After before but certainly before after.
After before but certainly before after.

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Things we'd rather not see...
Things we'd rather not see...

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OK, so it's a kind of porn....
OK, so it's a kind of porn....

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Happy Stacking Hoedown
Happy Stacking Hoedown

Today we got down and dirty on the organic farm just outside the village. The family who run this farm are forward looking and keen to work with the company on developing new ideas. They already have a deal with the company that they produce only organic food, mostly vegetables, tea, eggs, chickens, pigs etc, and supply the hotel restaurant. The company hope that the farm will be an example to all the other farmers in the valley to increase the quality – and added value – of their product.

In exchange for lunch we offer to work in the fields or help them on the farm as is needed. The idea is sown that this can become a working farm hotel, whereby guests work on the land in return for room and food. Whether they pay for such a privilege is up for discussion, but the principle is that you start to diversify the tourist offer, as its known in the trade (or the tourist offal as its known in the Lake District), and create a more complex and rewarding relationship with the visitor. Two way respect and all that.

Set to work in the fields, we help the female workers weed a field, which is like a paddy but with no water in it. These fields on the farm, only small, say 10m square each, are filled with immaculate rows of raised soil, like raised beds without the walls. This field we are in is full of weeds, but their system is straightforward, if slightly a fine art to be mastered:

Scrape the weeds and the top layer of soil back to one end of the bed, into a pile of loose soil and weeds.

Dig a 30cm deep trench at one end, across the narrow end.

Dig trench wall back moving the soil along, filling the trench with the scraped weeds as you go (putting the nutrients back into the soil)

Tidy up broken soil bed until it is as perfect as any corporation flower bed.

It takes a bit of mastery, but once in your stride it’s very therapeutic and relaxing even in searing heat.

Lunch is cooked on a giant wok in a back room kitchen over a wood fire. We have dofou, parsnips, mushrooms, choi, rice, radish leaves, something like sugar beet soup and soya milk all home made and all organic (including organic human waste compost of course). It tastes great and we feel super healthy until we are told its all been sprinkled with MSG. I think they can miss that bit out in the new plan.

After lunch Maria and I dress one of the rooms to show how it could look to attract their new city tired, rural craving, free range organic seeking customer base. Well, Maria dresses the room and I remove the giant spiders, bugs and weevils. We do our best with limited resources, but sort of admit defeat when it is clear that the furniture is so grotesque that it makes Stollers of Barrow look like http://www.poliformuk.com/

We arrange to return on Tuesday armed with a few more tricks, but the idea is launched and this relationship will continue, no doubt with a few awkward conversations about why poverty chic furniture is so sought after.

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Had fun last night discovering the pleasures of the local free gym with Harold, looks like a park facing the riverfront but much more fun with brightly colored rowing machines and back massages and even an ad hoc running machine.

Yesterday was a good day with brill progress from the dry food stall seller (Li Gui E) and characterful peanut oil guy (Gern) I have been working with. I have met with them several times, in terms of Li Gui together with her niece and neighbour we have been thinking up different designs and ways in which she can use her basic crochet skills to fashion her dried produce into a much more personalised, informative and attractive manner for tourists and also locals alike. We are considering the branding name of her product and have settled on Ling Nan Ling (the introversion of Nanling followed by her surname, ingenious- it's a starting point at least and also good to get her thinking about how to make her food produce less homogenous in comparison to the five other stalls that sit next to hers). Her more experienced neighbour friend (who might be up for performing the horizantle harp gujun on the 17th) I think it should go down a treat and would be great to have on the honesty stall back at Grizedale perhaps. We are thinking about different designs and also how they may cater for the different products and buyers. Already theirs a sparkle in her eyes- she says she intends to develop and try to pursue this, making use of the quiet times at the stall and thinking it will help make her produce special.

Li Gui E also has taken up the packaging task with lots of enthusiasm and careful consideration. I visited his factory stall before tea to find him sat with a plastic bottle half filled with cold water and a hairdryer, trying to fashion a peanut shape out of the bottle. He had clearly been thinking hard about the night of previous discussion with the caligrapher, Mao (who might be able to help us with our posters and banners) and Maggie, the English teacher. I prompted suggestions and also suggested we collect a variety of bottles, then took them on a hunt round the shop attached to his small factory on the look out for different materials that might initiate ideas and textures for a suitable bottle other than his usual non-descript white plastic fare which come in three sizes. We are thinking about a very initial stage protocol for a peanut oil bottle for Nanling of the future.... its great to see him so engaged and an injection of energy into looking at what he has been producing day in and out for over a decade.
At some point I will go along with Mao and find a stone to see if a stamp can be made...I knew the dried up river would come in handy.

Topics: [production]

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Emails from Maria in China to Ruth in London

9th May
Hi,
Sorry I haven't written in a bit. How is everything thing there? Things here have moved on quite quickly since I last wrote. I guess the first 10 days were about trying to understand the place, at least a little, to then be able to think about doing something with a vague confidence that it's not totally the wrong thing to be doing. I was teaching the dance group and some locals Scottish Country Dancing the other night in the theatre after a refresher session with Adam and the others before he left. It was really good fun. We are planning an event next Saturday. I will do a bit of cooking and show some films as well as take part in the dancing later in the day. Don't quite know what to make yet as resources are limited. Have been taking lots of romantic rural pictures of farms at Adam's suggestion, which I didn't really want to do but secretly enjoyed and have just ordered more film. I hope they can be used in some way. I have so many of these kinds of pictures that have been impossible to do anything with. Am going to a farm next week to help make a guestroom and have been editing a few short films. Wakpe asked me to send a postcard from the village but they don't sell them so I'll get the kids to make them at school. We have all been helping out the English teachers in the primary school. The kids are lovely but the teaching is dire. It's all just repetitive shouting out of words and phrases from a book and then 15 minutes spent at the tape deck re-winding and fast-forwarding to get to some crappy song like Home on the Ranch.
Today I had a Fry-Off with our favourite restaurant cook in the market (Uncle Joe). I made fish and chips and he made banana fritters, chips with a special flour coating and a sweet thing using the stuck bits of rice from the bottom of the pan fried in oil and sugar. Everyone felt sick afterwards and had to lie down but we drew a bit of a crowd and gave out lots of samples which no one spat out.
talk soon,
maria xx

10th May
Hi Ruth,
How are things there? Everything is OK here but there seems to be a bit of a slump, even though we are all really busy and happy to be working on this event for next week, I think everyone is missing home a bit. I am anyway, maybe everyone else is fine and I'm just projecting. I just want to lie on the sofa and watch telly, on my own. Today I was invited to film in a tofu 'factory', which turned out to be some guys kitchen. I think it was something the Development Company organised and I'm not sure the tofu man or his wife were that keen on me being there, but probably felt obliged because the Company. Who knows. It was fun to film but a bit awkward. I seem to be suddenly doing a ton of different bitty projects and am feeling a bit all over the place today. As soon as I get back we have so much to do as well so it seems scarily endless....
x

11th May
Hi,
Not heard from you in a few days. What's happening there? Are things stressful? Got up at 6 this morning to take some pictures at the market but felt really self conscious with that giant camera. It's the best time to go though, it's totally dead by 8 o'clock. Got some jam and cream donuts for our breakfast so it was worth it! Went to the farm after breakfast and worked on one of their fields then tried to sort out a spare room they have for this farm retreat idea. The furniture was horrible mismatched moulded wood-effect pieces like in the Dalston furniture shops. There's no way you could make it look farmhouse chic, though we did try with a bunch of dry twigs on the bedside table but they suddenly looked like an old fashioned sex toy. Would be good to try to get the carpenter to make some simple furniture but don't think we will have time. Might have to borrow some stuff to do a nice photo shoot to start the process. Just discovered that there is some great cooking facilities in the hotel so can make some nice things for the stall on Saturday.
m

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Email conversation between Adam (UK) and Alistair (China):

Hi Adam

Farming today was great, everyone really enjoyed it. Re the rest:-

re proposal
is there going to be a problem with the house and numbers of people, especially the kids starting from there? maybe an olympic torch style single child bearing an ice cream cone might work better, joining/leading a parade later

We going to do a trial to work things out and may well take up your excellent ice cream torch idea. But we think it's also good to make quite a comotion in the hutong streets to draw attention to them, depends really on how the ladies in the street feel about it. We'll work on this some more.

May pole any reason? seems a bit arbitary, what does it mean? seems to have little meaning in UK history, signal for a party in olden times, paganism, phalic symbol. according to wikkipedia the dancing round bit may have been a Ruskin idea/influence emanating from the 19th century and being a version of Italian renaissance dance

Xinghai was pretty adamant that the parade went to the tower blocks and the green outside where there is a circular feature where people congregate. The parallels with bringing this place back into a village green were cited - drawing the tourists in the part of the village where the real living takes place, and where its got a fell quite different from the market place. There is also an idea with the pole of fertility and hope of abundance for the growing season which relates to the ambitions of the town, a sort of Maypole of Tourism.

is the banner still happening?

Not sure, Vincent coming tomorrow, to discuss.

re stall, if it is a success maybe commission several more, be nice to leave somthing useful for the village as a gift

Yes absolutely and fits into Brians market place designs. we thought we might let other market traders try it out on Sat and Sunday have lots of ideas for the cabinet maker as an industry - although he doubled his price yesterday! Typical.

re performance, is it worth getting the video projector out and showing some films made in the village? just shooting the parade and then showing it back is a nice visual and everyone will be in it -

Tried this one, but its a bit tricky as we'll be outside and it won't be dark yet. They are unhappy to take the one down from the library ceiling would have to get one brought from Guangzhou. Iwas keen to show images as part of my speech, so would like this to happen.

re the house - you arent going to have any time to get it back to normal, also make sure the ld lady gets paid, might be best beforehand, maybe about 500rmb or see what Xinghai thinks

We can get it back in shape on Sunday am. Will talk to Xinghai, but i think 500 is fair

re visits back to uk, be good to have some idea of how might come, i guess an event in guanzhou would be a good start to identify people, ask Xinghai if he thinks it would be possible for people like joe and the farmers, woodworker etc

I certainly think the organic farm people as they are very keen on the work holiday farm hotel idea and generally have an apetite for ideas and learning, also Xinghai and maybe someone from the Forest Agency, seeing as they seem set to screw up the whole thing (like buldozing the old town) unless someone gives them some ideas. Possible others include Uncle Joe or his daughter in law, house restaurant, peanut oil guy and maggie the young teacher. Building a list.

Also just found an oven, a bread maker, a toaster, olive oil, basamlic vinegar, custard and bacon. Even baked beans - you could have had beans on toast. Xinghai very excited about cooking potential in square on Saturday. Very excited. English cook off he thinks will be a big hit, talk of it seems to travel round the village and works liek a reverseof the Japan restaurant in Coniston.

All further thoughts welcome

Speak soon

Alistair

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Nanling Gurning Champion
Nanling Gurning Champion

We had an expensive and scary dinner of Cat fish and toad. Everyone is getting a bit grumpy.

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Xinghai in conversation
Xinghai in conversation

Xinghai from the company has been very helpful and engaged in our plans. We all know roughly what we've got to do know but we have to clear this with the Government Agency, so Xinghai asks me to put it in writing for official approval. It's not easy to condense and say in simple to translate language but it helps focus the mind on the run in:

Take with a pinch of pre official consideration salt:

Happy Stacking

The Idea
Happy Stacking is a project by the artists of Grizedale Arts in collaboration with Vitamin Creative Space and the Zhongheng Ecotourism Development Company, China.
Grizedale is a small rural community in the beautiful Lake District region of England which is very similar to Wuzhishen, with a long history of mining, industry, farming and tourism.
Bringing their experience of this history, the seven artists have been looking into ways that they can help Wuzhishen move forward and develop a sustainable, balanced culture that will attract more visitors and investment.
In turn the artists hope to take back inspiration and ideas from Nanling to the Lake District which will help the development of their own community.
The artists would like this project to continue beyond this three week visit and build a long term relationship between the communities and other similar rural communities around the world. It is hoped that the artists will return to continue the relationship with the village and also invite some of the people of Wuzhishen to England next year.

The Schedule

On Saturday 17 May 2008 the artists would like to hold a special festival in the village to suggest ideas of how this future might be shaped.

The schedule of the day is planned as follows:

7.00am -
3.30pm
A newly designed market stall in the market to show how village product and the market could be made more appealing to visitors and more useful to the community

7.00am – 3.30pm
To use no.37 ping fang to show the artists ideas and demonstrate how the old houses might be improved to make a better living and visitor experience. This will include serving food to the public.

4.00pm
A parade with the children of the school will leave 37 ping fang to go through the market place and onto the green beside the apartment blocks where they will dance a traditional May Pole dance, with a May Pole erected in the park.

The parade will then progress to the steps outside the theatre where a public performance will be held for the entertainment of Wuzhishen and its visitors.

The order of the performance:

1. A song by the children of the school
2. A welcome speech by Alistair Hudson
3. A traditional Chinese dance by the Wuzhishen Dance Group
4. A dance performance by Harold Offeh
5. Scottish Country Dancing by Artists and Dance Group
6. Scottish Dancing with all

Refreshments will be served

6.00pm
Finish

The Artists’ Projects

Maria Benjamin is working on a few projects:

1) Making short films and high quality photographs that can be used to promote the rich variety of culture of Wuzhishen. The films will be shown in the ping fang but can be used in the future to promote the diverse social ecology of the region.

2) Working with the school children to create a map of Nanling

3) Working with the children to create postcards, some of which will be sent to a village community school in Holland.

4) Developing the company organic farm to advise them on how to attract a new kind of visitor who would stay and work on the farm as a unique experience.

5) Developing food ideas with one of the restaurants in the market

Bryan Davies has designed a new market stall which will improve the visual impact of both village products and the market itself.

He has worked up architectural proposals for the old ping fang houses district and the market place. These proposals suggest improved community and visitor experience and quality of life.

Laura Davies is designing a new fabric specially for Wuzhishen based up on the interior design of the old houses. She has had a local seamstress make up model dresses which could be sold commercially in the wider world. This is to encourage the idea that the village should look to make product to export out, as well as bringing in visitors, ensuring a balanced social and economic ecology.

Harold Offeh is working with the children of the village to create a parade which celebrates the diverse ecology of Nanling, not just the natural ecology, but the social ecology too.

He has also been teaching the people of the village to dance.

Kai Oi Jay Yung is working with local producers (a peanut oil producer and dried food producer) to enhance the packaging of their products and making promotional films to appeal to a wider market beyond their established client base – increasing the value of their product.

Alistair Hudson and Adam Sutherland are co-ordinating the group and directing activities

....lets hope it works.....

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The first item is finished, a sort of work dress made from a sketch and photos and it is a pretty good interpretation of the original. The gather detail on the pockets is particularly impressive. Either the colour lilac or the thick cotton is giving it some cleaning lady chic so I'm working on a more delicate scenic pattern of the Pingfang terraced houses. Note for the next items: ask for buttons rather than press-studs...

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