London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

Since 2013, City Showcase has worked on the London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival initially, for one year, as stage manager and programmer, then as overall Festival Producers – curating billing, managing and promoting the whole event.  The London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is the most important event for the British Chinese community after Chinese New Year seeing 10,000 people annually attend to watch some 40 teams, including British race teams, race for honours.

According to both legend and history, it is said that the Dragon Boat Festival originated in ancient southern central China some 2,500 years ago along the banks of Yangtze River, around the same era the Olympic Games began in Greece. Today dragon boat racing is one of the most popular water sports both in China and overseas.

The event takes place at the Royal Docks in London E16. In 2019, a record fifty six race teams took part in the 24th year of the event. The event was not held in 2020 due to the coronavirus.

Competitors included club, corporate, amateur and national teams paddling against gusting winds at Royal Albert in London’s Docklands to take home 5 Festival cups.

The spectacular action out on the water is the biggest dragon boat festival outside of Asia provided 7 hours of racing culminating in much awaited quayside medal ceremony at 5.30pm.

In 2015, City Showcase introduced a South East Asian food festival taking the event away from the typical mass catering trucks to street food traders represented the culinary tastes of each country in the region with the occasional European twist.

Apart from the racing, the entertainment is focused on live music and martial arts displays on the East West Festival stage, showcasing new emerging British artists, martial arts demonstrations, with traditional Chinese lion dancing proceeding the ‘dotting of the eyes ceremony’ with the Director General of Hong Kong Economic Trade Office launching the event on the cultural stage.

London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is organised by London Chinatown Lions Club, the fund-raising event donates proceeds to the club’s nominated charities, and is supported by the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, London (HKETO), The Hong Kong Executives Club and The London Chinatown Chinese Community Centre.


The London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is the second largest cultural event in the Chinese calendar, second only to Chinese New Year. The festival traditionally falls on the 5th day of the 5th month in the Chinese lunar calendar and marks the beginning of the wet season, when farmers began to sow their seeds. The prosperity of the farming community largely depended on sufficient rainfall to ensure a bumper harvest. The dragon in the Chinese Zodiac symbolises the clouds, rain and water, and is said to rule the rivers and lakes. The farming communities began their worship of the dragon by organising dragon boat races to welcome the wet season.

Dragon boat racing also commemorates the death of patriotic statesman and poet Qu Yuan during the Warring States period in the third century. Qu Yuan championed political reform and peace amongst the neighbouring Kingdoms. Under the influence of corrupt ministers, the Emperor of Chu banished Qu Yuan from the Kingdom. During his wandering exile in the countryside, he learnt that his country had been invaded by a rival Kingdom. In despair he committed suicide by leaping into the Milo River. The people raced out in their boats in a vain attempt to save him. They beat their drums and splashed their oars in the water, trying to keep the fish away from his body. To honour his soul and to ensure it did not go hungry in the afterlife, as well as to ward off fish, they also scattered rice into the water.

Today, traditional rice dumplings (or Zongzi), made with glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves, are enjoyed on May 5th as a memorial to Qu Yuan.

Food Traders have included

Abakus Foods
Bite Mi
Ca Phe Vn’s Saigon Street Café
Canaan Taiwan Xiao-chi
Churros London
Enak Enak
Le Swine
Ayam Happy
Banh Mi 11
Bian Dang
Bite Me
Ca Phe Vn’s Saigon Street Café
Churros London
Canaan Chinese
Enak Enak
Fentimans Botanical Bar
Hanoi Kitchen
Jerk Spice
Lion City Kitchen
Mei Mei’s Street Cart
Newdlez Pad Thai
Surrey Ices
Khay’s Kitchen
Newdlez Pad Thai
Quirky bar.
Roll n Rock
Surrey Ices
Taiwanese Food
Taste of Amoy
Taste of Vietnam
The Caravan Bar Company
The Duck Truck
Wheelcake Island
Wok n roll,
Yu Kyu

Acts since 2013 have included:

Anthony Poon
Battle of You
Canvas Wall
Chris Gadd (formerly DJ Goofy).
Dan Raza
DJ Alice – host
DJ Goofy
DJ Jean Genie
DJ Mi Key
DJ Steve Gadd
Hannah Jane Lewis
Jeffrey Alexander School of Martial Arts (JASMA)
Kieran Lai – dancer
Luciee Marie Closier
Marco Or
Master Wong
Max Sleigh-Parrott
Micky Niner
P.O.D. (Post Olympic Dance group)
Peasant’s King
Pryme Kingz
Robbie Boyd
The Atmospherics
The Collier
Velvet Stream
Will Li
Yvonne Wan.- host