So, as said, The HK Youth Arts Foundation kindly once again invited me to be the lead artist/ sole bodypainter for the HK Rugby 7s, and as in 2009 (when I was in NZ) flew me to Hong Kong to take part. And this time put me up in a lovely hotel as well (before I either was living in HK or borowed a friend’s place to stay).
The HK Rugby 7’s is a 24-Nation Rugby Tournament that started in the 70’s, sort of like the World Cup, and is now hosted in several countries. Hong Kong is ‘the’ event of the tour; 40,000 fans/ day, all in fancy dress and ready to party! Of course many never see their hotel beds for the entire weekend and just carry on in bars between the stadium’s closed hours, but I have never had or seen any trouble. I really do love the friendly atmosphere even between rival (and often drunk) fans. I/we have become a fixture, often featuring in the continual fiming for the big screens and the official guide books for the event.
What I love is that on the Friday and before the 2 main days of the weekend, the kids and under 18’s rugby teams get to compete on the huge pitch in front of the crowds, many of whom get there early to bag good seats. Can you imagine, playing at that age, in a stadium built specifically to host the 24 international teams? Awesome! There are live bands at various locations around the arena, shows and dancers between and after the matches, a DJ blasting out ‘HK 7’s’ theme songs (a lot of which seem to come from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack) and general madness all round.
We were lucky enough to win the bid for facepainting the 1st yr I arrived in HK, in 2006, as soon as YAF found me; the Rugby pay us a reasonable fee, and we provide the high quality face paints (sourced by me mainly from the UK). This being HK, a lot of the paints do NOT appreciate the temperature & humidity; even though this March it was unseasonably cold, the Snazaroo blue still looked like this when we took the lids off! – the pale blue peak on the right!
I have a couple of hours to train the painters, if they can make it, (all artists but not necessarily painty artists and none are pro face-painters) and do the designs. We must do a range of designs, and a range of prices, covering all 24 nations and their teams as well as normal popular designs. I also offer quick chest, tummy, back or body paints too, taking up to 90 mins max. YAF is a charty offerring art and drama experiences to people who wouldn’t otherwise get them, and on the day ALL money we take goes directly into charity boxes for the HK RFU scholarship charity. So its a good thing!
Some of the team, and me.
After days of prep, new designs, teaching a few of the YAF artists for a couple of hours the night before, helping them cut 11 copies of the 16 or so stencils we use (mainly team logos and parts of national flags), we packed it all into the YAF van and drove to HK’s stadium. After waiting for our usual escort, the amazing Chris, who sorts all kinds of problems out and provides the always-excellent team of volunteers who staff our money desk and help control the queues, we got our security passes, our white ‘Inspire’-fronted YAF Face Painter t-shirts (white is NOT my choice) and started setting up our 2 stalls. I was on Stall A, on the main level, west side, this year.
Usually Friday is a quieter day and I do a paint for the press/ VIPs; this year YAF asked 2 of their dance students to be my models. Sadly 1 hadn’t a ticket so I was painting the lovely Megan with a design we decided would be called ‘The Spirit of the Sevens’. As arranged last-minute that morning, I had a white boob tube from YAF’s Dance store-room, a bunch of star sequins and some metallic pipecleaners, and all the team/ country stencils I usually made for the rugby. I’d twisted some vague head-attachments from the pipe-cleaners and stars for her in red, silver and blue, and the other ‘girls’ (artists) liked them so much I made them for everyone on our stall whilst I ws in the van on the way to the stadium! Even Chris although I don’t think he wore his in his hair!
So, with reporters, (including the one who’d last year, despite handling the large glue-on boob covers, watching me paint Pat from the start, and questioning us throughout, had then twisted our words and also lied and cropped off Pat’s denim shorts to produce the ‘naked girl at rugby 7s’ scandalous headlines for her paper last year),
… photographers and TV popping in and out all the time, I stood Megan on a chair and started the quick swirly red, white and blue base, colours which are used in so many flags from England, Scotland, France and the USA to smaller patches on the flags of other countries. Added to that were HK’s flag’s white bauhinia flowers, stars (stencilled, freehand and sequin) which appear on NZ, Australia, USA etc flags, black leafy patterns for Fiji, Tonga, NZ, Wale’s red dragon, Englands red rose…. basically I hoped to include something from most of the 24 Nations who were competing in the tournament. But only in those 3 colours with a bit of green and black added, to look good artistically, in the time. I think I had 90 mins, and those boob tubes are a pain to get paint onto!
As I was painting Megan, fans were wondering up to look, and she was greeting friends too. Half way along, she spotted her mate’s boyfriend, just back from Uni in England, and told me I should paint him. The poor guy stepped over to say hi and I asked!
Luckily Jamie didn’t put up much of a fight (at all!) and once Megan was finished and sent off to pose for photos, Jamie stripped off his shirt and took her place on my chair. It was pretty chilly for HK and we didn’t have long so I did a super-quick ‘rugby shirt’ to match Megan’s red, white & blue. I didn’t have any wording stencils ready, as I had thought we were only getting Megan painted, and I HATE lettering. But it needed something, so at the last minute I stood him in fron of a YAF banner to copy on their logo and then attempted the YAF wording. Which I totally mucked up as it was longer than expected, but hey!
The pair of them posed and played for photos (Jamie does drama too so was great and as body- confident as Megan) whilst I cleaned up and got on with painting faces with the rest of the team.
So, they were happy, I managed 2 body paints in approx 2 hours, we got some good press coverage and this is the 3 of us with our rugby faces on. AFTER someone told me I’ d had a black paint beard on for all the previous shots!!!!
I heard the next day that ‘that’ reporter had again mentioned us in her paper – I was very late leaving the stadium so had to walk a long way to find a 7-11 still with Apple Daily on sale. And it was all in Chinese! I knew it was about me as it seems there are no symbols for ‘Megan’, “Spirit Of Rugby’ (wrong name anyway!) or body-painting…..
Turns out it was all OK if not much to do with anything we actually SAID….