National Maritime Museum
Thursday 16th February 2012
A satirical extravaganza about China, Britain, imperialism and drugs in the 19th century in verse & music. See narco-capitalists & Chinese lawmakers slug it out, take part in a poetry slam, and watch the weirdest tea ceremony ever.
What do the humble cup of tea and the opium poppy have in common?
Britain’s craving for chinoiserie in the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in a trade imbalance that threatened to empty the treasury. To pay for the tea, silks, spices and porcelain we liked so much, the East India Company sold enormous quantities of cheap Bengal-grown opium to China, turning an aristocratic vice into a nationwide addiction.
The profits from the opium trade made fortunes, earned revenues for the British government, paid for the administration of the Empire in India and even financed a large slice of Royal Navy costs. When the Chinese tried to halt the import of the drug, the narco-capitalists persuaded Foreign Secretary Palmerston and Lord Melbourne’s government to go to war in 1839. The first military conflict, lasting a bloody three years, resulted in the Treaty of Nanking and the transfer of territory including Hong Kong to British rule.
A dastardly tale of imperialism, drugs and warfare, the story of this dark episode in British history is told in The Steampunk Opium Wars, a satirical extravaganza hosted by poet Anna Chen inside the belly of the beast, the heart of Empire, the Royal National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
Government narco-capitalists and Chinese law-enforcers slug it out in verse, and members of the audience have the chance to write and take part in a Farrago Poetry History Slam.
With music from legendary writer Charles Shaar Murray and The Plague’s Marc “The Exorcist” Jefferies; former Flying Lizards singer Deborah Evans-Stickland singing her mega-hit “Money”; DJ Zoe “Lucky Cat” Baxter of Resonance FM; and Gary Lammin of The Bermondsey Joyriders in the weirdest tea ceremony you’ve ever seen.
Have your photograph taken in your finest steampunk paraphernalia on stage by Mrs Sukey Parnell, who has exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery, and maybe see it displayed on the interweb.
Celebrating Chinese New Year and the opening of the new Traders Gallery at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich
Come and play with us …
Free entry but book tickets
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Anna’s food blog here: