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Vision of China at Unity

Most of Liverpool's Oriental treasures lay hidden, says Larry Neild.

Written by . Published on February 27th 2013.

Vision of China at Unity

LIVERPOOL has never fully celebrated the fact it is home to the oldest Chinatown in Europe.

Stashed away in the dungeons of Liverpool’s various museums and galleries are thousands of artefacts that would could be used to entice an army of tourists and visitors to rick-shaw their way to the Nelson Street area.

The disused landmark building, the former Scandinavian Hotel, would have been the perfect home for a Liverpool Oriental Arts and Cultural Centre. But Liverpool, being backward looking as it often is, will next month see this building demoted to a block of student flats.


Yet as a city we ‘pretend’ Liverpool and China are the best of pals, especially as we have a twin-city link with Shanghai.   

One of the people keeping the spirit of Chinatown alive in a lively and colourful way is Fenfen Huang. She is founder and director of a talented dance group based in Liverpool, China Pearl, already wowing audiences around the world.  China Pearl is a non-profit making Chinese arts and cultural charity.

This Friday, as a way of celebrating the Year of the Snake, China Pearl, in association with Unity Theatre, will be hosting a Chinese Arts Festival at the Unity, just a pebble's throw from the arch.  

Last year’s events by China Pearl at the Unity were sold out, so there is likely to be a full house this year as well.  

The troupe is presenting Lady White Snake, on Friday and Saturday evenings, with traditional and contemporary Chinese dance, classical Chinese music, a fusion of Chinese harp and African drum, plus a dance theatre piece about the beautiful Chinese folktale which gives the event its title.

There will be free Chinese cultural taster sessions in dance, martial arts, calligraphy and arts & crafts on March 2 and Chinese tea tasting before Friday’s evening performance.

Scandinavian HotelScandinavian Hotel could have housed Liverpool's buried Chinese treasures

Fenfen Huang, director of China Pearl, said: “With the oldest Chinese community in Europe and an expanding Chinese community, it is significant to develop a Chinese Arts Festival in the city of Liverpool. Lady White Snake is a very famous story passed on many generations from the exquisite city of Hangzhou, often referred as Chinese Paris and capital of my province Zhejiang.

"As 2013 is the Year of the Snake, I want to share this captivating story with the audience in Liverpool. We will tell the story through dance, animation and poetry and it will be an exciting and enticing production, which a Chinese audience will find refreshing and I am sure a British audience will fall under its spell.”

The project involves local, regional and national young talents and well-established artists including Namron, founder member of London Contemporary Dance and Northern Contemporary Dance, celebrating the 50th year of his dance career this year.


There's also Patrick Dineen, a local composer with an international reputation including music for As the World Tips, One Summer Night on BBC3 and 2008 Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture Opening Ceremony.

Fenfen added:  ‘We honoured to be able to host this festival to show British audience how wonderful our culture is and very grateful to the support we received from a number of organisations, including the Arts Council England.”

The evening performances on Friday and Saturday, which start at 8pm, are suitable for all ages. The free taster sessions at the Unity on Saturday start at 12.30pm.

12.30-1.30pm: Chinese dance & storytelling

1.30-2.30pm: Martial Arts (Wushu/Taichi)

3-4pm: Calligraphy

4.30-5.30pm: Arts & Crafts (painting & mask making).

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