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.

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 !

 

 

 

 

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