The Board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA or the Authority) held its 91st meeting today.
WKCDA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Duncan Pescod, started by reporting that due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation and in order to minimise the attendance of working staff in the Board meeting, special arrangements had been made. CEO’s report to the public was pre-recorded and was made available on-line as usual. In line with the Government's latest measures on social distancing, most of the attendees joined the meeting by dialing in, except for the WKCDA Board Chairman, CEO and the WKCDA Board Secretariat. The Authority believed that these arrangements would best protect the safety of all participants while allowing the meeting to be conducted in compliance with statutory requirements and remain transparent. Mr Pescod expressed the hope that it will shortly be possible to return to more normal meeting and reporting arrangements.
Mr Pescod reported that, in spite of COVID-19, the overall progress on the projects in the West Kowloon Cultural District (West Kowloon or the District) is good. However, due to the recent return to the work-from-home arrangements by Government departments, there have been an unavoidable impact on the M+ project. Statutory inspections had been temporarily suspended since the third week of July 2020, which has impacted the Occupation Permit (OP) process. The Authority will now most likely be able to secure the OP by late August 2020 at the earliest, and this could have a knock-on effect on the opening arrangements. WKCDA is monitoring the situation and will adjust the programmes as necessary.
Mr Pescod also provided an update on the tender for the Art, Commerce and Exhibitions (ACE) project which was announced in June 2019, followed by the commencement of an Expression of Interest (EOI) exercise. The reaction to the EOI exercise had been very good. However, due to the uncertain market economic outlook, the response to the subsequent tender had not been as positive as expected. The Authority has therefore decided to withdraw the tender, and has informed those concerned. In reaching this decision, a combination of factors have been taken into account, including a thorough and detailed assessment of the current market situation.
Mr Pescod emphasised that Hong Kong is experiencing an extraordinary moment and, in line with countries around the world, clearly faces unprecedented challenges. The Authority took this decision as a prudent response to the situation and in the best interests of the Authority and the community. The Authority will review the situation and assess options for the way forward.
Despite these difficult times, Mr Pescod reassured that the Authority remains committed to the ongoing development of arts and cultural facilities and the planned commercial projects within the District. WKCDA will continue to monitor the situation and bring forward the projects at an appropriate time.
Mr Pescod further reported that, to ensure public safety and stay in line with the latest Government measures addressing the current public health emergency, the M+ Pavilion had been temporarily closed until 11 August 2020. The Art Park, certain facilities at Freespace and the Xiqu Centre remain open to the public. Performances and programmes in the same period would be rescheduled or cancelled. Details about changes to the programmes and refund information for ticket holders would be made available on the West Kowloon Cultural District website (www.westkowlooon.hk).
Mr Pescod added that the Authority is strongly appealing to all visitors to the District to follow the regulations announced by the Government. WKCDA will comply with the latest Government measures and will continue to review the situation and adjust opening arrangements of the venues and programmes accordingly.
Mr Pescod was pleased to report that the Arts Relief Scheme 2020 (the Scheme) had been held successfully. Set up in April 2020, the Scheme aims to support local artists affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Scheme was made possible as a result of time-limited funds, donated by senior executives of the Authority and the WKCDA Board Chairman Mr Henry Tang Ying-yen, amounting to approximately HK$3 million. The Scheme received an overwhelming response of more than 360 applications across various arts disciplines. After a rigorous selection process, funding will be awarded to successful projects through the Scheme, with a ceiling of HK$300,000 per project.
In the report, Mr Pescod thanked the WKCDA Board Chairman and the Authority’s senior colleagues who had made the generous donations in support of so many worthwhile projects at this difficult time. Mr Pescod also mentioned that he was hugely impressed by the originality and creativity of the submitted projects. He congratulated all of the awardees and looked forward to seeing the results of the awardees’ efforts. The awarded projects will be announced shortly and more details will be available on the West Kowloon Cultural District website in due course.
About the West Kowloon Cultural District
The West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest and most ambitious cultural projects in the world. Its vision is to create a vibrant new cultural quarter for Hong Kong on forty hectares of reclaimed land located alongside Victoria Harbour. With a varied mix of theatres, performance spaces, and museums, the West Kowloon Cultural District will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances and cultural events, providing twenty-three hectares of public open space, including a two-kilometre waterfront promenade.