Cover Tatler House Stories on November 22 (Photo: Affa Chan/Tatler Hong Kong)

On November 22, Tatler and the Upper House hosted the latest edition of House Stories, a monthly panel series at the hotel’s Sky Lounge

When? November 22, 2022

Where? The Sky Lounge at The Upper House

Who? Paul Tam, Grace Lang, Lindsey McAlister, Tom Chan

Here’s what you missed:

This edition of the series, moderated by Tatler’s features editor Zabrina Lo, dived into what it would take for Hong Kong to become a top arts city, comparable with cultural destinations like New York or London.

The panel featured four experts in the arts and culture industry, who spoke about their experiences and hopes for the future of Hong Kong’s entertainment scene: Paul Tam, executive director for performing arts at the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA); Grace Lang, programme director for the Hong Kong Arts Festival; Lindsey McAlister, founder of the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation (HKYAF); and Tom Chan, producer, director and composer of Our Journal of Springtime the musical, which became Hong Kong’s first long-running musical in 2019.

“Hong Kong is definitely not a cultural desert,” said Tam. “In terms of activity, I think Hong Kong is as vibrant as any place else in the world. [Under the WKCDA alone], we have M+ museum, the Palace Museum, Xiqu Centre and FreeSpace. Hong Kong also has [major institutions] like the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and The Hong Kong Ballet, with lots of cultural SMEs too,” said Tam, who is mid-way through Creative Tomorrow, a first-of-its-kind, eight-month art tech festival that launched in autumn 2022.

McAlister, whose foundation has trained young people in the performing arts since 1993, stressed the importance of education in cementing Hong Kong as a cultural hub and creating the next generation of artists.  “[Education] is what will make Hong Kong a world city,” she said. The proof is in the pudding: Hong Kong resident Isabella Wei, who stars in the Netflix thriller 1899, is a former HKYAF student. “[What will put Hong Kong on the map] is people from Hong Kong representing us internationally and sharing our talent with the rest of the world. We need to create an arts habit and that starts with working with young people. Parents and teachers need to encourage their children. Schools need to take their kids to see more art projects. It’s about starting early,” she said.

When it comes to maintaining the demand for shows, Chan said that the quality of the show matters.  “If the show isn’t good, it’s hard to sustain it, no matter how good the word of mouth is.” Being innovative around the promotion is key, and Chan has adopted creative strategies to keep audiences interested. “We  opened a café next to our theatre with dishes related to the show’s plot and characters. We also have an app where guests can earn membership points when they buy tickets, and we have staycation packages with neighbouring hotels so that audience can watch the show and  then sleep over,” he said to laughter from the audience. “It keeps [the shows] new and interesting.”    

Lang, who is celebrating the Hong Kong Arts Festival’s 51st anniversary in 2023, is excited for the city’s art scene to return to normal after years plagued by the pandemic, and agreed that creativity was key. “During Covid-19, every company found new ways to survive both financially and artistically,” she said.

Other topics included the rise of art tech in productions, how to make the arts scene more inclusive, the importance of the curation of venues and the value of Hong Kong’s current cultural scene.  As Tam said, “The artistic equity of the city is high it just needs to be exposed more.”    

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