Chris Kyme: Postcard from Hong Kong

Chris Kyme_April2016.jpgChris Kyme - another page has turned in his latest Postcard from Hong Kong.
I've just been told that Page One the bookshop has completely closed down in Hong Kong. And with its passing there closes another chapter in the story of the local creative scene. A victim of changing times I would say, coupled with probably the greed of local landlords who have squeezed thousands of good local businesses to death in recent years. We all need another Gold Watch Shop don't we?

But times have changed and these days students of creativity have access to the world's best work via online channels. We can check out the best of the shows without leaving our desks, watch showreels, read blogs. It's all there.
There was a time though when Page One was the place to go. The only shop in town where you could pick up your D&AD and One Show annuals. Copies of Lurzer's Archive. And all the best photography and design annuals your bookshelf could handle. It was like a private, secret hideaway for creative aficionados and you'd bump into your contemporaries as they rifled through the pages of The Art Directors Annual, which would almost offer up a glow of golden wonder from its pages like that scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta opens up the suitcase ("We good Vincent?").

Page One.jpgPage One was not the only source from where we could get our creative fix. There was also Basheer Books (which is still around, 10 minutes from my office, and my own book is still on sale there, even though I'm the only person who actually goes in to buy copies), and the old gentleman representing them would wheel his trolley around the agency creative departments (he didn't need an appointment, we all knew who he was) with his latest tastiest selections, the occupants of which would come buzzing around like puppies at feeding time, wagging their tails as they pawed the latest offerings. He was the pusher and we didn't take much pushing.
Over the years Page One became a completely different offering than when it first opened in Hong Kong. More a general bookshop, which was probably necessary for reasons of survival, which eventually it seems, proved not enough. It's not the only bookstore chain to bite the dust recently too, it seems books and knowledge are less in demand these days because people have mobiles to read. What time for books? Just recently looking for books at Hong Kong airport I was completely depressed to see how the bookshops there are now almost non-existent. Page One was squeezed out of there ages ago of course. In its place is some bland chain I've never heard of, and Relay is still there, although greatly reduced in size. The bookshops there now are more like 'book corners' than actual shops. Pretty embarrassing for an international airport in 'Asia's World City'.
I love the fact that now days we have instant access to all of the creative reference we want. Don't get me wrong. I love watching the world's best work online anytime I want. But I remember the days when it wasn't always like that. When we had to order SHOTS and the TV Register. And make those little pilgrimages to the place that sold the secret books we craved.
RIP Page One. You brought a breath of fresh creative air to many of us when you first opened your doors. I for one, have fond memories.

Chris Kyme is chief executive officer at Kymechow, Hong Kong.

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