A Time to Tell—Luana and seven women from the Hon Lok Senior Association

Like many of the well-educated and wealthy families in China, Luana’s father left China for Hong Kong to escape from the communist oppression. Although it was not easy to find work in Hong Kong he was able to seek employment because of being highly qualified. He and his wife later went to California but decided to send their children to study in Europe.

Luana went to boarding school in England and, after qualifying as a teacher, came to Hull to teach. She met her husband who is from Hull and together they brought their children up in Hull.

Because of being bi-lingual, Luana has been asked to interpret with agencies or to translate letters even when she was a student. She gradually got more involved with the Chinese community.


At around 1962, there were not as many Chinese people in Hull. From 1962-1990, most of the Chinese people coming over here were form Hong Kong. They speak Hakka and Toisan and their common dialect is Cantonese. When some Chinese members first came over, they worked for others first and saved sufficiently to set up a restaurant or Takeaway themselves. The sponsors would tell them everything before they come here. Why Hull? Often people had relatives or friends here and Hull was an important port.


In 1992 there were approximately 2,000 Chinese people in Hull, not including students. Most of the Chinese people work long unsociable hours in catering. They never went to pubs, only Chinese places. The majority did not smoke or drink. Years ago, when they first started working in restaurants they would work long hours over seven days and nights. The first generation looked after the third generations(children). Now, conditions are a bit better. They get one day off a week.

Often the hours were so long that the parents slept for a couple of hours and then it was time to take the children to school. The women round the table with us were all good cooks. They are older now and there is no way they would work in the restaurants now. It was only two decades ago that the catering business said, they had to have a day off. Then people started getting time together.

That is why it is often said to Luana “Why doesn’t your community speak English?”. It is because they work hard and over long hours with no time off to do other things e.g. learn English. The women, especially, can only sustain doing their jobs, looking after the children and doing everything themselves. All the women round the table had to learn to drive so they could take their children to school. When they first arrived their friends/family gave them some help, but they soon had to be more independent..

Some of the second generation were not born here. The third generation were born here and the children are better educated, but find it just as hard to get jobs in Hull. Their children live all over the world now, including Hong Kong!


In 1985, The Hull Chinese Cultural Centre was formed to combat a number of barriers, including language, social and cultural barriers. The Chinese Community had always wanted somewhere of their own to meet up. Luana attended numerous Ethnic Communities Forum meetings at The Guildhall regarding the Centre. This attending the meetings, was done after she had been at work and looking after her children.

“We were told that we could apply for funding for a community centre and forms were given for us to fill in and apply. It was ERDF monies as well as funding from Hull City Council. We applied year after year but nothing happened. We passed the forms to an officer at Leisure Services. He, apparently, changed the applications and we did not get the funding. When we eventually complained about this (informed by a Councillor), the ERDF monies had gone. Hull City Council offered three of their empty buildings for us, as well as the Afro-Caribbean Association and Bangladeshi-Samiti Society. Three groups applied to the City Council and the City Council gave us £40,000 each over three years. The Park street buildings were empty and shown to us and the Afro-Caribbean. The Chinese Cultural Centre went to view it with the Afro-Caribbean Association. (ACA). The ACA shouted that they had priority and they wanted the building. Chinese people are sometimes introverted and they did not say anything. I insisted that all ethnic minority groups were equal.”

From the meeting, the two groups gained respect for each other and formed a successful partnership for a number of years.

“The Chinese Cultural Centre later decided to buy their own building and found an empty property in Percy Street themselves. The original asking price was £110K but Luana negotiated it for £73K time. She asked Hull City Council for the £40,000 in one go but still had to make up the difference so we sent a ‘begging bowl’ around our members and we got our community centre!”

In 1993, the contract for the community centre was signed but there was a great deal to do especially as there had been a fire on the third floor. There were still arguments with the Council to change a number of the clauses which would allow the Chinese community to keep the building if it is still viable after seven years, instead of being reclaimed by the Council.

Now, there are several activities in the Centre e.g. dancing. This building also links with the Hon Lok Senior Association which was another of Luana’s babies! There was a need for a housing project for the Chinese so Luana worked with Housemartin Housing Association, who did research and analysed that there was a need. So, funding was applied for, originally for the Elderly Chinese. A small community centre was also built on Park Lane with the housing. It was decided to be central (Park Lane, off Beverley Road) with ten houses, ten bungalows and the small centre. The houses are shared ownership. People could pay a quarter of the home and pay rent on ¾. They could eventually buy their home. The bungalows are rented to the elderly. Sanctuary Housing Association then took over from Housemartin.

“Here they started the first ethnic Neighbourhood Watch Group which now meets infrequently. The housing project took a lot of work to set up but it means that some Chinese, especially the more elderly are not so isolated.”

When Luana first went to Hull City Council about help and a community centre for the Chinese, she was told “There is no ethnic population here. ‘ There are no problems’. The Council was racist and we were asked why we did not use English books. Within housing situations, Chinese and other ethnic people were harassed and bullied. Ethnic people were taken away from these areas. They were rewarding the perpetrators and victimising the victims. In the end, these policies were reversed. It took a great deal of reasoning at meetings to make such improvements”

Luana and Ras Goldbourne from the Afro-Caribbean Association became good friends. At meetings, (e.g. City Council) Ras was very outspoken and he would also say “Listen to my sister” (Luana). Ras worked hard. He and the Chinese community worked together and supported each other. “ We were, therefore, quite successful in changing policies and attitudes”.


“Attitudes have changed. 1975 Race Relations Act did not seem to be noticed, but the amendments afterwards did. Plus, the Stephen Lawrence Case has altered peoples’ awareness. A great deal has changed. We cannot eliminate all racism. The communities change with every new generation. The children are more westernised; therefore, they can adapt and bring the different cultures together. E.g. Chinese wedding may be partly English and partly Chinese.”

“We Chinese do a lot for ourselves.” “We help each other out. We have our own classes not only in dancing but ESOL, Tai Chi etc”

“Chinese dancing classes take place in our centre in Percy Street and Park Lane. “We get asked to perform dances. We have been all over Hull and East Riding, including Bransholme performing!” We are involved with HANA (Humber All Nations Alliance) which had a musical event on at the City Hall on 12 August 2017. We took part in HANA’s International Fashion Show on 7 October at Jubilee Church and Musical Performance on 21 October 2017 at Jubilee Church at King Edward Street, Hull.”