Song of the Female Textile Workers: About the Project

Song of The Female Textile Workers, UK-China digital connectivity, is an 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 till 30th November 2021.

The project sees the creation of a one-actress performance, led by WANG Rousang, China national star performer (国家一级演员)of xiaosheng role (male cross dressing) at Shanghai Yue Opera House, in collaboration with Shanghai Textile Museum, Leeds Industrial Museum, stage@leeds, Yorkshire based digital SMEs (small and medium enterprise) Human VR and DUBIT. The creation process will be entirely held online, and rehearsals and performances live streamed between Shanghai Yue Opera House, China and stage@leedsDigital, UK.

The project builds on the three awarded AHRC projects: AHRC Newton Fund Creative Economy Development in China, “Popular Performance for New Urban Audiences” (2018-21) and the AHRC Partnership Development Fund “Bridging the Gaps: mixed reality performance of Chinese opera in Shanghai’s rural and urban heritage sites” (2019 and 2020- 2023). Each of these projects takes Shanghai All-Female Yueju, a rural sing-song form turned popular Shanghai music theatre, through the patronage of Shanghai female textile workers, as a case study to examine China’s post-industrial transition of socio-economic conditions (Popular Performance for New Urban Audience) and to test UK digital Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) China market entry strategy (Bridging the Gaps) and sustainable long term UK-China cultural and creative industries collaboration (Song of the Female Textile Workers).

The new project follows on from the theme of the previous projects but will explore the commonalities with a UK audience, with a focus upon issues of gender, class and migration, bridging understanding of the UK-China post-industrial transitions to a new digital era.

Dr. Haili Ma, Associate Professor of Chinese Performance and Creative Economy at the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds, and the Principal Investigator on all awarded projects comments on the collaboration: ‘COVID-19 made us realise that digital connectivity is a common daily activity and how global we truly have become. There are challenges in building a UK-China joint production and consumption platform, but we are very excited to have identified the commonality of the textile industry and female textile workers past and present. We are keen to explore how digital connectivity may assist to consolidate the joint heritage of the two nations and its contribution to post-industrial creative economy across UK and China.’

A series of events are planned throughout the year, commencing with Leeds Industrial Museums online exhibition where a series of documentary films on the subject will be played between 15th and 26th February during the 2021 Chinese New Year.