The Hong Kong Communication Art Centre is in the Causeway Bay area of the city, five minutes from Victoria Park and ten from the Happy Valley race course. Public transport in Hong Kong is so efficient, however, that you can be anywhere you want in less than half an hour. Mass transit is cheap, clean and reliable. It's a city that keeps its population moving.
Winston and I were welcomed by the principal Dr William Eng and side kick Herbert, who, should the franchise go through, will be responsible for liaison with St Mary's.
Talks were brisk and friendly. We were given a brief presentation and shown some videoed samples of student work. In many ways HKCAC seems a very good fit. They believe strongly in vocational training and in linking academic study with employability. Most of their work is assessed practically and it was clear from the short clips I saw that the students are committed, engaged and work hard at their craft. There are a couple of areas where we need to be careful that a match can be made. The degree is going to be delivered in English and although most of the students in the College are bi-lingual, HKCAC agreed to offer some additional support for those who might struggle, particularly on written assignments. I also felt that some of the physical work was slightly inhibited in comparison to what we'd expect form our students in their final year. This might be a cultural difference, but I suspect there may be a case for a week long induction workshop run by Kasia to help the students bridge the gap from Level 2 to Level 3. Our hosts listened carefully and seemed very keen to make these adjustments.
After lunch we headed further East to a new purpose built art centre from where Dr Eng is proposing the course might be run. It was incredibly impressive. A beautiful 670 seat theatre, 4 excellent rehearsal rooms, 2 dance studios, a cafeteria, Wi-fi ready green room, 3 small rooms equipped with pianos, plenty of storage space, a TV and a photographic studio. There was even a band room complete with guitars, keyboards and drums where either formal sessions or impromptu jams can take place. On the upper floor are seventy twin rooms so that visiting companies can lodge on site. It really was the stuff of dreams. I immediately began to wonder whether it would be possible to bring some of our work out on tour. It also provided a glimpse of the kind of purpose built arts centre that, if we're going to expand, we should be looking to build in West London. At the minute our stock in trade is in imaginative but essentially poorly resourced theatre making. Imagine combining the creativie skills of our students with the resources available to our colleagues in Hong Kong.
We ended the visit with a cup of tea and a shake of hands. CAC are keen to move forward fast, hoping to take a first cohort of St Mary's (HK) students on in February of next year. There's still some way to go in terms of due diligence and quality assurance procedures but I left sensing that this could be a very exciting and fruitful project not just widening Drama St Mary's international profile but also, in the longer term, providing some exciting opportunities for our students to define their own aesthetics and methodologies by working abroad.