With the theme of “Digging Deep”, the evening gave the audience the opportunity to hear first-hand the journey of two Shanghai and China “old hands” who have each gone to great lengths, both personally and professionally, for their research and writing.
Guest speakers Spencer Dodington and Graham Earnshaw left the assembled crowd enthralled with their stories of their progression from teenagers in the USA and Australia respectively with an interest in Chinese characters, to dedicated Sinophiles with a passion for exploring this country and educating others about it.
An architect, designer, tour guide and restoration expert, Spencer discussed Shanghai’s Art Deco heritage and the influence of French architect Paul Veysserye who lived in Shanghai from the early 1920s until just before the Japanese invasion in 1937. Veysserye designed more than 100 of the stunning Art Deco buildings constructed in Shanghai during that time, all of which are still standing. Spencer encouraged the audience to spend some time exploring the beautiful former concessions of Shanghai, whilst also revealing he is working on another book that will look at this city before the concessions when, as he put it, Shanghai was “a series of canals and mud flats”.
A consummate performer, Graham Earnshaw had the audience laughing from the very beginning of his presentation, as he talked about his journey on foot across China, from Shanghai to Chengdu, along Highway 318. That journey is the subject of his book, The Great Walk of China. Telling stories of people he met along the way, and importantly, the motivation for taking on such a mammoth series of “Sunday strolls” as he described them, his presentation also included some beautiful photography of the Chinese countryside and people.
Having spent so many years – from 2004 – walking Highway 318, Graham was inspired to write a song about it, and this was the first of several songs with which he finished his presentation, proving just how versatile he is. However, the audience’s appetite for his stories was not yet sated, and he stayed on the stage answering questions about his extraordinary ramblings.
The evening ended with a book signing opportunity as parents and students enjoyed some light refreshments and the opportunity to purchase the books and meet the authors.