A new Eastern Culture Hub has launched in Stoke Newington offering workshops from dumpling-making to Chinese calligraphy and paper-cutting.
Lei Yang, who runs the store Rouge on the High Street, has converted the basement into a beautiful space where people can learn about Asian culture.
Born and raised in Beijing, Lei moved here in her 20s and became a fashion designer before opening her store. She travels the world to bring back handmade ceramics, luxury textiles, interior accessories and furniture.
Explaining her motivation for running an Eastern Culture Hub, she said: “These last few years I’ve just wanted to connect with people more. I had breast cancer five years ago and it sparked a journey of self-reflection. There’s something about the transactional nature of running a shop – I like the interaction with people, their stories fascinate me! I created this space so that people can come together and share their story and connect with each other. That’s the driving force for this hub.
“Running the shop was always about travelling and bringing beautiful things back so my connection with home was not lost. I’ve travelled a lot – to China, Japan, Vietnam, Mongolia and more. I love travelling to different places. There is a real acceptance of Asian culture here and a curiosity.”
Lei, a mother of two, received a grant from Hackney Council’s High Streets and Town Centre Fund and her partner Leon Cole, who works at a university, carried out the work in his spare time.
The space includes a large kitchen, where Lei will teach dumpling-making. She added: “I learned to make dumplings when I was five from my grandma. This recipe is totally my recipe now – my family taught me to cook but over the years I’ve adapted the recipe a lot. I’m happy to share it – the whole concept is about happiness shared. You learn to make these dumplings with me then you can make them with your friends and family - spread the joy!
The workshops take place throughout the autumn. There’s a vegetarian dumpling-making workshop and a meat one.
Lei added: “It’s really great to bring families and friends together. Participants in our workshop come from all cultures and all ages; so far from 16 to 85.”
Other events hosted by Rouge include tea ceremonies Kundalini yoga, indigo dye workshops, paper cutting and Chinese calligraphy.
Rouge is also running a community initiative called Stitch your Story – creating a giant artwork.
Check out the website to find a workshop: www.rouge-shop.com/collections/workshops