15 February – 30 April

Ten weeks of new art, performance, music and comedy, presented digitally, from artists of the Chinese diaspora

At the heart of the CAN Festival 2021, CAN x TWO TEMPLE PLACE was an ambitious new CAN production, co-produced with Two Temple Place and conceived and led by CAN’s artistic director An-Ting Chang. Contemporary British Chinese artists were invited to respond to the historical context and architecture of Two Temple Place, an extraordinary neo-Gothic mansion on the Embankment

 Originally conceived as a live exhibition, CAN x TWO TEMPLE PLACE evolved into a unique arts encounter which used gaming technology to create a whole new 3D digital world within which to experience the work. It includes a digital exhibition populated with artworks by Donald Shek, Chloe Wing, Jack Tan, Daniel York Loh and Jasmin Kent Rodgman with digital design by Christine 挺欢 Urquhart.

Live online performances of Every dollar is a soldier/With money you’re a dragon plus workshops, talks, tours and opportunities to speak to the artists completed the programme.

 Throughout 2020 Chinese Arts Now commissioned six digital works in response to the pandemic. The first five, by artists Pamela Carter, Jasmin Kent Rodgman, Eelyn Lee, Seph Li and Naomi Sumner Chan, were available via the CAN website. The sixth commission, a film by Tobi Poster-Su, premiered during the festival. Chang and Eng and Me (and Me) explored the extraordinary story of Chang and Eng Bunker, the original ‘Siamese’ twins.

Stay Connected, a new festival strand in response to Covid-19, gathered artists from the 2019 and 2020 Festivals and offered a platform to share their work. 30 artists were commissioned to either create new work, share existing work or work in development. The programme contained film screenings, talks, interactive workshop and performances.

Other events included a raUcous Zoom Comedy Night with Ken Cheng, Evelyn Mok and Phil Wang and a children’s show by Little Bean streamed on the Little Angel Theatre’s YouTube channel.

In an extension to the festival, I June Queering Now, presented new performance, Instagram exhibitions and film screenings from an eclectic mix of British East and South East Asian LGBTQIA+ artists. The programme was curated by performance artist and Chinese Drag King, Whiskey Chow.




Following a fantastic inaugural festival in 2019, CAN Festival returned to London in 2020 with 16 exciting productions across a range of genres. CAN Festival 2020 ran from 3 February to 23 February in high profile venues across London including Rich Mix, Southbank Centre, Shoreditch Town Hall, Kings Place, Jacksons Lane, Little Angel Theatre and Soho Theatre.

Highlights included Invisible Harmony 无形的和谐, a fusion of dance, spoken word and music, which examined the East Asian experience in the UK, Queering Now which brought together 10 queer artists pushing boundaries in live art, Walls which showed intricate papercutting creations, Destinations, a journey around the earth through classical music and digital art, Boh Boh’s New Friends, a bilingual family show with puppets, and Coalesce, a fusion of Chinese and European instruments in response to contemporary Chinese poetry.

TRIPTYCH and Overheard introduced audiences to immersive experiences with TRIPTYCH transporting people to a surreal maze of sound, light, music and dance while Overheard explored different diaspora perspectives in the beautiful setting of Wun’s Tea Room complete with delicious food and drink.

The Festival closed with the stunning Ways of Being Together where a cast of 40 danced together in a celebration of possibility before inviting the audience to share in food and community together.

Download the full CAN Festival 2020 brochure here.


Augmented Chinatown 2.0 ‘a bold and expansive project’ – Ought To Be Clowns

Overheard ‘a vital moment of stark investigation into our behaviours and beliefs in the UK’ – Arts York

Queering Now ‘a night jam-packed with bold, avant-garde and dazzling artwork’ – Cuntemporary


Audience feedback

Invisible Harmony ‘an authentic, eclectic piece of political theatre’

TRIPTYCH ‘I was captivated the entire time’

Ways of Being Together ‘One of the best examples of dance I have experienced to date’



CAN Festival 2019 was the first arts festival across London dedicated to showcasing to the public performing arts that explore contemporary Chinese themes, perspectives and art forms. The festival showcased a diverse range of art forms (music, drama, live art, dance, films, digital arts) with over 60 events across London.

Highlights in the festival included a site-specific drama about a British Chinese family: Citizens of Nowhere?a combination of Chinese and European instruments as a part of LSO’s ‘East meets West’ series: Chinese String Quartet & LSO Strings; live ping pong percussion with a piano trio as a part of Southbank’s ‘Soundstate‘ festival; and a fusion of Debussy’s music with a Chinese classic story: Lao Can Impression. 

Neither Here Nor There explored a sense of belonging and what community is; Global Soundscapes/Tangram: Yangqin Trio showcased experimental classical music with perfume and avant-garde Chinese music in a double bill concert at LSO St Luke’s; Ghost Girl//Gwei Mui/鬼妹 told the real story of a Chinese girl growing up in a white family; Love Songs mixes get-on-the-dance-floor music, rap and spoken word; and finally Red INK was a thrilling mix of break/hip-hop and contemporary dance based on calligraphy.

Download the CAN Festival 2019 brochure here.

Audience feedback

Citizens of Nowhere? ‘Important subject matter performed with force. More people need to see this performance. Such an intimate way to feel this story. Beautiful.’

Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui ‘A beautifully nuanced piece which needs to be seen up and down the country… left me emotionally raw.’

Neither Here Nor There ‘Thought-provoking/challenging, friend-making. The piece stays with you.’

Red INK ‘Wonderful – dynamic and lyrical. Really spoke to me.’


Lastly, we are grateful to our Pioneer Supporters whose contribution enabled us to programme such an exciting first Festival: 朱卡通, Hanue Chan, Chen-Kuang Chang, Chi-Hsien Chu, Wendy Huang, Nicholas James, Annie Lee, Michelle Lin, Xiao Lu, Sino Pac Securities Europe Ltd, Bank of Taiwan, Shu Yang, Christine Yau MBE.



Image credits: Main banner image: Lao Can Impression © Chen Chou Chang

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