2006 – Best Gung Haggis Fat Choy ever! with Prem Gill, Joy Kogawa, Rick Scott & Harry Wong

2006 – Best Gung Haggis Fat Choy ever!  with Prem Gill, Joy Kogawa, Rick Scott & Harry Wong

This was indeed the best ever Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Toddish McWong's
Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.  Every year has a different
quality, different performers, different guests, different co-hosts and
different suprises…  We celebrate the diversity of a “gung
haggis” world – full of intercultural fusion, no longer confined to
self-contained boxes of multiculturalism.

Max Wyman, one of Canada's leading cultural advocates and critics, as
well as head of Canada's UNESCO program, was very excited about last
night's dinner event.  He first told me, then shared with the
audience, that it was wonderful to see Canada's amazing cultural
diversity expressed through the arts.  All the hard work setting
the ground work helps to make it possible for us to show case our Asian
Canadian and cultural fusion artists. 


Wong and Max Wyman converse about the importance and expression of
cultural diversity. Max loved the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner concept
and the performance lineup.  In the front left is the Hon. David
Lam trophy for the dragon boat team that best exemplifies the
multicultural spirit of the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.  The
winner in 2005 was the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team – photo
Ray Shum.

How else would we be able to see Moyra Rodger or Out To See Productions
direct and produce a television performance special such as Gung Haggis
Fat Choy for CBC for prime time audiences?

How else would we be able to see Jeff Chiba Stearns' unique animated
film “What Are You Anyways?” shown both on CBC primetime and for CBC

sings her self-written “Fortune Cookie” song, accompanied by Sean Gunn
who had just performed his own self-penned song about octogenarian
motorcycle riding “Gim Wong” – photo Ray Shum

How else could we see developing artists like LaLa work with Sean Gunn,
and have Joe McDonald and Brave Waves have their work supported in the
many festivals, and events around town, such as explorASIAN –
Vancouver's Asian Heritage Month festival?


Scott and Harry Wong re-created songs from their 5 Elements cd,
bringing a special intercultural energy to the evening.  Harry
flew in from Hong Kong that morning… the duo next performs a special
concert in Toronto on January 28th for the Royal Conservatory of Music
– photo Ray Shum

Rick & Harry represent a very unique collaboration between a
Canadian artist and a Chinese artist.  It had developed out of
Harry listening to Rick's cd's and writing songs for them, and the
project expanded.  5 Elements is a wonderful album about
friendship and understanding each other's cultures, and they brought
this to Gung Haggis Fat Choy last night.


Shirleys brought their own special performing magic to the show,
working in the word “haggis” into a call and response song with the
audience – photo Ray Shum

The Shirleys, are six (or seven) sassy soulful women whose ancestral
ethnicities represent many different cultures that they all share with
each other and with their audiences.  They brought such energy to
the show with their African songs, and a cross-cultural beauty to their
arrangement of the classic Chinese song Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower).

And how did the evening start off?


Joe McDonald leads the piping ceremony – photo Ray Shum

With the traditional piping in ceremony….   the performers
usually follow Joe McDonald & Brave Waves – but this time it was
Vancouver Mayory Sam Sullivan being piped in.  What a surprise!


Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan is piped
in, he follows Dohl drummer Preet, and is followed by Lynn Zanatta, and
ACWW president Don Montgomery. – photo Ray Shum

Todd Wong and Mayor Sam Sullivan – just two boys who grew up on in Vancouver's East End – photo Ray Shum

Mayor Sam Sullivan gave a warm welcome to the audience, where he
recognized that 6 city councillors were also attending the dinner,
naming Suzanne Anton, Heather Deal, George Chow, Raymond Louie, BC Lee
and Elizabeth Ball.  “We have quorum!” he exclaimed.  Then he
read a poem in Cantonese from the Tang Dynasty.

Lots of surprises during the evening, and our City TV co-host Prem Gill
handled them very well, whenever spontaneous creativities leaped in to
the program. 

Clan NDP showed up and we had Chinese descendant Mary-Woo Sims and
Scottish born Ian Waddell each dressed appropriately reciting verses of
Address to the Haggis.  Bev Meslo, Bill Siksay, Peter Julian,
Svend Robinson and David Askew – all sitting with my good friend Meena
Wong, and NDP organizer, who was born in Beijing.

Co-host Prem Gill of City TV, asks
NDP candidate Ian Wadell about his kilt – which once caught Queen Elizabeth's eye, while Qayqayt Band Chief
Rhonda Larrabee and Kelly Ip look on – photo Ray Shum

MP for Chinatown Libby Davies gave a welcome to the audience,
recognizing the importance of saving Kogawa House, and all the good
work of Asian Canadian Writer's Workshop and Ricepaper Magazine, and
the multicultural fun of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.

Clan Green Party also showed up with national party leader Jim Harris
being invited to come up and read the 2nd verse of Address to a
Haggis.  He read it so well with a good brogue that free-range
Haggis rancher Peter Black gave him a big hug that he will be taking it
back to Toronto with him.  Green candidates Jim Stephenson and
Christine Ellis also attended, along with my good friend Cladia
Cornwall, a Green Party organizer – who was born in Shanghai to Jewish
parents escaping Nazi Germany.


groaning trencher there ye fill, Your hurdies like a distant hill, Your
pin wad help to mend a mill In time o' need, While thro' your pores the
dews distil Like amber bead.
Rancher Peter Black watches over National Green Party leader Jim Harris
as he reads the 2nd verse of Robert Burns immortal poem “To a
Haggis.”  Faye Leung, “the hat lady” awaits her turn for the 3rd
Vers – photo Ray Shum

Travelling dinner guests included Betty Chan Klepp who drove all the
way from Vernon.  Betty Chan as a youngster was Highland Dancing
champion, and her father Ernest Chan was the first Chinese Canadian to
recieve the Order of Canada.  Lensey Namioka, children's author of
the book Half and Half, a Scottish-Chinese-American family in Seattle,
travelled up from Seattle with her husband.  Victor Wong,
executive director of Chinese Canadian National Council, was in town
from Toronto, and really really loved the dinner event.  On
Thursday, following a news conference, I dressed him in my kilt for a
fun picture.  He was absolutely amazed at how many times I used
the term “head tax” last night… but this is my family, and this is
our world.


Leung, the famous “hat lady” with Todd wearing a Maple Leaf tartan…
Red is a good luck colour in Chinese culture, and looks good in kilts
too! – photo Ray Shum


highlight of the evening was poet/author Joy Kogawa.  Partial
funds from the dinner go to help Save Kogawa House committee, working
with The Land Conservancy in an effort to help save Joy Kogawa's
childhood home from demolition. At age 6, she and her family were
forcibly removed from the home and interned during the WW2 – photo Ray

Joy Kogawa was our poet for the evening.  The room was almost dead
silent as she read a new work about overcoming challenges and
developing friendship.  And then she mentioned a character named
“Toddish McWong.” I went into stun phase.  After hugging Joy for
her reading, Prem Gill says “Joy Kogawa has written a poem about you…
how incredible is that!”


Head Table: seated – Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, Joy Kogawa, Qayqayt
Band Chief Rhonda Larrabee. standing – MP Libby Davies, ACWW president
Don Montgomery, Lynn Zanatta, The Land Conservancey executive director
Bill Turner, Gung Haggis Fat Choy creator Todd Wong, and Libby Davie's
guest – photo Ray Shum
Our Artsy Head Table: (seated) Issac and Lensey Namioka, Susan Mertens,
Joy Kogawa, Max Wyman, Jenni Kato, (standing) Todd and Moyra Rodger,
Don Montgomery and Jeff Chiba Stearns – photo Ray Shum

Our head table guests included four Order of Canada recipients: Joy
Kogawa, Mayor Sam Sullivan, Max Wyman and brand new member Bill Turner
who attends his investiture on February 17th.  Also at our tabes
were Lensey Namioka, Seattle author of “Half and Half”, Jeff Chiba
Stearns, film animator/creator of “What Are You Anyways?”, MP Libby
Davies, and Moyra Rodger – director/producer of the CBC television
performance special Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  And Qayqayt band Chief
Rhonda Larrabee,
my 1st cousin- once removed, whom I pointed out to the audience that on
one side of her
family she's fighting for land claims, and the other side for head tax

Gung Haggis Fat Choy really is about the people who attend the dinner,
as much as it is about the people we have on stage performing.  So
many times I was stopped while I walked around the room greeting
people, to be asked to take a picture with them, or to be told that
they are Chinese, and their partner is Scottish or the other way
around.  So many people said that they had always wanted to attend
the dinner, and are so glad they could finally make it.


The wonderful crowd of almost
500.  Head table with Mayor Sam Sullivan in front, to his right in
kilt is Bill Turner, executive director of The Land Conservancy and Joy
Kogawa – photo Ray Shum

It's a lot of work, and we are so indebted to the many volunteers of
Ricepaper magazine, Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team, and Save
Kogawa House/The Land Conservancy.  Afterall, they do have to work
for their fundraising…   But by bringing organizations
together, and sharing our diverse talents, we can create an event that
is bigger than ourselves as individuals.  Gung Haggis Fat Choy is
about our community.  It reflects our community and the people in
it.  And I am feeling very grateful to be part of such a wonderful

local haggis rancher, Peter Black & Sons, with family… Peter led
the Selkirk Address and read the first verse of “To a Haggis.”  He
had so much fun that afterwards, he invested me with the Order of the
Haggis! – photo Ray Shum

sings Auld Lang Syne – Our special guests: (seated) Todd and Moyra
Rodger (director/producer of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy tv special, Deb
Martin (my girlfriend and front of house manager), Don Montgomery (ACWW
president and E.D. of explorASIAN), Joy Kogawa and Mayor Sam Sullivan.
– photo Ray Shum

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