the crowds start to gather for flap jack and ideas
the crowds start to gather for flap jack and ideas

Saturday 17 May, remember that now.

The final push of the project (Phase 1) results in a marathon of a day starting at 7.00am. We set up our stalls amidst the market, Bryan’s sino-constructivist edifice accompanied by a few more tables laid out with our ideas and samples of the projects we have been working on.

Clearly the arrival of the stall causes a stir. The convention in the market is to lay your things out on the floor or to be as inconspicuous as possible, so a tall table with a bright red modernist pagoda voguing roof is quite a statement amongst the greyness of dried mushroom and eels-in-a-bucket sellers.

There is a danger that we are seen as an invasion (God forbid an art invasion of very worst kind) but as a crowd gather it soon becomes clear that we are here with a purpose. Maria’s flapjacks do the trick from the off, as two Tupperware boxes of them disappear in a frenzied swarm of villagers. This is before we can lay out the stall with our goods, but when we do get the work out there is a serious appetite for the ideas as well.

Jay has been working with local producers to use local craft skills to rethink the packaging of their goods. She shows some of these and some films of the process, getting the stall holders to realise they can enhance and improve their product. Two gleaming Macbooks are obviously a draw, but it is the content and ideas that maintain a crowd for the whole morning and there is much discussion and excitement over the possibilities.

Similarly Bryan shows his designs for a new architectural scheme for the ping fang, or the old ‘flat’ houses district. The designs show a contemporary conversion or re-interpretation of the houses, with roof terraces, walkways and enhanced communal facilities. If you showed this in a village fayre in the UK you’d probably get lynched, but here the villagers gather round and enthuse about the idea that the Agency doesn’t have to destroy the old way of life and could re-think the ping fang. One guy, a local engineer, says he could make it at the fabrication works; in fact they could build this all themselves either in steel or wood. All very can do.

Up in one of the old ping fang we have been renting from Shu a Po (Old Lady Shu) we have dressed it up to demonstrate that you could bring new life to this district, using the houses in new ways, like shops, cafes, studios, silver surfer net station, workshops and so on. Laura has been working with a seamstress in the tower block shops to rework some APC-esque dresses in local fabrics. She has also been designing a Nanling fabric, a toile of local imagery, that can be used to promote and export the community. The ping fang house is made up in the manner of a guerrilla shop with dresses, fabric, crafts, plastic frog watering cans, Vitamin publications and brique a braques. Maria also shows the films she has made for the village – the house restaurant chicken recipe slaughter to plate, tofu making and the tourist motorcade punching through town. Shu a Po loves the Chicken killing film with its blue grass soundtrack.

Back down at the market the taste for more inter-continental cuisine is sated (you have to remember there is nothing other than local food here) as Maria hooks up with Uncle Joe’s restaurant and whips up a curry and endless chapattis – Britain’s favourite food and seemingly now Nanling’s. One of the hotel staff has to help make the flatbreads and there is now a queue stretching across the market square.

From 7.00 to 12.00 (which is strict lunchtime here) there is a sizeable crowd around us, all talking, all connecting with the ideas we are putting across.

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