Tai Kwun: Hong Kong’s newest cultural centre

Completed in 1919, the Police Headquarters Block forms the public face of the complex

The history

Since announcing their HKD$1.8 Billion “Gift for Hong Kong” more than 10 years ago, The Hong Kong Jockey Club have now officially opened the doors to its centre of heritage and arts, Tai Kwun.

As a composite establishment for some of Hong Kong’s legal, judiciary and penal services from the early days of British colony, the Central Police Station (CPS) Compound comprises the Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison. Built between 1864 and 1919, with the former Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison erected in 1914 and 1841 respectively, the compound is laced with more than 170 years of rich Hong Kong history – you may or may not have noticed as you were bar-hopping your way down Hollywood Road on the way to Lan Kwai Fong.

Interestingly, although declared as monuments in 1995 under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, it was not until 2003 that the preservation and revitalisation of the compound was discussed. By 2007, the proposal was accepted by the SAR government and the revitalisation and conservation project commenced.

D Hall, one of the oldest buildings on the site, it previously functioned as a hospital and female prison

Tai Kwun

Paying tribute to the unique and historical importance of the site, the Club, in partnership with the government, have kept the local colloquial name ‘Tai Kwun’ used previously by the locals and police officers. Balancing cultural, heritage and commercial elements, the revitalisation of the CPS compound involved conserving and restoring heritage buildings as well as constructing two new buildings. As such, an abundance of heritage and culture will be celebrated during Tai Kwun’s opening with thematic exhibitions, film screenings, educational events and more.

Immerse yourself and connect with Hong Kong through Tai Kwun’s legends, lesser-known stories, conservation work and performing arts. Nestled in the heart of Central and home to three declared monuments, Tai Kwun spans across 27,900 square meters featuring two large outdoor areas – the Parade Ground and the Prison Yard; 16 heritage buildings and two new buildings – JC Contemporary and JC Cube. Who knew all of this even existed?

For those looking to travel beyond the icy shopping malls of Central and embrace more of the local culture, Tai Kwun is well worth the trip. Visitors can expect to see short renditions of Shakespeare, circus talents, stand-up comedy, musicians and singers. To our delight, unlike most spectacular events in Hong Kong, admission fees, depending on the performance, are gratis, if not very reasonably priced.

JC Contemporary, one of two new buildings, will house exhibition spaces as well as a viewing terrace and a restaurant

What to expect

A space for expression and suited to all audiences, Tai Kwun will be offering performances from artists all over the world, including Germany, United Kingdom, Israel, and France. Yat Po Singers, Hong Kong’s first and leading a capella choral theatre, will be performingThis Victoria Has No Secrets, inspired by the history of Victoria Harbour.

Israeli Artist, Niv Petel, will also be performing live, telling us of a heartfelt story of love, parenthood and sacrifice, guaranteed to take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Without giving much more away, you can also expect to see an exciting line-up of stand-up comedy, street performances and mini-concerts every Monday and Wednesday, as well as free film screenings every Sunday.

If you’re looking to learn more of Hong Kong’s unique and undeniably enticing history, Tai Kwun also entertains Heritage Offerings, all of which are free admission.  From self-guided tours to story-telling spaces, it’s a fun, interactive space to educate either yourself, friends or families of the history of your home.   Whether you’re an avid artist or simply there to pass time, Tai Kwun is a spot of serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s busiest streets, a space crammed with character, waiting to be explored.

The prison yard, one of the two major outdoor spaces at Tai Kwun

Built between 1862 and 1864, The Barrack Block houses the Tai Kwun Store, visitor centre, and also two heritage storytelling spaces

Photos: Tai Kwun

To find out more information about admissions, opening times and performance schedules visit taikwun.hk

In this Story: #culture / #art & design