The name Chinatown has been used at different times to describe different places in London. The present Chinatown is in the Soho area of the City of Westminster, occupying the area in and around Gerrard Street. It contains a number of Chinese restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, souvenir shops, traditional Chinese medicine shops and other Chinese-run businesses.

  • Date: 07-Feb-2010, 21-Feb-2010
  • Place: Chinatown

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7 February 2010

The weather turned cold again (it has now became a pattern for every outings); 4 photographers (Kar, Ricky, Ryszard and I) showing off the equipment on the street, some girls inside the restuarant were praising our professional looks. It did not last, I’ve found my camera stopped working, it has locked itself (a gold-fnger has touched my camera then escaped from the crime scene in the name of duty, more like to compensate his guilty conscience to me). The camera was later fixed by Ricky so, dear audience, you only have two suspects left, and no photos from me today.

21 February 2010

London Chinatown were celebrating the 2010 Chinese New Year (the Year of Tiger). The weather was as cold as usual (or as it should be) and it rained heavily, a new team of 4 (replaced Ryszard with Aubrey) had to spend the morning in a coffee shop instead of flashing around the Chinatown. The sky was brigher in the afternoon, Lion dance in the main street area so it was crowded. Suprisngly we could wander freely along the other roads, not as many people as we expected. The year of Tiger has arrived wtihout roaring! Music from an accordion was playing along the Embankment; magnificant night scene appeared when we stepped out from the British Film Insitute. I wanted to walk along the bank once more as I knew it was the last moment of the photo trips, somehow it was difficult for me to let go; but I couldn’t delay my teammates’ journey, we all had our own destinations. Was it the end of our trip? It seems so for the project, but not for me.

- by Chungwen Li

A typical cold, rainy London day:

Today the Chinese communities celebrate the Year of the Tiger in Soho's Chinatown. The actual Chinese New Year has already taken place on Valentine’s Day, but the London parade and dances do not happen until the first Sunday after the new year day. Gerrard Street, the main street of London Chinatown, is traditionally the focal point of the action. The drumbeat as usual is noisy and the lion dancers are busily making their way through Chinatown to collect a red packet from each shop.

Expecting 50,000 plus visitors this year, Shaftsbury Avenue is blocked off for major celebrations. Squeezing through the crowd it is not difficult to find events for all ages  – jazz concerts, dances, performance by local and visiting Chinese artists plus sample Chinese foods served by stalls. Of course Chinatown is also colorfully decorated: purple, red, pink lanterns are visible everywhere. Interestingly the main theme is “Hong Kong in London” which features the architectural models of famous Hong Kong buildings such as Bank of China and Central Plaza in miniature form. I suspect, however, few could be recognized instantly by Chinese Londoners without conducting extensive search on the worldwide web.

Heading towards Trafalgar Square it has plenty going for it – food stalls, New Year market, live performances by Chinese artists and dancers from different provinces of China - all over again! Somehow I feel that the whole celebration is repetitive because of its non-spontaneous approach. Yet arguably far more significant is taking advantage of the opportunity to have a practise photo shoot with my colleagues. Feeling excited I celebrate the New Year by getting a Chinese beer.

- by Kar-Hei Lam

Scripted by Chungwen Li
Narrated by Kar-Hei Lam
Produced by Aubrey Ko

Audio Archive

London China Town audio tour, 21 February 2010, two o’clock. Just after lunch, Chinese meal. Stomach full and mind empty; weather, cold with scatter shower.

Gerrard Street, the main street of London China Town, now is crowded with people because of the celebration. Today the London Chinese communities celebrate the year of Tiger, like many of the past years, lion dance is the highlight of the day. The tradition for the business owner is to give a red packet to the lion, so that they can be blessed with a prosperous year. The lions slowly dance among the people to different shops in order to get their red packets. Lanterns are lined up along the whole street in different colours; red, purple, pink, green, yellow, and orange; most of them are in round shape. They all hanging there waving to the people, absorbing the rain and resisting the wind.

Too crowded, so I have to abandon the idea of taking photos with the lions, slowly squeeze among the people to the Chinese Arch and then turn left to Shaftesbury Avenue. Shaftesbury Avenue is blocked for the celebration. The theme of this year is “Hong Kong in London”; along the road there are some model buildings like Bank of China, Lippo Centre, Central Plaza, Jardine House, International Finance Centre, etc. to promote the financial image of Hong Kong. Adapting the same idea, the Star Ferry, famous in Hong Kong for transiting people between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, is also floating among the people; while the singer on the stage is singing jazz song, making some passengers become dancers on the street.

Stalls are set up to sell different types of Chinese ornaments, foods, or just distributing information. Small items with the theme of tiger are most popular; children are waving the mini-dragons which are sold in every Chinese New Year but still in good demand; Chinese qipao from children to adult sizes; the new year market is another highlight of the celebration.

Turn left again to Wardour Street, less crowded. The drum beat are getting louder as I can see the lions are now in the middle of Gerrard Street, it seems it is still a long way for them to dance over the whole street. Walking through Leicester Square, less people again, the tourists are unequally spread in this area today. Strolling down to Trafalgar Square, people are gathering there again. A big stage is temporarily constructed in the Square; a big screen is also put alongside the stage, so that the audiences far behind can still see what is happening on the stage. Feeing excited, I approach a stall selling Chinese beer, buy one, and drink it to mark my Chinese New Year tour in China Town in London today.

This is the end of the London China Town Audio Tour.