Over the last couple of months I’ve been making a radio documentary for ABC Radio National’s Earshot series. It’s about Daisy Kwok – an amazing woman who was born in Sydney at the end of the 19th century to wealthy Chinese merchant parents. Moving to Shanghai with her family, Daisy became the toast of interwar cosmopolitan Shanghai only to suffer terribly during China’s cultural revolution.
Yet that’s by no means the end of Daisy’s story. Her life is remarkable on its own, but it also sheds light on the history of Australian-Chinese relations, and on the fabulous history of Shanghai itself. As the little blurb on the RN wesbite puts it, this is a story of riches to rags to redemption, set during one of the 20th century’s most turbulent eras.
Making the programme has been a great experience and many thanks to David Rutledge at the ABC for showing me the production ropes. Here too a big a shout-out must go to the brilliant Sophie Loy-Wilson, whose own encounter with Daisy Kwok is a must read and who has been a fantastic co-producer. I clearly remember the wide-eyed revelation that came upon us both in the studio one afternoon, when we realised exactly what we were doing: “no footnotes!” we whispered to each other, in wonder.
Shanghai Princess aired on ABC RN’s Earshot programme on Wednesday 21 September 2016 and is available now for download or podcast.
- Sophie Loy-Wilson, ‘Search for Daisy Kwok uncovers Shanghai’s lost history of Chinese-Australians’, ABC News, 21 September, 2016.
- Chinese Heritage Association of Australia
- Chinese Australian Historical Society
- Kate Bagnall: The Tiger’s Mouth (a popular blog on Chinese Australian history
with acknowledgements to Bobby Fu, Paul and Maunie Kwok and Kate Bagnall