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West Kowloon Cultural District gets its fourth chief executive

Duncan Pescod takes charge of Hong Kong’s vast new arts district

Duncan Pescod is the new chief executive of Hong Kong’s $3bn mega-arts project, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA), as announced by Hong Kong’s chief secretary, Carrie Lam, on Tuesday 21 July. Pescod replaces Michael Lynch, who announced his retirement in early 2015 after four years in the role.

WKCDA oversees the development of an ambitious new neighbourhood built on reclaimed land, which will include the M+ museum of 20th and 21st century visual culture—now due to open in 2019—a Chinese opera theatre, a park and other arts venues.

Pescod joined WKCDA in October 2014 as chief operating officer. “The public has high expectations for the cultural district and… I am confident that what we are building in terms of venues, creativity, learning and opportunities will enrich Hong Kong immeasurably,” he said in a statement.

The legislator Emily Lau, and the chair of the oppositionist Democratic Party, questioned the appointment on the government's official radio station saying she had “never heard of Duncan Pescod being involved in any artistic or cultural field, so this is very puzzling”. 

Before joining WKCDA, Pescod had little experience in the arts, but he is a veteran of the region’s bureaucracy and politics – the two biggest obstacles to the realisation of the West Kowloon concept since 1997. He worked for 32 years in the Hong Kong administration, with roles in the Security Branch, the Lands Department, the Tourism Commission and the Civil Service Branch.

Pescod, who takes up his new role on 3 August, becomes the fourth head of WKCDA since the body's founding in 2008. The first, Hong Kong Disneyland’s former executive Angus Cheng, resigned two weeks after he began the job. The second, the former artistic director of London's Barbican Centre, Graham Sheffield, quit in January 2011 after about five months in Hong Kong.