Wed, Apr 04, 2018 - Page 11 News List

INTERVIEW: Percussion group adapts factory into cultural park

Tainan-based Ten Drum Rende Creative Park is a dream come true for the Ten Drum Art Percussion Group, which has transformed a deserted sugar refinery into a popular recreational facility. Intended as a practice venue to avoid noise complaints, the 7.5 hectare park has continued to upgrade and expand after the group moved in 2005. Park vice president Yang Yu-wen explained how the group strives to survive while preserving the industrial site, in an exclusive interview with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Crystal Hsu in Tainan on Saturday

Ten Drum Rende Creative Park vice president Yang Yu-wen poses for a photograph at the 7.5 hectare complex in Tainan during an interview on March 31.

Photo: Crystal Hsu, Taipei Times

Taipei Times: Why did Ten Drum Art Percussion Group (十鼓擊樂團) want to enter into business and operate a creative park?

Yang Yu-wen (楊有文): In 2000, a group of young people who loved traditional percussion established Ten Drum Art Percussion Group with an aim to promote and pass down Taiwan’s unique percussion music, which is different from Taiwanese opera, puppet shows and lion dances that are also associated with temple culture.

The group decided to search for a practice venue after residents lodged noise complaints.

It chose Taiwan Sugar Corp’s (Taisugar, 台糖) Rende Sugar Refinery (仁德糖廠), which had been idle for decades.

The mill had no water or electricity, but had heaps of waste. Mosquitoes, bugs, cobras and other wild animals occupied the space.

At first we took up only five warehouses to create Ten Drum Rende Creative Park (十鼓仁糖文創園區), but had to rent more over the years after Taisugar indicated that it had plans to dispose of idle assets.

Today, the rental space has grown from 1.5 hectares to 7.5 hectares, with the number of warehouses increasing from five to 17. This accounts for two-thirds of the Rende mill, which was established in 1909.

The complex now features a drum museum, drumming experience rooms, a medium-sized theater, a cafe, a children’s playground and retail space, all converted from old, but well-preserved warehouses, molasses storage tanks, pipelines and other factory facilities.

It also offers various extreme sport facilities, such as indoor rock climbing and bungee jumping, which appeal to visitors who enjoy speed, height and survival experiences in a rough industrial environment.

TT: What have been the biggest difficulties in building an industrial wasteland into a landmark recreational facility in southern Taiwan?

Yang: A lack of funding poses the No. 1 headache and remains a challenge today. Funding was insufficient and unstable in the beginning, while personnel was limited. Moreover, there were also negotiations with Taisugar.

We thought hard work would translate into a balanced finance sheet, but the reality did not lend support. We had to adjust and redefined our role.

The group’s founder, Hsieh Shih (謝十), had to take on multiple roles, including president, CEO, artistic director, director of creative innovation, construction supervisor and field worker.

Full-time group members also had to handle administration work while doubling as performers, tour guides, theater cleaning staff and delivery drivers, as well as cafeteria staff.

I first volunteered to help on a part-time basis after listening to the group’s performance. I used to own a small advertising company and developed an acumen for identifying creative talent. I closed the firm a few years later to concentrate on managing Ten Drum and pushing it to the world stage.

Both Hsieh and I had to mortgage our apartments to help support that goal.

We almost gave up after consecutive years of losses. Then came a turning point in 2009, when our album Drum Music Land (鼓之島), in collaboration with Taiwan Wind Music (風潮音樂), was nominated at the Grammys and the Independent Music Awards — unprecedented honors in Taiwan’s music history.

The nominations attracted visitors to the park and invitations to perform increased sharply. The group has performed in numerous cities worldwide, was featured in the Federation for Asian Cultural Promotion conference’s “Asian Gem in the Arts” segment and was selected as the best musical group at Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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