Chinese Culture Series
Tues 13 July, 12.30-1.30pm BST

Gathering Chinatown Stories: heritage making and “Chineseness” in London’s Chinatown

We are welcoming Freya Aitken-Turff and Xiao Ma from China Exchange for a discussion about Chinatowns and how you can learn about Chinese culture from home. Like many Chinatowns, London’s has a complex identity. It holds an iconic place in the capital as the symbol of UK-China relations and British East and South East Asian identity, but its history and the heritage of these nine streets is largely undocumented. Hear more in this talk about the practical experience of gathering stories of the people who shape and are shaped by this area and what this reflects about ideas of “Chineseness” in the UK. Freya and Xiao Ma from China Exchange will also share tips and recommendations for the best restaurants and places to visit in London’s Chinatown, as well as stories and insights into Chinatowns around the world.

Freya and Xiao Ma are the authors of Chinatown Stories: the untold history of London’s iconic cultural district, available here.

About China Exchange:

China Exchange is the beating heart of Chinatown’s cultural scene. It serves as a platform for diverse online and offline offerings to serve and enhance London’s Chinatown. Lately they have served by administering COVID vaccines to local and Chinatown linked residents. The charity was established by Sir David Tang of Shanghai Tan fame and over the years has played host to leading lights discussing China-related events, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Prince Charles, Antony Beevor, Andrew Lloyd-Weber, David Walliams, Princess Eugenie and Rory Stewart. They have recently received funding to curate and establish a whole series of plaques around Chinatown to educate visitors about local history.

Watch a video from Freya and Xiao Ma about Chinatown Stories

Guest Speakers

Xiao Ma

Cultural Projects Manager & Researcher

China Exchange


Xiao is from Gansu Northwest China, an important stop on the Silk Road, the ancient network of trade routes connecting the East and West. She has a passion for promoting cultural understanding and has experience with cross cultural facilitation in different fields. Xiao worked as a multi-media journalist and news producer for Okhiwi Media, helping to deliver UK arts and culture events to a Chinese audience. She later explored the art market with work experience at Christie’s and leading British Asian art dealers before joining China Exchange where she enjoys sharing the vibrant Chinese culture, both old and new, in engaging ways. She manages China Exchange’s social media channels so you can say hello to her there.

Xiao holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Media and Enterprises from the University of Warwick and a Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art from SOAS with distinction. She loves working within walking distance of the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery where she likes to challenge her own way of seeing.

Freya Aitken-Turff


China Exchange


Freya Aitken-Turff has been the CEO of China Exchange since 2015. The Chinatown-based UK registered charity focuses on creating opportunities for people to learn more about China, Chinese culture and London’s Chinatown. Alongside work dedicated to exploring contemporary China and Chinese culture, Freya was awarded a Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in 2017 to research the future prospects of global Chinatowns and she is the co-author of Chinatown Stories due to be published by Unbound.

Prior to this, Freya headed up communications and stakeholder relations at Asia House and worked in international public affairs for financial institutions, including Prudential plc, Zurich Financial Services, HBOS plc and HSBC. Freya studied Mandarin at Fudan University in Shanghai.

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