On Thursday 17 November, Surrey Libraries launched Chinese and British, the free exhibition at Woking Library that draws on personal stories and moments of national significance to ask what it means to be Chinese and British.
For the launch, Surrey Libraries partnered with the Chinese Association of Woking to create an evening that celebrated Chinese British culture and the local community. The event was attended by a large audience who had an exclusive first look at the exhibition, with the first person to see the exhibition being Woking Mayor, Saj Hussain.
Hosted by Assistant Director of Surrey Libraries, Sue Wills, the launch event started with a livestream for the British Library in London featuring speakers Helena Lee, journalist and founder of East Side Voices, and Dr Wei Yang, internationally renowned town planner and urban designer. The second part of the evening saw members of the Chinese Association of Woking, of varying ages and backgrounds, discuss the fantastic work they do in the community, including running the Woking Chinese School. There were also personal reflections on identity and what it means to be Chinese and British.
June Feng, from the Chinese Association of Woking, said: “The Chinese Association of Woking is very privileged to be part of this Chinese and British exhibition held by British Libraries. We sincerely wish this exhibition a great success! Thanks to Surrey and Woking for their consistent support.”
Inspired by Chinese and British at the British Library (18 November 2022 – 23 April 2023), and supported by Blick Rothenberg, the display at Woking Library celebrates the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK, from wartime service and contributions to popular cuisine to achievements in literature, sport, music, fashion and film.
From the first recorded individuals arriving from China in the late 1600s to Liverpool becoming Europe’s first Chinatown in the 1850s, Chinese people, who trace their heritage to regions across east and southeast Asia, have played an active part in British society for over 300 years.
The exhibition is on display at Woking Library from 17 November 2022 until 4 January 2023. The display will then move onto Egham Library, followed by Farnham Library and then closes at Reigate Library on 22 April. Alongside the exhibition, there is a programme of related events happening at Woking Library including Chinese Storytimes, Tai Chi and Origami. Follow Surrey Libraries on Twitter for updates and more details.
After the event, Sue Wills said: “It was such a privilege to be here for tonight’s event to launch the new exhibition. We are really grateful to the British Library and the Chinese Association of Woking for partnering up with us on this, and we’re really excited for more events to follow so watch this space!”
Surrey Libraries is one of over 30 libraries across the UK highlighting the rich history of Chinese British communities as part of the Living Knowledge Network, a UK-wide partnership of national and public libraries.
Liz White, Head of Public Libraries and Community Engagement at the British Library, said: “People and their stories form the core of the Chinese and British exhibition in London and the displays in local libraries across the UK. The Living Knowledge Network partnership enables us to connect with people across the country so this is a great opportunity to celebrate the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK and uncover more stories along the way.”
Chinese and British has been curated by Dr Lucienne Loh at the University of Liverpool and Dr Alex Tickell at the Open University in collaboration with the British Library.
The Living Knowledge Network streams free events, exhibitions and workshops from libraries across the UK through www.LKN-events.co.uk.