One month in...

exhibition“I think the hardest part of a new job is probably that first month,” recalled Michael Lynch, overlooking the West Kowloon site from his office, “because you have left your family, your house… it is about adjusting to a different place in a different way.”

The good news of course is the new chief executive passed the first month challenge – with nice reviews – thanks to the media and his hard work.

The man who joined the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority on July 25th said it was his first time working in an environment that he did not speak the local language but luckily one thing helped him to breeze through easily: his food taste.

“I get Chinese food three times a day so I am feeling absolutely happy on that front,” said Lynch, who likes almost everything except chicken feet and “shark fins”, which he finds “highly overrated”.

With a new Chinese name that means “continuously taking wisdom”, Lynch is trying to live up to this  label by getting acquainted with as many people as possible, sometimes taking people to Chinese lunch, or a drink after night shows.

 Starting his day before 6am, Lynch is mindful that he needs to first understand the complexity of the project, and there is nothing better to take it to his key stakeholders to find out their hopes, fears and aspirations for West Kowloon Cultural District.

exhibitionWith the stage 3 public engagement exercise commencing next month, Lynch set his top priority to conduct the final leg in a way that satisfies Hong Kong people and delivers the development plan to the Town Planning Board for approval by end of the year.

In his first month, he managed to meet many new people and go to quite a few shows that included a Mcdull music concert, a master class with Lang Lang and a group of 10 year-old kids and a visit to Fotanian artists. But what impressed him most was the award night for the Arts with the Disabled Association Hong Kong.

“It was the first thing I agreed to do officially in my time in Hong Kong,” said Lynch, who caught polio at the age of three. “I feel I owe something to the disability community so I hope I can help to support disabled community and disabled organisations.”

The kind of hectic schedule reminded him of the day he spent in London, where he started in summer at the Southbank Centre back in 2002 for a seven good year reign.

Lynch recalled there were three chief executives in the past five years before his take-over and there was a big sense of expectation – same with West Kowloon – to figure out what Southbank would try to achieve. But the big difference was he had a real pressure to raise money, partly from the government but largely from private philanthropy and sponsorship.

exhibition“One big advantage of West Kowloon is the government has given us a large portion of money to get the project going,” he noted. “We can focus much more on delivering, realising and making sure we have the right organisation to do the various tasks.”

His job in Hong Kong is arguably easier than the one in London because he would be closer to his parents and his daughter Ella, whom he thinks has a tougher job. Ella Scott Lynch is an actress who plays a lawyer in the drama series “Crownies” currently being shown in Australia.

His parents were very supportive to his new assignment, much more so after a local editorial piece, published in late May after his appointment, linked him to former United States president Franklin Roosevelt, both with polio and determination.

“I have probably never been able to do better than the editorial,” said Lynch. “On that I have to get back quickly to work to try to satisfy public expectations.”


Talking Art: My favourite things

  • Painter: Russian Wassily Kandinsky
  • Favourite art work: A flying chair (see photo)
  • Singer: Leonard Cohen
  • Actress: Cate Blanchett
  • Most memorable experience: once cried in his favourite play Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”
  • Least memorable: fell asleep in a Pink Floyd concert