to a varied collection of Chinese and English language books related to Chinese culture. As a result of these initiatives, Ricefield Arts was awarded the CEMVO Ethnic Minority Impact in Arts and Entertainment Award for the second year running at the November 2018 ceremony. Else says: “That really strengthened our confidence that path we’re on is correct.”

If you are interested in Ricefield Arts’ upcoming events, you can find out more on Twitter at @RicefieldArts or on the organisation’s website: ricefield.org.uk.

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