Chinese British comic Anna Chen says WTF with the stereotypes? Stand-up comedy in the week of Act for Change.

British East Asian comedian Anna Chen on Asian stereotypes, terracotta warriors, and pets.

This week, hundreds of actors, artists and creatives attended the Act for Change conference at the Young Vic in London looking at the alarming lack of diversity in TV, film, the media and the arts.

Fed up with the continuing exclusion of Black Asian Mixed race Ethnic (BAME) actors, I’m reposting a video (above) of a couple of gigs I did a while back at The Lion’s Den and Mirth Control, lampooning stupid Asian stereotypes.

London, my home city, is nearly 40 per cent BAME. A few years back there was 31 per cent BAME representation in the media industry, but that’s plummeted to five per cent since Ofcom dropped their diversity guidance. I’ve touched on this before but still no response anywhere from Ofcom who, one might suspect, don’t give a flying one.

For someone who’s pretty hard to miss, I’m surprisingly invisible. There’s a whole load of us feeling the same way, and we’re getting behind Act for Change.

Kat, one of my fellow British East Asia Artists (BEAA) co-founders, who tweets as Little Miss Mandu, read out a powerful quote at the conference, illustrating brilliantly our predicament:

“You know, vampires have no reflection in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters have no reflection in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that, if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t feel myself reflected at all … And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” Junot Diaz

My show, the subversively comical Suzy Wrong — Human Cannon, was all about that. I performed it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1994 and nothing’s changed. Except maybe everything’s going backwards.

You can’t even rely on the left to do the right thing.

There’s a dangerous side to minorities being kept invisible, like a pool of scapegoating ready to activate whenever governments get into trouble. The elephant in the room is that governments can and do divert social anger onto you when they screw up. Being kept in the role of a blank canvas, anyone can project their inner demons onto you.

And there are historical precedents for that.

(Video: two categories in Olympic weightlifting competition are the “snatch” and the “clean and jerk”. True.)

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Anna Chen’s Chinese Diaspora talk and poetry reading at Liverpool’s International Festival of Business China Day

A reminder about Liverpool tomorrow. I’m looking forward to giving my China Diaspora in Britain talk plus poetry from Reaching for my Gnu at the Il Forno Restaurant in Duke Street, Liverpool, tomorrow at 4pm. My dad lived there from the 1920s before he moved to London.

It’s the International Festival of Business China Day. I’m speaking at Il Forno Restaurant and there’s also an Opera for Chinatown in Duke Street.

Details here.

Twitter hashtags: #itsliverpool #IFB2014 #onecityonesummer #iliad

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Rik Mayall RIP: when I met Rik. Briefly.

Sadly, a classic case of the cutting room floor, but my mate Kirstin and I were in The Art of Noise Peter Gunn video starring Rik Mayall.

We thought he was cute as well as funny. Kirstin flirted outrageously and asked him how much he was getting paid for being in it, and was it the same as us (ha ha!)? He looked appalled and said he wouldn’t get out of bed for that little.

I was in a big black hat, throwing shapes in the nightclub scene (whatever happened to that footage?) but you can see Kirstin. One of those hands is hers!

RIP Rik Mayall. You will always be forever Young One to me.

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Anna Chen’s Chinese Diaspora in Britain talk and poetry comes to Liverpool 18th June

Opera for Chinatown, Liverpool by The Sound Agents.

Anna Chen gives her Chinese Diaspora in Britain talk and reads poetry at the International Festival of Business China Day launching ‘Opera for Chinatown’ in Liverpool

Really looking forward to doing this live event in Liverpool.

Writer, poet and broadcaster Anna Chen is coming to Liverpool on the 18th June to celebrate International Festival of Business IFB China Day and to launch The Sound Agents ‘Opera for Chinatown’ public art work in Duke Street. The event will take place in Il Forno restaurant in Duke Street at 4 pm. Booking Essential.

Anna Chen’s talk on the history of the Chinese Diaspora In Britain includes the fascinating stories of the first Chinese visitors to Britain such as the Jesuit priest Michael Shen Futsong in the 17th century; her father and the politics of the time including the seafarers, Liverpool and his early role in London’s Chinatown; the opium wars and the East India Trading Company; how Chinese scientific and cultural innovations affected Europe; the current changing political balance in the UK and representation in the arts; and the Fu Manchu Yellow Peril scare. Plus poetry. Far from being cowed, craven and submissive as depicted in colonialist popular culture, Anna shows that the Chinese in Britain were able to resist exploitation: her own father helped to found the Chinese Seaman’s Union and was active in the Save China campaign during the Japanese occupation of China.

She’ll be reading poetry from her collection, Reaching for my Gnu (pub: Aaaargh! Press) and some new ones.

More info here

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Anna Chen’s live dates coming up in London May 2014

Political poetry in London — Anna Chen at Campaign Against Climate Change

Looking forward to performing poetry at the Campaign Against Climate Change cabaret 6-11pm, Sat 31 May at the old Amnesty HQ, 25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA. £10 & £7

Wednesday 21st May 4pm, another China Diaspora in Britain talk for USC students in Bloomsbury.

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Anna’s poetry gig at YW8 launch, The Proud Archivist, Saturday 26 April

I am performing at the YW8 launch at The Proud Archivist in east London tomorrow. I’ll be doing some of the funnier poetry rather than the political stuff.

It’s a new arts centre on the Regents Canal just off Kingland Road, near where I was born and raised, a po’ Chinese Brit gurl in deepest Hackney. Although the gig is billed as Shoreditch.

The Proud Archivist, 2-10 Hertford Rd, N1 5ET

Show starts 8.30pm. In these austere times you’ll be delighted to know it’s free entry. Woot!

Doors open at 8.30pm with the acts running from 9pm till 10pm. We’re excited to have the amazingly talented Anna Chen (otherwise known as Madam Miaow) read some of her poetry to kick off the evening, which will be hosted by the versatile Siu-See Hung.

Other acts for our launch include: William Seaward, Matthew Lim, Jade Ho and Andrew Arasaratnam.

A free standing open-mic will run after the program ends, so feel free to stay till late and perhaps do a little performance of your own.

So now you know. See you there.

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