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Down but not out: Rotten Head lives to fight another day

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A collective cry of dismay could be heard across Lantau on October 5 when Alan Chung and Andrew Spire, organisers of the Rotten Head Music & Craft Beer Festival, announced via a video post on Facebook that they were canceling the festival scheduled for October 26 in Tung Chung.

“There were a number of factors outside of our control that led to the cancellation of the festival,” explained Andrew. “The government denied us access to Tat Tung Park at the last minute and the increasingly difficult political situation meant we couldn’t guarantee the safety of our guests and staff. We tried as hard as we could to find a workaround, but in the end, it wasn’t to be.”

Alan and Andrew initially started organising the festival because they were looking for something to do on the weekend in Tung Chung. “Alan and I were sitting in the park with our kids saying, ‘There’s nothing to do in Tung Chung on the weekend.’ In DB, you’ll see there’s always a charity event, or a fun run, or something going on,” recalls Andrew of the chat just around 18 months ago that gave birth to the forthcoming Rotten Head Music & Craft Beer Festival. He shakes his head in amazed disbelief, words escaping the otherwise chatty Brit. “In Tung Chung there’s nothing. We have triple the population and nothing happening.”

Tapping into Hong Kong’s burgeoning festival culture, Alan and Andrew cooked up a plan to marry music, craft beer, artisanal product, children’s amusements and food in one giant event and host it at Tat Tung Road Park (next to the cable car station). Ultimately, though, the festival was another victim of the ongoing Hong Kong protests, like many other recent events across Hong Kong that have been cancelled due to the civil unrest.

Although the festival event on October 26 in Tat Tung Road Park has been cancelled, Alan and Andrew consider it a “minor setback” and are already planning future events to keep the momentum going. The venue Rula Live has stepped in to provide a venue on October 26 for the bands on the festival line-up to play. The bands Glen Alfred,  852, Case Sensitive, The Taken, The Pistons and Jack Rabbit Slim will take the stage in Lan Kwai Fong starting at 6 pm.  Rula regulars Rubicube and Beefcake will also perform at the event.

“Hong Kong is really lacking in live music. So, anything you can do to promote live music in Hong Kong is a good thing,” says Andrew. “We’re determined to do a Rotten Head Festival in some form or another. The hundreds of messages of support we’ve received have spurred us on and we’re already exploring some exciting avenues for upcoming large scale events, so keep your eyes peeled on the Rotten Head Facebook page for updates. ”

If anyone can make the change in plan work, it’s Alan and Andrew, a dynamic duo ideal for the job. Both are deceptively easy-going, quick with a joke and the right balance of constantly asking “Why?” needed to pull it off. Alan is a native Hongkonger, who headed back home in 2009 after finishing university in the UK. He met his wife, teacher Rebecca, here. Surrey-born Andrew landed in the SAR with his Hongkonger wife Nancy, a PR pro, four years ago. Both were bored. Between them they have four kids, from two months to four years old. Alan is a marketing exec who tends to think in business terms. Andrew is the artist, a newly freelancing graphic designer and stay-at-home dad. (He resigned from his post as senior graphic designer for this magazine and Around DB just a few months ago.)

The ongoing Hong Kong protests have compelled Hongkongers to look inward for a change, and take a bit of pride in all things hometown. As such, Alan and Andrew’s commitment to supporting local musicians and local micro-brewers has garnered a fair amount of attention. “A lot of people really ‘get’ it. As soon as they hear ‘local’ they’re interested. We’re trying to provide a platform to promote business in Tung Chung and on Lantau,” says Alan.

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