Interview with Feixue Huangdu, Digital Projects Officer
The team at Culture Syndicates bring a wide range of strengths, interest and experiences to their role. We are introducing this new series of interview blog posts to help you get to know the team and what drives their work. The first interview in the series is with Feixue Huangdu, Digital Projects Officer.
What was your background before joining Culture Syndicates?
I am from a city of 2.2m people called Huaibei in Anhui Province in the heart of China. I trained as a journalist in Tianjin and moved to Beijing to begin my professional career. I established myself as an on-line programme host interviewing people from government, business and the arts and went on to host prestigious charity events. I even finished in the top ten of the Chinese Miss World competition. This being a Chinese version of the competition, I actually sold products and developed crafts to help a disability charity and gave speeches about the need to support people with disabilities as part of the competition.
After seven years as a journalist in Beijing I became increasingly interested in heritage and live-streaming and quit my job in journalism to enrol in a brand-new Masters programme called Museum and Heritage Development, a dual MA between the Communication University of China (CUC) and Nottingham Trent University (NTU). CUC is the most prestigious media university in China and many of the stars of Chinese TV have graduated from there. It also houses the magnificent media museum, which hosts many national media and heritage events. Whilst at CUC, I interviewed the former Director of the Forbidden City and Deputy Director of the Chinese Cultural Heritage Administration and following that in August 2018 I organised and hosted the Beijing Museum Association Forum.
During all this time, I was developing an audience for my live-streaming work. I was unique in that I concentrated on heritage rather than popular culture and began to attract a niche audience.
In September 2019 I came to Nottingham and continued my studies and live-streaming work and incorporated it into my research thesis at NTU. Through the strong connections the NTU heritage team had with the sector, I was able to develop my methodology, working more closely with curators and managers to offer more in-depth programming.
I became famous around the world when one of my live-streams from Ruddington Village Museum attracted an audience of 420,000 people back in China. I was interviewed by BBC radio and TV, The Times, BBC Singapore and many other media outlets. I briefly made Ruddington famous around the world. I would go on to attract much larger audiences subsequently, peaking at 1,002,000 just before the pandemic lockdown.
The pandemic has curtailed my activity, but I have acquired a long-term visa so can now work in the UK until 2023, promoting UK heritage to China.
To date I have broadcast to over 8.5 million people through my programmes and I want to continue to work closely with museums and strategic heritage bodies to develop their audiences, which I think is needed more than ever in these difficult times.
In 2019 at the East Midlands Museum Development Heritage Awards, I was given a Judges’ Special Award for ‘using digital technology to initiate a global reach’. A rare award to an individual rather than an organisation and the first Chinese person to receive the accolade.
At the same ceremony, the Partnership Working Award was given to – Canalside Visions: From Beijing to Beeston photography exhibition. A partnership between Nottingham Trent University, Communication University of China and Beeston Canalside Heritage Centre. I helped curate the exhibition and then live streamed it back to China.
In 2020, I was given a Nottingham Heritage Champion Award for enhancing and celebrating Nottingham’s heritage.
Why did you want to join Culture Syndicates?
After graduating I joined an international banking firm. During my time there, I maintained contact with my tutor Neville Stankley, who is also a Director of Culture Syndicates. I think he had always understood what I was trying to do with digital technology and the potential value of my work to museums. He was keen that my work supported the sector and not exploit it. Thus, the social enterprise Culture Syndicates was perfect for me. Their links with the sector and service-oriented culture was the perfect platform for me to work on behalf of the sector in an enterprise with an ethical purpose and to develop myself as well.
By Feixue Huangdu, Digital Projects Officer, and Ruth Gray, Heritage Assistant
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