I arrived in China on the evening of Monday 26th May ready for an exciting week of networking and performing at TIF-IN Qingdao!
TIF-IN (The Technology Innovator's Forum) also known as 'The Global Digital Media and Entertainment Innovators Summit' gives over 200 enterprises of media entertainment, internet and mobile network platforms, music, film and TV show production, game production, new media technology and many more opportunities to participate in one of the biggest networking events in the entertainment calendar.
I was flown out to sing at the Future Creator Awards Ceremony in an incredible theatre built out on a pier and in to the ocean from Qingdao's vibrant coast line, right in the heart of the Beijing 2008 Olympics Sailing Centre. The Awards Ceremony was a chance for the industry and the world to witness the work of entrepreneurs who are showing the most initiative in the field of Global Digital Entertainment, with singing sensations and celebrities from three countries and hundreds of Chinese and foreign guests.
The summit and the Future Creator Awards Ceremony are proof of the implementation of the 'Global Alliance of Digital Entertainment' memo, which was launched jointly by China's Premier, Li Keqiang, and British Prime Minister David Cameron in December 2013. It was hosted by Qingdao Municipal Government, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and was jointly undertaken by Global Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd. (GDEA Ltd.), Future TV Co., Ltd, and Qingdao Radio and Television Group. It was a hugely significant co-operation project to promote Sino-British cultural exchanges.
These exchanges began on Wednesday 28th May with a welcome reception at the Intercontinental Hotel.
I met some amazing people including Garland Wu, Andrew Chan, and Sunny Chang who all run Universal Music in China, Universal Music representatives from the UK including the wonderful Caryn Tomlinson who first contacted me about this event, Qingdao Media Group, representatives from ITV, Nik Powell (co-creator of Virgin with Richard Branson), iCN TV / Future TV in China, Navada Group, documentary makers from the UK and China, and many more incredibly interesting and talented people!
After two hours at the reception it was time for me to head to a restaurant near the second of Qingdao's two piers.
I was thrilled to be a part of this dinner, as included in the dinner party were Lord Marland, Gareth Neame (Downton Abbey), Michael Wilson OBE (producer and screenwriter of many of the James Bond films), Duncan Heath (Chairman of Independent Talent Group LTD, Daniel Craig's and Julian Fellowes' Agent), and Max Hole (Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group International). I sat next to Lord Marland, a lovely man who was happy that I was able to talk to the Chinese waitress and order all our food, and Michael Wilson with whom I chatted to about James Bond, astronomy, Richard Dawkins and the theory of evolution among other things. He's an incredibly interesting and knowledgeable man! As the meal went on we spoke to more people on the table which lead to great conversations about the entertainment industry and people's experiences within it, a little bit of politics and business (Lord Marland's fields of expertise) and other subjects like Downton Abbey, which Gareth Neame and I know a little bit about!
Thursday started with a full dress rehearsal of the Future Creator Awards Ceremony ready for the real thing which would be recorded as live for China's CCTV 2 (China's equivalent of the BBC). There were a few concerns about the equipment at first but they were all smoothed out during sound checks and the order of the acts was finalised. We then had a short break back at the hotel before hair and make up and then the start of the show!
All the distinguished guests like the Rt Hon Vince Cable, representatives from the British Embassy, UK and Chinese Governments and all of the audience entered the theatre by walking down a red carpet where they were met with lights, media, photographers and the horse from the hit West End show War Horse.
The stage was set and looked incredible. A huge globe was used as a giant projector screen and opened at the middle to make room for many of the entertainment acts throughout the evening.
After most of the awards for the evening had been presented, it was time for me to take to the stage. I sang Glorious, the second single from my debut album Shine that I wrote with Chris Eaton, then I sang my favourite Chinese song 春天的芭蕾 Spring Ballet. I loved singing on such an enormous stage and can't wait to see the whole show when it is televised in China, as well as in the US and Canada this week!
The evening ended with the back of the stage opening up, revealing the incredible view of the ocean and the city scape of Qingdao on the horizon. A boat then came in to the theatre from the back of the stage before setting sail in to the night to a rapturous applause from the audience.
All in all, an incredibly successful showcase of innovators, entertainment giants and how links between the west and China are growing to fruition.
The next day, the Intercontinental was alive again with talks and presentations. I attended many of them and particularly enjoyed Duncan Heath's presentation on the importance of talent in the future and Maria Kyriacou's (MD of ITV Studios) presentation on co-creation and innovation in storytelling. I also really enjoyed Wendy Darke's presentation. Wendy Darke is head of the Natural History Unit at the BBC and held the room as she spoke about the future of program making as well as programs like Africa, Blue Planet and Frozen Planet; my all time favourite TV series other than Downton Abbey!
During the day I had the opportunity to meet some more amazingly talented innovators and entertainment representatives and came away with over 60 business cards! I cannot wait to see how we can all work together in the future and what these new connections will lead to!
TIF-IN was an incredible experience for me, during the many talks and presentations of the day following the Awards Ceremony, I received lots of great feedback about my performance from both UK and Chinese parties. I just hope that China's 1.351 billion people like it as much as they did!
Big thanks to New Look who gave me 10 items to take to China and to Ultrasmile UK for improving my smile with Invisalign Aligners and for squeezing me in for a last minute appointment before my flight. Special thanks to Caryn Tomlinson, UKTI, UK and Chinese Governments, British Embassy in Beijing, CCTV, Gina, Rubin, Paul, Chi, Shan, Catherine, Ben and Hari. Thank you for all your hard work and for your kindness and company in Qingdao!