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'Song of the Female Textile Workers' UK-China Digital Connectivity

Song of The Female Textile Workers, UK-China digital connectivity, is a newly awarded project by UKRI in response to the AHRC call on UK-China Creative Partnerships: Responding to the longer-term impacts of COVID-19. The award was made in November 2020 and runs from 1st December 2020 to 30th November 2021.

The one year project sees the creation of a one-actress performance, led by WANG Rousang, China national star performer of xiaosheng role (male cross dressing) at Shanghai Yue Opera House, in collaboration with Shanghai Textile Museum, Leeds Industrial Museum, stage@leeds, Yorkshire based script writer Mary Cooper and digital SME Human VR. The creation process will be entirely held online, with rehearsals and performances live streamed between Shanghai Yue Opera House, China and Stage@LeedsDigital, UK.

(Image from Immersive Performance Fate of Love (zaishengyuan) created by Shanghai Yue Opera House (SYOH) in 2018, photo curtesy to SYOH)

The project will readdress Chinese Opera as a community-based music theatre and exemplify the interwoven development of Shanghai All-Female Yueju and the Shanghai Textile Industry from their historical formation to post-industrial digital transformation. The project will closely examine the transitional stage of China de-industrialisation, represented by the late 1990s Shanghai textile industry mass redundancy and the creation of Shanghai arts creative cluster M50 to search for commonalities of UK-China Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI) establishment and community socio-economic impact. The creative process explores a number of key theories within Performance and Cultural Industries studies: Actor's Theatre - Director's Theatre; stage aesthetics and audience taste; Intangible Cultural Heritage in digital economy;  as well as the role of industrial sites turned arts and creative cluster in driving international branding and local sustainable development, and associated government policy.

(Image from Shanghai Story 2014. Aunt Stewardess)

Song of The Female Textile Workers, UK-China digital connectivity is built on the two awarded AHRC projects: AHRC Newton Fund Creative Economy in China, Popular Performance for New Urban Audiences: reconnecting M50 creative cluster with Shanghai All-Female Yue Opera (2018-21), and the AHRC UK-China Partnership Development Fund Bridging the Gaps: mixed reality performance of Chinese opera in Shanghai’s rural and urban heritage sites (2019 and 2020- 2023). All three projects are led by Dr. Haili Ma from the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds, UK.

The project findings will be widely disseminated through performance, digital tools, documentary films and journal articles, in both English and Chinese languages, and a culminating online Conference in November 2021.

The project will commence with Leeds Museums and Galleries website streaming 6 short documentary films between 12th and 26th February to coincide with the 15 days celebration of 2021 Chinese New Year.

(Image from Love of the Butterfly holographic performance produced in 2019 by Tencent and Zhejiang Hundred Little Flower Yueju Troupe (ZHLFYT), photo courtesy to ZHLFYT)

All images appeared in this article are featured in the 6 short documentary films, which are currently exhibited/streamed at Leeds Industrial Museum, with full stories expanded.