Volunteer Day Trip to Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

We hold regular events to say thank you to our volunteers for their amazing contributions throughout the year, and this one was certainly special. On Saturday 16 September, the team headed into the woods, where we learned about trees, foraging and wooden carving.

Ricefield volunteer Joey Humble has shared his experience (as well as his impressive knowledge of plant names!):

On a grey and windy Sunday morning a group of somewhat eager volunteers assembled under the gaze of the stone lions of Glasgow’s George square, and wondered what activities would they perform today? Teaching children how to make paper lanterns? Or perhaps demonstrating calligraphy to Glasweigians? Au contraire, for once, they were to be treated to a day of relaxation and countryside leisure as a reward for a year’s work promoting Chinese culture.

We started the day out by taking a minibus north to Cashel woodland forest located near Loch Lomond. There we met with our woodland guide, Paul from Green Aspirations Scotland, who led us through the forest and identified many different plants, trees and fungi. We explored a patch of silver birch trees and discovered the bright red fly agaric mushroom which is apparently psychedelic. We walked along the enchanting woodland path past holly and brooms bushes and our guide presented us with wood sorrel which is an edible herb with a refreshing flavour. We then peered up to an ancient and mighty oak tree so large and towering that its branches were bent and broken due to their weight, and looking down we found little oak seedlings daring to display their lobed leaves above the moist fertile earth. Our guide was very enthusiastic to find a hazel tree, which has been used for various crafts for thousands of years in the UK. We passed through a small private orchard with short waist-height apple trees holding surprisingly large bright red apples, which we learned are called ‘Bloody Ploughman’ apples. Later while marching through the woodland we found a ferny glade, there stood a gnarled leafless tree heavy with lichen and mosses, which our guide told us was a crabapple tree. On closer inspection this dead looking old tree bore several tiny green apples which tasted sour.

After an enjoying morning walk in the forest we ate pizzas in Balmaha’s Oak Tree restaurant and took photos by Loch Lomond with the ducks and boats in view. In the afternoon we went to Tir Na Nog, single file we followed a meandering path past a tepee and an old manor house and through a forest decorated with hanging wooden spoons of all sorts of sizes and intricate styles. We assembled inside a large wooden cabin with open walls giving views of the woodland on all sides and a cast-iron kettle heating on a wooden fire. We diligently carved spoons from chunks of aspen wood using axes, saws, knives and gougers; all the tools were readily available on a large table and we were given detailed instructions and assistance (thankfully there was a first kit on hand).

We learned so much about the forest and wood craft on this special day. A wonderful time was had by all.

With thanks to Green Aspirations Scotland for hosting us, and the Forestry Commission for their funding support.

Mid-Autumn Festival 2017

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, this year on October 4th, from the Ricefield Team!

Here, Ricefield volunteer Xue Xia explains the importance of the festival in Chinese culture.

The Mid-Autumn Festival started in the Chinese Tang dynasty, around 1300 years ago, and is as significant as the other three traditional Chinese festivals; Spring Festival, Qingming Festival and Dragon Boat Festival. Influenced by Chinese culture, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also prevalent in some East Asian countries and South East Asian countries. During Mid-Autumn Festival, people will admire the full moon, eat mooncake, drink Chinese osmanthus wine and do other activities. Importantly, the Mid-Autumn Festival is particularly meaningful for Chinese people because they make wishes on the full moon, including for a good harvest from agriculture, to gain happiness, and especially for the reunion of family members who are far away from home. In culture, there are also many poets from ancient China who recorded and expressed their feelings of missing their families, friends and hometown in their poetry dedicated to this special day. Overall, the Mid-Autumn Festival is part of China’s precious cultural heritage.

Learn more about the festival through our lantern making workshops, booking details and prices available here.

My Experience of Erhu

Ricefield volunteer Xue Xia (Snow) is an accomplished erhu 二胡 player, and has performed at several events, including our recent craft fair in Govan. Here she introduces the erhu, and writes about her experiences mastering this unique instrument.

My name is Xue Xia, an excellent erhu player. I have been playing the erhu since I was eight years old, for fifteen years now. I practiced so hard that I became excellent at playing the erhu at a really young age, and hence I have been awarded many honours for my erhu playing. Now, I will share my erhu experiences with you.

Erhu, a Chinese national music orchestral instrument, has over 1000 years history in China. The melody of erhu is like violin to some extent, but compared to the violin the erhu has a different appearance and method of playing. Playing the erhu utilises many limbs, including hands, arms and shoulders, with its right to left movement. Additionally, erhu music can be traced back to thousands of years ago, which was an important period for the development of Chinese national music. Erhu music brings together not only Chinese music but also Chinese philosophy, Chinese literature and Chinese aesthetics, therefore, it is a representative of Chinese national orchestral music. Importantly, erhu has become a symbol of eastern culture in people’s minds, and it has also, therefore, become a tool and a platform to disseminate Chinese culture to the world.

My uncle first taught me about playing the erhu. He is also an erhu player in a musical troupe, and has thirty years of teaching experience. Every vacation, I would leave my hometown and go to the city where my uncle lives to learn how to play it. During these periods, I was playing the erhu for 6-7 hours every day, practising different compositions. During the school term, when I returned to my hometown, I learnt from erhu teachers from a musical agency. I changed to different teachers successively as I advanced stages, because my playing skills improved at a very young age.

Finally, I obtained the tenth and top grade ‘A’ of erhu at the age of 12, and was awarded a certificate of arts grade examination of China. When I was 13, I was awarded the third place in an erhu contest between teenagers in the first arts week of my home province in 2007. In 2012, I was honoured with the secondary award of the Arts Speciality Students in Erhu Professionalism at Tsinghua University.

I am very proud of the honours and awards I have obtained, and I am happy to continue exploring this musical instrument.

Watch Xue Xia perform two songs on her erhu below.

 

Glasgow Canal Festival 2017

Ricefield Arts joined the first Glasgow Canal Festival on Saturday 22 July. We had a great day teaching visitors how to make their own origami boats, as well as hosting our second Chinese Craft Fair. Team Ricefield even made an appearance on the water, as part of the Dragon Boat racing.

Ricefield volunteer Ulyana wrote about her experience as part of the Dragon Boat race team:

On July 22nd, thanks to Ricefield Arts and Glasgow Canal Festival, I got to try Dragon Boat Racing for the first time, and take part in a competition. It was great to challenge myself again, to fight my fears and have some fun. And, of course, to get involved in the competitive atmosphere.

I am very glad to have met new people, and to communicate and work in a team. Because this was a new experience for most of us, the event was even more special and fun. I really enjoyed taking part and have made even more memories from my time in Glasgow. I would recommend the sport to anyone.

Find out more about what’s happening at Glasgow’s canal here.

Overseasoned

This summer Ricefield partnered with SURGE to produce a brand new street theatre performance. Overseasoned was developed from working with Glasgow’s Chinese and multi ethic communities, and used original characters and design. The walkabout piece featured a group of clumsy chefs causing chaos in the streets of Glasgow, and was performed at Glasgow Mela and the Merchant City Festival.

Ricefield volunteer Ulyana was part of the performance team:

‘My experience with street theatre started because of Glasgow Mela 2017. To describe it simply as ‘good’ would not do it justice, every time I tell the story it is a little different. I have been inspired by being part of something so unusual, funny and interesting. Before visiting Glasgow this year I had never taken part in this kind of activity, it was something new to me; a new challenge for myself and my capacities.

During the street theatre performance I got to try a completely new profession, I became a chef. Unfortunately though, not a very good chef. The kind of chef who should probably be in a different kind of job. However, it was really very fun. When you get to ‘try on’ another life or profession, no matter if it’s positive or negative, it’s always exciting. From this new perspective you can see an absolutely different side of yourself.

The most important and memorable part of the street theatre, of course, was the audience. When you can see smiling faces and feel the joy of other people, and know that it is thanks to you, the feeling is priceless. It’s a great feeling to know you can improve someone’s day through your role.

Taking part in this performance has given me really wonderful memories. Having a chance to be an actress, and sample another life, was amazing. I would recommend street theatre to anyone. I have already tried it, now, what about you?’.


Chinese New Year 2017 Celebrations at Kelvin Hall and Kelvingrove Museum

lanterns

Celebrating Chinese New Year is always a highlight in Ricefield’s busy calendar, and this year was certainly no exception. We worked with Kelvin Hall and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to plan a fun afternoon with drop-in craft workshops for families, and a showcase of various interactive traditional Chinese indoor and outdoor games for the local communities.

The event on Sunday 5th February was also a personal highlight for me, as this was the first time I’ve been able to volunteer with Ricefield and the amazing team during the Spring Festival period. I turned up excited to learn more!

Our team of over 20 volunteers and I started setting up at 10am, getting Kelvin Hall’s sports hall fit for a party. Lanterns were hung, and the red tablecloths were out. The fortune cookies were waiting and the music was on. At 12pm we were ready to go.

wish

I worked at the Welcome Table (lacking any sort of sporting skill) and visitors had a serious challenge facing them when they arrived. Ricky the Rooster was looking for his 11 zodiac animal friends, and you could collect them by trying each of the activities on offer. Families were sent off with their sticker sheets on a mission!

First stop was the Wishing Tree, to collect the snake. Traditionally wishes and hopes for the new year are written and tied on to the tree, and the higher it is hung the more likely it is to come true. We had some lovely messages wishing for health and happiness, several lego and Rapunzel set requests, and my favourite for ‘a whole year of pizza’.

tree

My personal favourite activity in Kelvin Hall was Catching Seven Pieces (抓石子). Else, Ricefield’s Chair, remembered playing this traditional game as a child with a collection of pebbles, and she was definitely the expert. We played this time around small pouches of rice, and players used their strategy and dexterity to juggle and try to catch all seven. I was pretty awful, but I’ll be practicing for next year!

Also on offer was a Chopsticks Challenge, where visitors tested their kuaizi skills against increasingly small and fiddly objects. Maybe we’ll stick to noodles in the future. On the next table over you could try Tangram (七巧板). This game was invented in China during the Song Dynasty, and has grown in popularity in Europe after first being brought here by trading ships in the 19th century. Players try to rearrange flat shapes to create new images and patterns. Simple to understand, but hard to master. There was also a Memory Game with the famous red envelopes given as presents at Chinese New Year. The colour red is a symbol of good luck, and the gift is given to ward off evil spirits. Players tried to matctangramh the red envelopes into pairs, in a special new year version of the game often played here with cards.

 Classic Chinese board games such as Chinese Chequers (中国跳棋) and The Game of Go (围棋) were in full swing, and some of our volunteers were outsmarted by some very well-practiced children. I learned more about Go, and was particularly impressed that is the oldest board game still being played today, having been invented in China approximately 2,500 years ago. In ancient times it was considered one of the four essential arts of aristocratic society. We’re very sophisticated here at Ricefield!

Our more athletic visitors played a Shuttlecock Game (踢毽子) and Ping Pong (乒乓球), joined by two trainees from Kelvin Hall. There was also Bamboo Dancing (竹竿舞), accompanied by the sound of drums. This dance requires some skill, as dancers follow and step along with the rhythmic movement of the bamboo poles. This dance is popular with the Chinese Li minority ethic group, where the dancing can last late into the night on special occasions. It seemed that our visitors were no strangers to the dance floor.

lion headOver the road in Kelvingrove Museum the celebrations continued. Families had a chance to try some New Year-themed crafts, including decorating a lion head with Ricefield co-founder Lin and making dragon puppets to take home. Both creatures are very important symbols, with Chinese guardian lions (狮) having strong protective powers, and the dragon representing power, strength and good fortune. All very important components for a successful year!

After this journey, visitors returned to the wishing tree, to unite Ricky with his zodiac animal friends and be rewarded with a fortune cookie for all their hard work. It was great to see everyone’s enthusiasm and to hear how much they’d enjoyed all the new experiences. I bet we have some Game of Go fans playing on their mobile phone now!

This event marks almost one year of my volunteering with Ricefield, and it made for a great anniversary. Bringing together the whole team of volunteers, ranging from students from China and beyond studying in Glasgow, to Glaswegians looking to learn some more about Chinese culture, was a great display of Ricefield’s diversity. I’ve learned so much over this past year (my origami skills have never been better!), and met some interesting people. Its the mixed talents of this team that made this Chinese New Year event such a success and made the long day of work very worthwhile.

What a way to start my own zodiac year. 新年快乐!

This post was written by Ricefield volunteer Laura Matheson.
To see more images from our 2017 Chinese New Year event, please visit our Facebook page.

Watch the video below for a taste of our Chinese New Year event. Video produced by Ricefield volunteer, Jarvis Gray.

Glasgow Mela

Here is a recap of our day at Glasgow Mela from Ricefield Volunteer, Laura Matheson:

‘Sunday 17 July was definitely one of my most memorable days volunteering with Ricefield so far, even if it also was the most busy! It was finally Glasgow Mela festival time, and after appearing at many Mela on Your Doorstep events, we were all excited for the main event.

The team started early (although, admittedly I was one of the lucky ones on the afternoon shift) transporting an array of crafts supplies, snacks and general Chinese goodies over from Ricefield HQ to Kelvingrove Park, praying the wet weather would stay off for the day. Our two stalls were set up without any rain, very luckily for those in the outdoor Kids Zone! The crowds grew quickly at 12pm when the festival began, and suddenly the park was alive with sound, colour and the smells of food from around the world. Ricefield got our dance moves out once again to celebrate, and started the day off with a traditional lion dance.

Over at our sales stall, historical Chinese costumes were hung up, the magic calligraphy mats were unraveled and the lanterns were out in every shape and size. We were in a great position to enjoy the entertainment, across from one of the many stages showcasing international music and dance. I had to concentrate however, as my main focus for the day was our raffle tickets, tucked inside the red envelopes you may be familiar with from Chinese New Year. I was very happy to award our grand prize; a personalised calligraphy scroll, as well as sharing Chinese lucky sweets. The calligraphy team were busy as always, with Lu and Shu teaching characters and creating very popular temporary Chinese tattoos. Next to them festival-goers could try out Chinese costumes from throughout the dynasties, and we were lucky to have quite a few emperors at the stall. Somehow, we also managed to fit in selling a selection of Chinese treats, including fortune cookies and kites, with all funds going back into supporting Ricefield’s work.

The other half of our hardworking team spent the day under a tree, teaching children (and interested adults!) Chinese crafts. Huiyun shared her origami skills, Charlie helped build paper lanterns, while Clarinda taught the crowds how to make their own Chinese kites. The scene itself was magical, as the lanterns dangled from the tree and people tested their new creations in the breeze. It perhaps wasn’t sunny, but this was picturesque enough I think!

Getting to experience the festival from the perspective of a volunteer really made the day special for me, as I appreciated not only highlighting Chinese culture, but also being part of this wider celebration of Glasgow’s diversity and multiculturalism. I enjoyed chatting to visitors about China, while eating some amazing Indian ice cream and sharing Mexican tacos, and finishing it off by watching some Bhangra dancing. It really was a day to reflect on Glasgow as an international city, making Ricefield’s work with Chinese communities and culture seem all the more vital as part of our shared growth.’

 

Hong Lok Lion Dance

Hong Lok Lion Dance

Calligraphy

Calligraphy

Some of our Ricefield volunteers

Some of our Ricefield volunteers

Calligraphy Practice

Calligraphy Practice

To see more of our photos from Glasgow Mela, you can visit our Facebook page.

Chinese Vegetarian Potluck Dinner

Here is a recap of our Chinese Vegetarian Potluck Dinner from Ricefield Volunteer, Laura Matheson:

“On Wednesday 25 May, I joined Ricefield at the Project Cafe for their annual vegetarian potluck dinner, carrying my tupperware of spring onion pancakes. The cafe was a great spot in the evening sunshine and the smell of fried noodles was very inviting, as was the over flowing dessert table! This year’s event was part of CCA’s Cooking Pot, and the variety of dishes we shared was definitely in keeping with this programme. Marie, our Chair, welcomed our guests from all over Glasgow, before we gave our own introductions. Ya Hong very kindly brought two dishes, a cucumber salad and potato pancakes, while Else showed off her husband’s excellent, Malaysian-inspired coconut dessert. Family played a part in Marie’s dish also, with her mother offering a helping hand earlier for her red bean soup. Chantel’s traditional Emperor’s Rice Pudding doubled as an art project, where she sent us home with the recipe and challenged us to rival her cooking skills. Sadly, Bella and I were newbies to Chinese cooking, but there wasn’t much of our pancakes and shredded potatoes left at the end of the night either! My favourite part of the dinner wasn’t just the food, but having a chance to share the memories attached to our dishes and to learn more about each other. And of course, home cooked food is the best kind of food. I think we can say for sure that no one left hungry, and that we were all a little inspired to try to bring a bit more of China into our cooking.”

 

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