Popular performance for new urban audiences: reconnecting M50 creative cluster with Shanghai All-Female Yue Opera

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Performance & Cultural Industries

Abstract

This project will engage new urban audiences with traditional Chinese opera through the digital mediation of performance into a heritage site in Shanghai, focusing on Shanghai All-Female Yue Opera and reviving its historical connection to the Shanghai M50 contemporary arts creative cluster. The project will explore how this kind of engagement with traditional forms may provide opportunities to enhance small and medium enterprise business development in partnership with the public sector, establishing a 'creative chain' that will enhance the diversity and sustainability of Shanghai's urban creative economy.

Yue Opera first entered Shanghai from the rural countryside of Zhejiang province following the influx of Zhejiang female workers to the expanding Shanghai textile industry in the early 20th century, where it evolved into an urban popular cultural form identified with female performers and audience in Shanghai. In the 1990s, nationwide state enterprise reform, textile factory closures and worker redundancies cut off the traditional audience as well as state patronage. The M50 creative cluster was established at the site of one such textile factory and has since developed into a world-renowned creative cluster. It currently houses more than 140 artists' studios, galleries and other creative companies, from over 20 countries and regions, presenting international contemporary art. It is today the symbol of China's transitional economy - from 'made in China' to 'created in China'. However, despite its historical association with Yue Opera, at M50 there is no presence associated with traditional Chinese opera and no tourism or other literature providing this link or history for visitors. This project will reconnect M50 to its historical association with Yue Opera, and re-present Yue Opera for a contemporary urban audience as an art form of constant evolution; and do so at a site now renowned for contemporary art, including media and digital work.

The project will result in a series of public site-specific installations at M50 developed through archival, historical and contemporary audience research and collaboration with local businesses and stakeholders. The installations will use digital media to re-present aspects of Yue Opera, and its historical links to M50, to a broad public. This will include the use of iPads by visitors acting as hand-held guides, large-scale projected installations of performance, the site-specific screening on monitors of contextual and other material, as well as the facilitation of visitor participation and the embedding of media into interactive objects of historical or contemporary relevance. The project will also result in a documentary video, a co-edited book, and a report to the Shanghai Municipal Government, to ensure the widest possible dissemination. The project will include two public symposia that will bring interested parties from the UK and China to contribute to and debate the implications of the project as it develops and in its culmination.

Our case study aims to demonstrate how by engaging new urban audiences for Yue Opera a creative industry chain may be built in collaborations between public and private sectors. In this creative industry chain, the private and public sectors work together to identify specific consumer groups and develop local markets: in this case in relationships between music business, design merchandise, and the reinterpretation of traditional performing arts. This creative industry chain is intended to outlive the duration of the research project and contribute to the diversity and sustainability of the creative economy development in Shanghai. In these ways, the project will contribute to Shanghai's ambitions to build a global cultural city of diversity, creativity and sustainability. The project will also offer a model relevant to the sustainable development of other traditional opera forms across China, of which there are up to 300 nationwide.

Planned Impact

The project will generate pathways to impact on a range of non-academic audiences, professional groups and organisations:

1. Our first route to impact will be the M50 performance/installations and their engagement of new urban audiences for SYO. The process of developing the installations also provide significant routes to impact. Archival work conducted in the first year of the project will provide information on how SYO acted a way of life for M50 workers and was absorbed into their everyday practices until the1999 closure of the textile mills. In year two and year three, the research information collected will focus on post-1990s SYO audience development in relation to M50. Some of the data currently exists on SYO House's own website, however, there is little reference to SYO new urban audience engagement through reconnecting with its own historical heritage site, the M50 creative cluster. The project will provide more comprehensive research relating to SYO and its audiences, as well as the reconnection of M50 with its own heritage. The project website will address policy-makers, artists, art organizations and creative industry SMEs across China and the UK. As SYO is the only all-female Chinese opera and representative art form of the urban female, this information will also be of interest to artists, designers and cultural policy makers who are interested in promoting female art forms and female audience expression and communication. The research findings will be disseminated in a more synthesized form (e.g. briefing papers) via the project website, key strands of the project will also be addressed in the co-authored monograph and a documentary film.

2. The second pathway to impact comes from the research links, activities and outputs generated by the project's presence at M50 in Shanghai and the two symposiums held in Shanghai and Cardiff. A major part of this project involves interviews with M50 business occupants and visitors, external partners and symposium attendees from China as well as the UK. To integrate M50 further with this project, the Shanghai project symposium in month 18 will be jointly held by Shanghai Theatre Academy and M50 Bandu. A team of UK creative economy representatives are invited to attend, with the intention of forging arts and business links between China and UK. This connection will then be consolidated at the Cardiff symposium in month 36, which will provide an end-point and report back on emergent collaborations and new activities in relation to the project and beyond. This forum between industry, the academics and public audience offers a clear pathway to impact for the research emerging from this project. The international dissemination advances the research project's stated aims to explore Shanghai's development as a 'Creative City' more widely in China and beyond.

3. The third pathway to impact will be delivered through the project's catalyzing of collaborations between the four external partners, and potentially other participants, to develop and establish a creative industry chain, in which, public and private sectors work reciprocally to identify new consumers and markets. Such a creative industry chain will outlive the duration of this research period. This process will be of potential interest to government policy makers concerned to revive market vibrancy and support SMEs sustainability. As there are currently around 300 forms of traditional Chinese opera actively trying to identify ways of engaging new audiences, this project will also draw attention from policy makers, other creative industry SMEs, and potentially influence policy making and funding strategies. The process of establishing such a creative chain will form the basis of commissioned reports to both Chinese government and UK Arts Council and will be documented and disseminated through a project video which will provide an animated tool kit for other collaborators.

Publications

10 25 50
publication icon
MA H (2019) Ghost in M50 Host

 
Description The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Newton Project: Creative Economy in China: Popular Performances by New Urban Audiences, Reconnecting the M50 Creative Industry with Shanghai All-Female Yue Opera (2018-2021), is currently testing a mixed reality performance Ghost in M50 Host. The project is co-chaired by Professor HUANG Changyong of the Shanghai Theatre Academy and Dr. MA Haili of the University of Leeds, UK with industry partners including; Shanghai Yue Opera Theatre and Shanghai M50. It aims to reconnect the history of the Chinese textile factory female workers, and their art form Shanghai all-female Yue opera, with today's M50 and its visitors, whilst exploring development of creative economy in China.

Post-industrial economic development has seen the reuse of abandoned industrial sites to create contemporary art clusters which revitalize cities and develop the local creative economy. These creative clusters, however, rarely mention the displaced industry workers' cultural activities, and their working-class art forms' continued evolution in the context of creative economy. One such example is a former Shanghai textile factory now internationally known as the M50 contemporary arts cluster.



The Shanghai textile industry was the symbol of China's modernity. With it, grew China's first female working class. Their new capital consumption power allowed these young migrant females to patron their own art form: sponsoring their village sisters to sing hometown folk songs in Shanghai's modern theatres; and to fund new productions with innovative music and scripted stories of the females' dreams of love and equality. By the eve of Mao Zedong's liberation of China in 1949, Shanghai All-female Yue Opera had developed as the symbol of Shanghai's working-class women.



Whilst generous state subsidies from the communist regime consolidated the female working class as recognized masters of the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), providing unprecedented welfare packages and funding for Shanghai Yue Opera expansion, this was accompanied by increasingly bureaucratic systems for SOEs and Yue Opera. From 1978, China commenced a programme of unwavering market reforms which were furthered by Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms. Nationwide redundancies and factory closures were initiated in 1992 and accelerated in 1997, restructuring SOEs towards technological and managerial competence for international competitiveness; manually transforming industry from 'made in China' to 'created in China'.

The Xinhe Cotton factory at 50 Mo Gan Shan Road was such an example. It was closed in 1999 and in 2000 reopened as the first creative cluster in China; and has since grown to become M50, an internationally renowned contemporary arts cluster. Today's visitors to M50 enjoy a new creative economy - the old factory buildings housing contemporary art workshops, galleries, coffee bars, restaurants and boutique

shops. However, one finds little reference of China's first female working class - apart from the one wall painting of textile female workers deep inside M50 - and no reference to their once cultural identity, Shanghai Yue Opera. The disconnection and alienation questions the nature of the creative cluster and the value of working-class arts in creative economy development in China and globally.

This mixed reality performance Ghost in M50 Host is produced jointly by The National Digital Performing Arts Lab, Shanghai Theatre Academy and the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds; it is scheduled to take place at Shanghai M50 in April 2020 and at Leeds in August 2020.
Exploitation Route researchers and industry people in performing arts and cultural industries can further incorporate research fundings and take them forward.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail

URL http://cyxy.sta.edu.cn/zycyxm/list.htm
 
Description Popular performance for new urban audiences: reconnecting M50 creative cluster with Shanghai All-Female Yue Opera 
Organisation Bandu Cabin
Country China 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Shanghai is one of the largest cities in China with a rich cultural heritage which attracts national and international tourists on a large scale. Yue Opera, as a relatively new phenomenon, given China's extensive history, is under-represented within the scope of contemporary urban audience, despite being one of the most representative cultural forms of Shanghai modernity. Whilst Yue Opera has its origin in the Zhejiang region it evolved to the current all-female form in Shanghai under patronage of the migrant female cotton-mill workers in the 1930s - the first working class female group created in China. Shanghai Yue Opera House was established in 1955 and remains the largest Yue Opera House in China to this day. Throughout the more recent period of China's economic expansion, art forms such as Yue Opera have been side-lined as focus has been placed on introduction of Western cultural goods and popular entertainment. Yue Opera is now performed to limited audience, mainly during tours to provincial areas, and the urban audience is decreasing. Although Shanghai Yue Opera is widely seen as a historical art form Shanghai Yue Opera House hosts talented artists and performers capable of producing contemporary productions of excellent quality. The main problem faced by the Opera House is the marketization of such work under existing financial and conceptual constraints. Yue Opera, as an all-female art form, is representative of China's first working class female group. It remains a representative art of Shanghai (and Chinese) women. The chance to reconnect with contemporary urban women which this project proposes is a timely opportunity for the Opera House to rebrand and present new and innovative work which is very welcomed.
Collaborator Contribution Shanghai Yue Opera Theatre: Shanghai Yue Opera House will allow the selection of copywritten media materials from our extensive archives to showcase the history of the art form Shanghai Yue Opera House artists and technicians will assist in the process of the project, including representatives attending all the workshops and 1 UK field trip over the three year period They will create links to our website and social media networks to advertise the project and disseminate information throughout project development Xaioya Opera Company participate in all the workshops throughout the three year period, will work collaboratively with Strand 2 team to create and perform one section of the digital media production (no more than 15minutes each performance), at the Leeds symposium, Shanghai symposium, and the final opening Shanghai Bandu: Available performing space at Bandu Music Bar located at M50 Tiangong Creative Ltd: design and launch a new "Shanghai Yue Women" themed merchandise targeting new urban consumers through the primary location of M50, which has the highest volume of new urban art consumers, who are familiar with digital media and are willing to consume new cultural products Shanghai Theatre Academy provide full support for Prof. Huang's role as CH PI on this project, along with the staff, space and equipment required to support installation and practice of material products and performance.
Impact digital exhibition/performance Ghost in M50 Host - multi-disciplinary: Chinese, performing arts, cultural industries, creative economy Power Point online publication Project summary online publication
Start Year 2018
 
Description Popular performance for new urban audiences: reconnecting M50 creative cluster with Shanghai All-Female Yue Opera 
Organisation Shanghai Theatre Academy
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Shanghai is one of the largest cities in China with a rich cultural heritage which attracts national and international tourists on a large scale. Yue Opera, as a relatively new phenomenon, given China's extensive history, is under-represented within the scope of contemporary urban audience, despite being one of the most representative cultural forms of Shanghai modernity. Whilst Yue Opera has its origin in the Zhejiang region it evolved to the current all-female form in Shanghai under patronage of the migrant female cotton-mill workers in the 1930s - the first working class female group created in China. Shanghai Yue Opera House was established in 1955 and remains the largest Yue Opera House in China to this day. Throughout the more recent period of China's economic expansion, art forms such as Yue Opera have been side-lined as focus has been placed on introduction of Western cultural goods and popular entertainment. Yue Opera is now performed to limited audience, mainly during tours to provincial areas, and the urban audience is decreasing. Although Shanghai Yue Opera is widely seen as a historical art form Shanghai Yue Opera House hosts talented artists and performers capable of producing contemporary productions of excellent quality. The main problem faced by the Opera House is the marketization of such work under existing financial and conceptual constraints. Yue Opera, as an all-female art form, is representative of China's first working class female group. It remains a representative art of Shanghai (and Chinese) women. The chance to reconnect with contemporary urban women which this project proposes is a timely opportunity for the Opera House to rebrand and present new and innovative work which is very welcomed.
Collaborator Contribution Shanghai Yue Opera Theatre: Shanghai Yue Opera House will allow the selection of copywritten media materials from our extensive archives to showcase the history of the art form Shanghai Yue Opera House artists and technicians will assist in the process of the project, including representatives attending all the workshops and 1 UK field trip over the three year period They will create links to our website and social media networks to advertise the project and disseminate information throughout project development Xaioya Opera Company participate in all the workshops throughout the three year period, will work collaboratively with Strand 2 team to create and perform one section of the digital media production (no more than 15minutes each performance), at the Leeds symposium, Shanghai symposium, and the final opening Shanghai Bandu: Available performing space at Bandu Music Bar located at M50 Tiangong Creative Ltd: design and launch a new "Shanghai Yue Women" themed merchandise targeting new urban consumers through the primary location of M50, which has the highest volume of new urban art consumers, who are familiar with digital media and are willing to consume new cultural products Shanghai Theatre Academy provide full support for Prof. Huang's role as CH PI on this project, along with the staff, space and equipment required to support installation and practice of material products and performance.
Impact digital exhibition/performance Ghost in M50 Host - multi-disciplinary: Chinese, performing arts, cultural industries, creative economy Power Point online publication Project summary online publication
Start Year 2018
 
Description Popular performance for new urban audiences: reconnecting M50 creative cluster with Shanghai All-Female Yue Opera 
Organisation Shanghai Yue Opera Theater
Country China 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Shanghai is one of the largest cities in China with a rich cultural heritage which attracts national and international tourists on a large scale. Yue Opera, as a relatively new phenomenon, given China's extensive history, is under-represented within the scope of contemporary urban audience, despite being one of the most representative cultural forms of Shanghai modernity. Whilst Yue Opera has its origin in the Zhejiang region it evolved to the current all-female form in Shanghai under patronage of the migrant female cotton-mill workers in the 1930s - the first working class female group created in China. Shanghai Yue Opera House was established in 1955 and remains the largest Yue Opera House in China to this day. Throughout the more recent period of China's economic expansion, art forms such as Yue Opera have been side-lined as focus has been placed on introduction of Western cultural goods and popular entertainment. Yue Opera is now performed to limited audience, mainly during tours to provincial areas, and the urban audience is decreasing. Although Shanghai Yue Opera is widely seen as a historical art form Shanghai Yue Opera House hosts talented artists and performers capable of producing contemporary productions of excellent quality. The main problem faced by the Opera House is the marketization of such work under existing financial and conceptual constraints. Yue Opera, as an all-female art form, is representative of China's first working class female group. It remains a representative art of Shanghai (and Chinese) women. The chance to reconnect with contemporary urban women which this project proposes is a timely opportunity for the Opera House to rebrand and present new and innovative work which is very welcomed.
Collaborator Contribution Shanghai Yue Opera Theatre: Shanghai Yue Opera House will allow the selection of copywritten media materials from our extensive archives to showcase the history of the art form Shanghai Yue Opera House artists and technicians will assist in the process of the project, including representatives attending all the workshops and 1 UK field trip over the three year period They will create links to our website and social media networks to advertise the project and disseminate information throughout project development Xaioya Opera Company participate in all the workshops throughout the three year period, will work collaboratively with Strand 2 team to create and perform one section of the digital media production (no more than 15minutes each performance), at the Leeds symposium, Shanghai symposium, and the final opening Shanghai Bandu: Available performing space at Bandu Music Bar located at M50 Tiangong Creative Ltd: design and launch a new "Shanghai Yue Women" themed merchandise targeting new urban consumers through the primary location of M50, which has the highest volume of new urban art consumers, who are familiar with digital media and are willing to consume new cultural products Shanghai Theatre Academy provide full support for Prof. Huang's role as CH PI on this project, along with the staff, space and equipment required to support installation and practice of material products and performance.
Impact digital exhibition/performance Ghost in M50 Host - multi-disciplinary: Chinese, performing arts, cultural industries, creative economy Power Point online publication Project summary online publication
Start Year 2018
 
Description Praxis project - Case Study 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Heritage for Global Challenges - A research Report by Praxis: Arts and Humanities for Global Development.
The project was selected as one of 11 global case studies with reference to global challenges relating to heritage conservation. The PI was interviewed by the Praxis team in 2020 who included the project in their concluding report. The PI participated in the February 2021 PRAXIS webinar event: presenting the project at the seven day forum event attended by delegates from research institutes, UNESCO, UKRI and the wider public, and participating as panel member on discussions on conservation and inclusiveness of intangible cultural heritage in international heritage sites.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://changingthestory.leeds.ac.uk/2021/02/09/praxis-publication-launch-heritage-for-global-challe...
 
Description exhibition/performance Ghost in M50 Host 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This mixed reality performance Ghost in M50 Host is produced jointly by The National Digital Performing Arts Lab, Shanghai Theatre Academy and the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds; it is scheduled to take place at Shanghai M50 in April 2020 and at Leeds in August 2020. Policy makers, academics, general public from both China and UK have booked to attend. Estimate visitors around 200 per event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020