The academy ball is a highlight of the social calendar. Christian Barlow speaks to one of its organisers, Winnie Chiu, about films, fundraising and fostering the arts
Winnie Chiu talks films, fundraising and fostering the arts in the lead-up to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Ball, whose organising committee she presides over
he Academy Ball always delivers glitz and glamour, but it’s also one of the most important philanthropic events on the city’s social calendar. Every year the academy, which was established in 1984 and has since become one of Asia’s premier arts institutions, transforms one of the stages at its Wan Chai campus into a grand dining room. As guests imbibe champagne and feast on a banquet, they are treated to a live performance by students created especially for the occasion.
The purpose of the evening is to raise cash to fund the granting of scholarships to worthy students. The scholarship campaign is driven by the Society of the Academy for Performing Arts (SAPA), the academy’s fundraising arm, which has raised more than HK$70 million and supported around 1,000 scholarships since the first Academy Ball in 1989.
And that’s where Winnie Chiu, the president and executive director of hotel group Dorsett Hospitality International, comes in. Winnie is a member of the SAPA executive committee, and this year is her third as chairperson of the organising committee for the Academy Ball. Here, Winnie previews the big event, explains its importance to the communithy and tells why she’s a believer in nurturing new talent.
Why is it important for people to support the Academy Ball?
Hong Kong is a melting pot of new talent, and its people have a deep appreciation for the arts and culture. Although the government is supporting comprehensive projects like the West Kowloon Cultural District and M+, it’s not enough to just have the “hardware” per se. You need to have the software to support it too, which is why I’m passionate about the HKAPA. I think a lot of people recognise the value the academy offers to the community and the city as a whole.
Can you share some of your favourite success stories from over the years?
Without a doubt one of the highlights has been witnessing the success of concert pianist Aristo Sham Ching-tao. He joined the HKAPA as a junior piano student in 2002 and was awarded the SAPA music scholarship in 2006. I think it’s incredible what he’s been able to accomplish. Not only is he musically gifted but he’s incredibly studious. I believe he scored 14 A*s for his GCSE at Harrow and he’s currently pursuing Bachelor of Arts and Master of Music degrees through a joint programme at Harvard University and the New England Conservatory of Music.
How does it feel to have Jaeger-lecoultre as the title sponsor of the ball this year?
It’s the third year that Jaeger-lecoultre has supported us and I’m thrilled with the progress of our relationship. Aside from their sponsorship on the night, many don’t realise that Jaegerlecoultre has set up a scholarship programme and will be organising masterclasses with some of their celebrity ambassadors, which really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students.
How will you be collaborating on the night?
This year’s theme is “art deco dance,” connecting with the period when Jaeger-lecoultre released its first Reverso timepiece in 1931. The whole space feels like a movie set and the highlight this year will be a short film made especially for the occasion—a three-minute black-and-white silent movie created by HKAPA graduates from our School of Film and Television and our School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts. The main character is played by Neo Yau Hawk-sau, an HKAPA alum who majored in screenwriting but is now pegged as an emerging actor. The movie, shot at our Béthanie campus in Pok Fu Lam, really showcases the talents of our graduates and is the perfect example of how once you follow your passion, one door can open many others.
What are the strengths of this year’s organising committee?
I think everyone on the committee brings something different to the brainstorming process and it has honestly been such a pleasure working with everyone this year. I’m not sure if it’s the nonstop laughter or the fact that everyone brings so many great ideas to the table, but there really is a great chemistry with our committee this year.
The Academy Ball will take place on December 3