Volunteer Blog: Glasgow Kite Festival 2018

Ricefield Arts was delighted to host Glasgow Kite Festival on Sunday 22 July at Bellahouston Park.  Visitors arrived to a sky filled with kites, and were given the chance to build their own following traditional Chinese methods.

The Kite Festival was supported by Festival 2018, the cultural programme for the Glasgow 2018 European Championships.

Here new volunteer Veronika Mihaylova shares her experience of the big day:

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to join Ricefield Arts & Cultural Centre, which is a social enterprise that is known for delivering original and inspiring Chinese cultural experiences across Scotland. I was part of the Glasgow Kite Festival that took place on  22 July 2018 at Bellahouston Park in the southside of Glasgow. The event aimed to not only share interesting facts about kites and their origin but also to promote creative activities such as how to make your own kite, treasure hunting, trying on traditional Chinese clothing, face painting and making bathbombs.

The volunteer team at Glasgow Kite Festival

Kites (风筝, fēngzheng) were first introduced in China over 2000 years ago, where they were mainly used for sailing communication, making signals and testing the wind strength. China had the ideal materials for kite making that include silk fabric for sailing and a resilient bamboo for a strong lightweight framework. The very first Chinese kites were actually flat and shaped like a rectangle.

Handmade kite displayed in Bellahouston Park

For most of the event, I was on the information point, where I was receiving feedback and providing any relevant information about the festival. As a newcomer, I was amazed by the huge amount of families who left overwhelmingly positive messages on our feedback kite tree. Many children took the time to draw their own small kites and hang them on our decorative tree, while others were seeking clues for the treasure hunt; the goal of which was to encourage people to look for hidden kites in the area and answer seven questions for the prize of a fortune cookie.

Volunteers at the Festival Information Desk

People also had the opportunity to make their own kites from bamboo, which was the most popular activity of all and left many waiting. Fortunately, there was an alternative where they could hire kites of various sizes or try their luck at the lucky draw to win a kite, a customised kite festival badge, temporary tattoo, the popular Chinese fans, picnic blankets or the grand prize of Mugstock Festival weekend tickets.

A festival visitor makes their own kite

Many people took the time to try on the traditional Chinese hanfu clothing and take one of our self-crafted frames for a memorable photo, while small children got their face painted by Stardust Designs.

Traditional Chinese hanfu clothing

Mid-festival Bonnie the Seal, the mascot of the Glasgow 2018 European Championships, joined us. Many children were very excited to meet Bonnie and got the opportunity to take pictures (or as Bonnie calls them ‘sealfies’).

Bonnie the Seal visiting the Kite Festival

Glasgow Kite Festival was a perfectly windy summer day for kite-flying and I am very excited for the next upcoming events in August: one of them being the Big Summer Get Together at the Hidden Gardens on the 11th and Glasgow Canal Festival on the 25th. If what you just read sounds like fun, you could join me and the rest of the volunteers by signing up today.

Take a look at the kites in action! Jarvis Gray produced a short video recap of the festival experience:

Finally, have a look at some great moments captured on camera by Ricefield volunteers Kevin Schneider and Wenjie Lai.

Thanks to our partners Glasgow Sport, Glasgow Life, The Kite Club of Scotland, and our local partners Gilded Lily, Chinese Community Development Partnership and Interfaith Glasgow.

Find out more about Festival 2018 by visiting their website: www.festival2018glasgow.com

Glasgow Mela 2018

Here Ricefield Arts volunteer Kevin Schneider shares his first experience of volunteering at Glasgow Mela, as well as some of the cultural background of our activities this year:

It has been a few years since Ricefield started its presence at Mela, the biggest free multicultural festival in Scotland. I joined this massive event for the first time and was quite stunned by the diversity of cultures, colours, music, and clothing gathered at Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow. The smell of Indian, Pakistani, and various other kinds of food was a blessing for the 45,000 people record crowd, but a curse for us volunteers craving for the plethora of cuisines.

The growing Chinese community in Glasgow was reflected by a great turnout of Ricefield volunteers, and together we tried to make visible what is often hidden from the public: our Chinese community’s cultural heritage. A big part of this heritage exists as memories of childhood: making lanterns out of paper; building and flying your own kite; learning how to write Chinese characters. With these and other activities we tried to bring closer some of this Chinese heritage to the Scottish public. This was accompanied by several dance performances in Chinese tradition on the main stage of the festival and around Ricefield’s workshop space and stalls.


Lanterns (灯笼, dēnglóng) have had a central role in Chinese culture since the Han Dynasty. At least one hundred and fifty years BC, Chinese Buddhist monks started using the mostly, but not exclusively, red lanterns as miniature versions of ceremonial bonfires. Since those times, the Chinese lantern has been engraved in the Western view of China and still forms a major element of decoration and ceremony in the Chinese heartlands and beyond. Similar but even more colourful lanterns were decorating Ricefield’s spaces at this year’s Mela, and, with the help of their parents and our volunteers, children produced sticker-covered paper lanterns in large numbers that could be seen hanging from trees all around.


The main stage at Mela featured dozens of dance and music groups, from the various groups performing the traditional Punjabi dance Bhangra to the joyful Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band, but this year the visitors also had the chance to see Chinese dance performances. The Lantern Dance by children of the Glasgow Oriental Dancing Association (GODA) was for sure one of the visitors’ favourites. Their flawless performance was enhanced by the fact that they were just adorable. An absolute novelty was a passionate cross-cultural performance by Chinese, Flamenco, and Kathak dancers, supported by Ricefield. What surprised me was how easily one could find similarities among those three dancing styles from three distinct cultures, such as the movement of hands or facial expressions. Offstage, two lion dance (舞狮, wǔshī) performances by the martial arts group Yee’s Hung-Ga attracted the crowds to Ricefield’s premises, where they were met with cabbage spitting by our beloved, very acrobatic lion. This year, some of our volunteers also showed off their Chinese dancing skills, in traditional Chinese attire, to the visitors’ delight.


Have you ever wondered what your name looks like in Chinese characters? Based on a name’s pronunciation, similar-sounding characters can be used to assemble a Chinese version of non-Chinese names. As it is hard for us Westerners to remember those complicated Chinese characters, our volunteers helped the visitors by using their calligraphy (书法, shūfǎ) skills to “engrave” Chinese tattoos on their hands. Protected by a tent from the unusually strong Glasgow sun, guests were then invited to make their own paper dragons, which led to some splendid results. Dragons (, lóng) have been an integral part of Chinese tradition for at least 7000 years now, and were a popular symbol of power during the imperial days.


With a tradition even longer than that of lanterns, kites (风筝, fēngzheng) were invented in China at least as early as the 5th century BC, in the early Warring States period (战国时代, zhànguó shídài). Originally the kites’ sails were made out of silk instead of paper, which, together with a bamboo framework, made for a lightweight design. The first record of paper kites dates back to 549 AD, but they may have already been used earlier than that, since paper had been invented about 700 years before that. While historically they had been used for communication, signalling, and testing the wind, kites soon gained importance as a form of entertainment, which lasts until today. The skill of building kites was taught at the Mela Festival by our volunteers most skilled in handicraft, and the children were immediately filled with joy when seeing their own kites up in the air.


Chinese kites, paper cuts, calligraphy tools, and many other items connected with Chinese culture could be purchased at our merchandise stall. There, fortune favoured the bold visitor who bought our red pockets or Chinese fortune cookies. Both fun and delicious prizes awaited the winners.


Mela 2018 was a sunny summer treat for thousands, and I am already looking forward to our next big event, the first ever Glasgow Kite Festival on 22nd July! Come along and volunteer, or just fly a kite with us!

Thanks Kevin! Find out more about Glasgow Mela on the festival’s website. Special thanks to Yee’s Hung Ga Edinburgh for another spectacular Lion Dance.

Poaceae & Chameleon

Ricefield Arts was delighted to host poet Larry Butler, as part of Voluntary Arts Scotland’s My Time project. You might have spotted him at our events last year, including a special appearance as a Christmas bell in the Glasgow Style Mile Carnival, and a guest at our Tea Ceremony.  Larry also spoke to volunteers, members of the Ricefield team and our founders, to keep a better idea of our work and its impact on the Scottish community.

He has recently completed an original poem all about Ricefield, which we’re excited to share with you. You can also catch Larry reading Poaceae & Chameleon live, including at the Scottish Poetry Library. Visit the Voluntary Arts Scotland site for more info about upcoming events.

Chinese New Year at Kelvin Hall

This year Ricefield celebrated the Year of the Dog at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall, with a day of family-friendly games and activities. Here new Ricefield volunteer Kevin Schneider shares his experience of the event:

The 16th of February 2018 in the Gregorian Calendar marked the beginning of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dog. I, born in 1991, a sheep, can only envy the personality traits assigned to this year’s zodiac: friendliness, honesty, loyalty, smartness, and a strong sense of responsibility. My first time volunteering for Ricefield, with no Chinese background whatsoever (other than being married to a Chinese woman, which probably means being married to Chinese culture), I tried to let those virtues lead the way to a successful day. Friendliness to our visitors, honesty in writing, loyalty to my (team) leader, smartness in the game, and a strong sense of responsibility in spearheading Chinese culture, representing my culture-in-law.


This year, on Sunday, 25th of February, the activity path consisted of eight main activities in Kelvin Hall as well as further events and attractions in the Kelvingrove Museum and the Riverside Museum. All of those activities were and are deeply rooted in Chinese culture, many with hundreds of years of history. At the event, their success lay in their general appeal to small children, as much as to the retired lay-connoisseurs of the Chinese way, reminded of their first contact to Far Eastern culture in the 1970s. Young and old joined the quest to get those longed-for zodiac stickers through mastering various challenges, as a sign of their ever-increasing knowledge of Chinese culture.

The first task for many is a classic: chopsticks! Both children and adults could practise their skills on dummy food items to sharpen their dexterity and avoid the embarrassing moment of having to ask for knives and forks again on their next trip to one of Glasgow’s many excellent Chinese restaurants, and to show off in front of their relatives. Also requiring dexterity and concentration, the art of calligraphy poses a challenge in an age when handwriting is giving way to hammering the keyboard. The artful way of writing Chinese characters also introduced some vocabulary to the visitors at this desk, and for me it was time to revise essential words such as (shēng, life), (dà, big), or (hăo, good). Having to use a brush for writing did not make it easier, to be honest.


From the skilfulness of the hand to the strength of the mind, one ancient and one not that ancient board game were further challenges. Five-in-a-row (五子棋, wǔzǐqí) originated in Japan and is played on a board and with stones used for Go (围棋, wéiqí), which was created in China and has a history exceeding 2500 years. The rules are simple: Whoever can arrange five stones in a row (or diagonally) first, wins the game. Being familiar with the Western version of chess, it took me more moves than I thought to prevail over my elementary school opponent. After my hard-fought victory, I quickly moved on to the next table to witness an ongoing game of Chinese chequers, which originated in Germany, but found its way to China, where it is more popular now than in Europe. The rules are again simple: The player who manages to move all of his or her pieces to the opposite side of the board first wins. But only who can master the art of hopping, can truly master the game.


The shuttlecock game was probably the easiest challenge for the football-acquainted Scottish youth, while it proved quite a challenge to me and my two left feet. Keeping this bundle of disks (with feathers attached) in the air can be quite tricky. Less athleticism but more creativity was required for making animals, houses, and much more with wooden triangles and other shapes. The completed creations are called tangrams (七巧板, qīqiǎobǎn), which nowadays can also be found in Western homes. Dog homes were made using paper at yet another table, particularly by younger visitors, who also recreated this year’s zodiac by making cute little paper dogs.


In between all of those activities, visitors and volunteers had the chance to see one of the highlights of every Chinese New Year festivity, the lion dance. The dance was performed by martial artists from Hung-Ga, who also played on traditional percussion instruments. For the first time seeing a lion dance live, I was probably just as entertained as the young children in the front line, who were visibly scared by the approaching and cabbage-spitting red lion.

My own responsibility was to help the visitors dress in hànfú (汉服) costumes and take photos in front of a red lantern background. Wearing traditional Chinese clothes was definitely a delight for many, and I also had my share of fun pretending to be a high Chinese official from many hundreds years ago. Lots of material for profile photos, and I will try to get one of those pictures onto my next University of Glasgow student card. Wish me luck!


Wishing luck and fortune is at the heart of every Chinese New Year. The celebrations at Kelvin Hall were no different and children could make a wish at the wishing tree. More than one wished for a dog. Of course! Who would wish for a sheep?!

All the cheerful adults, smiling children, and my fellow volunteers at my first volunteering event for Ricefield turned me into a lucky dog.

A Happy Dog Year to everyone!

狗年旺旺旺 !

 

 

 

 

Vote for Glasgow Kite Festival!

Vote now! Click here.

This summer Ricefield Arts plans to host the first ever Glasgow Kite Festival, and we need your help to make this dream happen!

Kites have a long history in China, having first been developed over 2000 years ago to measure distance and wind speeds. Kite design has since become a unique art form, and flying them is popular around China, and the world. We would like to celebrate this cultural heritage through a programme of craft workshops throughout Glasgow, where we work with local communities to design their own kites from scratch. We will join together to test our creations in the Glasgow breeze on 22 July 2018 at Glasgow Kite Festival, a day of family fun and multi-cultural experiences.

Festival 2018 runs alongside the Glasgow 2018 European Championships this summer, and brings together community groups through art and cultural activities, like our proposed Glasgow Kite Festival. Bringing the festival to life relies on the generous funding of the Festival 2018 Our Place Fund, the allocation of which is voted for by Glasgow residents – like you!

If you’d like to see the Glasgow sky filled with kites, please vote for our proposal on the Our Place Fund website. Voting is open 6 February – 9 March 2018. Please note you must vote for five proposals for your vote to be counted.

Please share with family and friends you think might be interested: every votes count.

We’re thankful for your support! Thank you also to our event partners: Glasgow Mela, Interfaith Glasgow, Gilded Lily Inspiring Enterprise and Chinese Community Development Partnership.

Vote now! Click here.

Christmas Style Mile Carnival

On Sunday 26 November Ricefield Arts was delighted to take part in the Glasgow Christmas Style Mile Carnival. Ricefield’s theme was Christmas bells, and our float and costumes were designed and made by hand by some of our very talented artists. Here volunteer Lee Yutung has written about her experience as a performer:

It was a busy Tuesday for the Ricefield Team, preparing our costumes for the coming carnival! We were using our imagination to decorate the clothes and to make our own unique piece. Every one was a designer and an artist! Thank you to all the talented people who joined us and inspired each other to make such wonderful costumes.

Glasgow’s winter is cold and the snow gave us a hint that Christmas is coming! Luckily, the sun showed its smiling face on Sunday 28 November.

Ricefield volunteers dressed as gold bells, with silver eye shadow decorating our eyes, gold powder decorating our cheeks, and small gold balls and a garland with berries decorating our hair. We were all excited and looked forward to joining the afternoon winter parade!

We moved to Argyle Street at 2:30 pm and waited for the parade to start. Other volunteers were also waiting there and were rehearsing. Every team had its own theme. Some dressed like medieval singers with a walking stick in their hands and some dressed as angels with snow white costumes. Some children played Oliver Twist, dressed with black dust on their faces and some kids dressed as little eagles with a mask covering their faces.

Many fancy parade floats were displayed on the street,  alongside the performers. Our theme was the Christmas golden bell. Therefore, our volunteers carefully prepared two big red bells with silver belts and some decorative gold patterns and used the artificial green leaves to tie the bells together. The golden bell is always an indispensable element of Christmas. The design we created mixed in Chinese elements. Red colour in China symbolises good fortune, especially when it is used in festivals.

The bell led our team through the parade as our float. We danced freely by following the music played by the drummers ahead of us. We were smiling and waved to the people standing on the side of the road and gave them high fives. We had a dancing mascot made by Yuen at the top of a flagstick which attracted the audience’s attention, particularly children, who waved and said hi to it.

We followed the crowds on the route, dancing to the music as happy gold bells celebrating Christmas time. People on the road sides also waved to us and smiled. Everyone enjoyed the carnival as there’s only happiness in the festive world.       

Visit Glasgow Loves Christmas for more information about winter celebrations in the city. Thanks to Bridgeman Arts for their support.

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.

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