An historic area in one of the world’s biggest cities has turned to Cork for advice on how to stage more festivals as it seeks to become one of Shanghai’s cultural hubs.
The mayor of Changning district, Xie Feng, who oversees a huge urban area of 800,000 people in the southern precinct of the sprawling 25 million population Chinese mega city, said he has been impressed by the range of Cork city’s festivals, including this weekend’s Jazz festival, since his city, China’s second city, twinned with Ireland’s second city a decade ago.
And as he prepares to visit Cork and Dublin next month, Mr Xie has asked his officials to link in with officials in Cork City Council for advice on how they can improve their festivals offering in Changning.
“We would like to learn how to build a year-long cultural programme,” Mr Xie said. He was speaking during a lengthy meeting with Cork’s lord mayor Chris O’Leary in Changning District offices in Shanghai over the weekend — a meeting organised as part of celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the Cork Shanghai twinning.
Mr Xie spoke of the common ground shared by his district and the southern capital — Scoil Mhuire and Ursulines in Cork city have links to schools in Changning, both areas are of similar geographical size, both have rich cultural backgrounds and strong architectural heritage.
He also cited Cork’s designation by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s must-see city destinations. He said he was particularly struck by the city’s varied festival programme and said it was a key area in which his officials could learn more. “We must push forward our friendship to new heights,” he said.
Mr O’Leary said the cultural strand of the twinning link was one of the key pillars of the relationship between the cities which will ensure that citizens of each will benefit directly.
He also pledged to deepen the educational links by working to ensure that more schools are linked in with each other for teacher and student exchanges.
The meeting took place hours before the city council-supported Pulses of Tradition Irish song and dance show got a standing ovation from a 1,000-strong audience in Shanghai’s Yihai Theatre, staged for the Shanghai International Arts Festival.
The performance was attended by some of the city’s most influential political figures, including Gao Xiaomei, the vice chairwoman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Shanghai Committee and Shao Huixiang, the deputy director general of the Shanghai Municipal Foreign Affairs Committee.
Also in attendance was Wang Jun, the CEO of the Shanghai International Arts Festival, her deputy CEO Yang Jing, and Eoghan Duffy, the vice consul general of Ireland. Members of the Pulses team are due to perform on The Late Late Show in the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, after meetings between Ronnie Dorney, principal social worker with the HSE South, and government officials in another part of Shanghai, more talks are planned which could see the Chinese government adopt elements of an Irish community health project — the Northside Health Action Zone — which operates on the northside of Cork city.
The Chinese are interested in learning more about the best parts of the Irish approach to primary care and the care of older people.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved