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 生 (shēng, life), 大 (dà, big), or 好 (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.
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.
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 28November.
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.
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.
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
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.
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’.
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 match 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.
Over 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.