A show of global unity

A show of global unity

A once-in-a-lifetime performance brought students together in Paris

November 04, 2012
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Members of the Hong Kong delegation to Unesco in Paris. Back row (from left) Poon Lok-yi, Chan Shuk-fan, Lau Chung-chak, and Chung Yan-yin. Front row: Law Chun-hin (left) and Chan Chun-ling.
Members of the Hong Kong delegation to Unesco in Paris. Back row (from left) Poon Lok-yi, Chan Shuk-fan, Lau Chung-chak, and Chung Yan-yin. Front row: Law Chun-hin (left) and Chan Chun-ling.
Photo: Thomas Yau/SCMP
The United Nations is more than just an organisation. It's an idea of what humanity can achieve when we all strive for peace and unity.

Based in Paris, Unesco is the UN's educational branch that seeks to promote these ideals. Six Hong Kong students experienced first-hand the kind of unity the world could - and should - have.

They were among 100 students from 14 countries who were recruited for a three-week programme as part of the third annual Brave Kids Festival 2012.

The students served as their countries' cultural ambassadors and taught others about their traditions. After a stay in Poland, they headed to Paris to stage a grand finale performance at the Unesco headquarters.

The six Hong Kong representatives - Leo Lau Chung-chak, Sophie Chan Shuk-fan, Kenny Law Chun-hin, Flora Chan Chun-ling, Poon Lok-yi and Chung Yan-yin - were selected as part of the Hong Kong Youth Drama Ambassador Scheme. While in Poland, they stayed in the city of Wroclaw and participated in workshops and seminars run by the Song of the Goat Theatre Association.

"They focused on Polish theatre training," says Zoe Lai Sim-fong, artistic director of the HK Youth Drama Ambassador Scheme and leader of the HK group. "They did running and athletic work, and partner work, like gymnastics, circus skills, and street theatre with juggling."

At a hostel, members from various countries bonded with one another - or at least tried to.

"One of the girls from Africa just came in and wanted to shower together with a girl from our group," explains Leo. "We were like, 'You're so rude'. But it was her way of trying to be friendly with us. We had to learn to accept it."

Soon such cultural barriers were broken down and friendships began to form in earnest.

"The girls from Norway were very enthusiastic and would always hug us when they said hello and goodbye," says Leo, a student at Liu Po Shan Memorial College. "At first, I thought it was strange, but finally I came to really like it."


Photo: Zoe Lai

Students from each country were required to produce a 20-minute theatre performance in Poland. The Hong Kong group had rehearsed on and off for more than two weeks. They put on a memorable show based on the Chinese book The Classic of Mountains and Seas. It included dance and erhu performances, and an eye-catching ribbon routine.

The groups then travelled to Paris for a show which combined each nation's performances from Poland.

"The artistic director from the theatre [Song of Goat] picked different elements from each group," explains Lai. "We had an interesting scene with an umbrella and they expanded on it by adding [more performers] into our scene."

The 45-minute performance raised the roof at a packed conference hall at Unesco's headquarters.

"The audience featured prominent figures like ambassadors," says Lai. "They said they'd never seen anything like that - a combination of so many cultures in a single show."

By the end of the three-week programme, many close friendships were forged. But that made parting ways for a return trip back home all the more difficult. There were hugs, tears and fond farewells aplenty.


The grand finale performance at the Unesco headquarters. Photo: Zoe Lai

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