For our Hong Kong in London entry we looked no further than the London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. This annual event has been held in London since 1997. After 10 years at London Docklands Watersports Centre, it moved to London Regatta Centre at Royal Albert Docks in 2007, allowing it to become a lot bigger. This year’s London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is expected to attract around 10,000 spectators.
The Hong Kong connection lies partially in the sponsorship – the HKETO (Hong Kong Economic Trade Office) is the event’s principal sponsor. And, the less-than-serious nature of the London race perhaps reflects the fact Hong Kong has enjoyed more freedom than mainland China during the past century. But event organiser London China Town Lions Club‘s Monita Hung is quick to add that Dragon Boat racing is a longstanding Chinese tradition, with events held all over China although some of the most serious competitions are to be found in Hong Kong.
The main aim of the London race, however, is enjoyment. “How much practice competitors do beforehand depends on how much they want to win! But this is not a serious race, it’s more about a fun event that everyone can enjoy,” says Hung.
The festival grows in size every year and is now second only to Chinese New Year on the Chinese cultural calendar in London. “Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is a lighthearted event that’s not as serious as Chinese New Year.
“It’s more of a community event for locals and is very family friendly as it’s free to enter, with lots of food and children’s activities such as a bouncy castle.” Hung says the event is also very popular with Hong Kong-born students who are studying in London, of which there are many.
Besides the festival, Hung, who is originally from Hong Kong but has lived here for 30 years, says she finds “Hong Kong in London” by shopping at Chinese supermarkets, particularly in Chinatown. “Tesco is getting better but you’ve got to go to a Chinese supermarket for all the sauces and other Chinese essentials. You can’t not go to Chinatown – you’ll always find something great there.”
The next London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will be on 19 June 2011. Find out more at www.lclc.co.uk