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16 October 2014

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Chinese Whispers

By William Tsui
May 2002, Port Talbot
A digital story from Capture Wales
William tells the story of his family moving from place to place, before arriving in Port Talbot, where William lives now.

"I never got to know my father well, even to understand him. My parents' lifestyle and cultural heritage has been a profound influence for most of my life.

Early 60s, my parents flew over from Hong Kong to the UK in search of a higher standard of living. Mum and Dad settled in Harrogate in 1961 and married the same year.

I was born on a Wednesday, St Valentine's Day, 1962.

Throughout my childhood I never stayed anywhere more than a few years, uprooted five times and we travelled around to where work was available. Never saw much of dad as he and my mum worked hard... unsociable hours in the catering trade. I spent a lot of time on my own.

Back to Harrogate the second time, '66. Dad acquired a laundry from a family friend; laundry in a basement, my bedroom the attic. Busy times... parents work through the night... woke up frightened, sometimes crying in solitude sensations... sounds of machinery growling loudly like a dragon, rising up from the pits of the earth.

Port Talbot, '72 we opened the first take-away.

1976, my dad had passed away through a long illness.

At 14, just a school-kid, take on my dad's business beside my mother.Like most Chinese, I was born with an instinct to help to carry on the family business, as if I had the word obligation already stamped on my forehead before birth.

After school, working hours in the evenings behind the flaming hot wok. I yearned to break for my freedom, and left home for London to pursue my passions for the arts.

Four years later, college ends and my obligation and duty as a son brought me home to be near my mum in her retirement... no longer spending hours in the kitchen but fashioning a new career in photography."

William Tsui

You took part in the Port Talbot workshop William, have you lived there all your life?
I have spent most of my time in Port Talbot after living in London for a while. As a family we went around different towns and cities, because my parents were looking for work in this country. We eventually settled in Port Talbot. I am currently a freelance photographer, a part time tutor and an arts curator.

What would you say is the underlying theme running through your story?
My family's history is the central theme. As I said earlier, my parents moved around the country many times - from towns to cities in order to find work, mainly in the catering trade. This has become and continues to be the fate for many of the Chinese population. We then settled in Port Talbot to open the town's first Chinese takeaway.

Did you enjoy the Digital Storytelling workshop?
Yes, extremely. It was a brilliant opportunity to learn new IT skills and to further enrich my knowledge within the field. I enjoyed sharing my experiences and hearing other experiences within the group. It also gave me the chance to explore and present a subject which has been rarely documented or even researched in any great detail.

Your comments

"I think this story is great and there should be more people like him." Natalie Barnett, Llandrindod Wells, Wales, Sept 2007

"I think that the story was amazing. It touched me in a way I have never been touched before." Jasper, Uruguay, Sept 2007.

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