Perhaps you’ve heard of GingerWork — the creative think tank behind events like Dichotomy, Carnival of the Dead or Wonderland. You might have run into Mark Harris, the distinctly ginger-haired founder, socialising or networking around town. Or maybe you’ve never heard of GingerWork. Perhaps it’s time, since GingerWork is one name to know in Hanoi right now.

A GingerWork production is not your typical Friday night party. You may find yourself transported into Wonderland — dressed as Alice and acting out a Mad Hatter script — or getting your face painted under an enormous Dia de los Muertos skull while fire dancers twirl nearby. By combining the creative energy of its many members, GingerWork’s art-as-entertainment approach often includes costumes, interactive performances, theatre and original art installations.


Born from a desire to achieve cohesiveness between entertainment and the environment, GingerWork’s events centre around carefully thought out themes. After creating a concept, they work for up to a month both curating the entertainment and re-designing the event venue’s interior to bring the idea to life. The approach, in part, comes from the personalities of the members themselves.


“I love the idea of looking at how spaces and people interact,” Jeremy Wellard, a member of Gingerwork, says. As the owner of co-working café Commune, his pre-disposition to collaboration is understandable. “For me, that’s really what it’s all about: getting the perfect balance of all the different pieces to create something holistic.”



All in the Details


When it comes to re-imagining their venues for the perfect event, the possibilities are endless. In the past, they have turned Hanoi Rock City into a morbid Carnival of the Dead and Madake into an intergalactic universe of twinkling stars and UV-planets. This strong attention to decorative details distinguishes GingerWork, but their success also comes down to their ability to understand and adapt to the frequent turnover of Hanoi’s social landscape.


“People are always arriving and departing at different times. Friend groups merge in some places, but don’t overlap in others,” says founder Mark, drawing from his six years of experience in Hanoi. With new events and names cropping up every week, he says, “to be memorable, you really need to have a brand and be consistent in what you deliver.”


A Future Built from the Past


Mark was inspired to create his own events after helping Synergy’s Steve Sander with the aesthetics for CyberKulture and Piknic Electronik.
“Steve and his partners pretty much laid the foundation Gingerwork was built upon,” Jeremy says. “He was instrumental in starting to raise the bar for events here and creating a real intersection between entertainment and arts.”


But for GingerWork in the future, the team — which includes designers and architects Camille Jenny and Marine Billet, resident artist Max Cooper, fire spinner, Dana Jennel Peterson behind both Wonderland and Carnival of the Dead, ukulele player and installation master Christophe Barthe and co-founder and musician Lawrence James Kemp — hopes to expand beyond local parties and into larger productions.


“We are going to go forward, [we] definitely aren’t just going to stay as we are,” Mark says. “We are going to keep trying new things because I think it’s important to support the less obvious choices of entertainment and art.”


With the changes comes a bigger effort to reach out to more Vietnamese people by taking on staff to translate and promote events, as well as offering cheaper tickets for students. But Jeremy — whose wife and business partner is Vietnamese —believes simply attracting a mixed crowd of expats and Vietnamese is not enough.


“Our whole idea is about including local voices — not in a token way, but through co-creation,” says Jeremy. “We’re aiming to achieve actual engagement with the local community, not just transients dropping in, doing stuff and leaving.”



Creativity, Community, Collaboration


With Hanoi being a perfect city for expats to launch creative projects, the founders of GingerWork had the opportunity to get something started. “The barrier to entry is low, so anyone can try,” says Jeremy, adding, “[Some] foreigners have more disposable income, so it is easier for them to try an idea out without fear of failure. You can put a few hundred dollars into something, and if it doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the day.”
Like many other projects, GingerWork sprouted out of this ‘just-try-it-and-see-what-happens’ mentality. However, as they move from an experimental venture into a professional production group, the importance of working with Hanoi rather than slipping through the cracks is becoming paramount.


At their events, GingerWork members take precautions like security and checking fire escapes, as well as keeping up communication between artists, venues and event planners to create a baseline for entertainment in Hanoi. For GingerWork, collaboration is key to the development of Hanoi’s art, entertainment and social community.


“It’s growing bigger every year, and we as a community have the power to guide it,” Mark says.


GingerWork hopes to be a forum for emerging creatives in Hanoi — whether it’s in the form of helping artists find opportunities that fit their talents or spreading their knowledge with aspiring event planners. A core group of people forms the collective, but the group encourages open participation — up to 20 people at a time contribute to each of their productions.


“It’s all about building a stronger creative community. This is what drives me day to day,” Jeremy says. “The essence of GingerWork is bringing people together to build something stronger than they could do on their own.”



New (Event) Kids on the Block


GingerWork isn’t the only new entity taking Hanoi’s social scene to the next level. These event organisers are helping to grow Hanoi’s event calendar in big ways.


Urban Flea market


The Hanoi Urban Flea Market


For Hanoi Urban Flea Market founder Alma del Mundo, organizing events was entirely accidental. She was inspired to start the project after a successful Philippines charity event in response to the typhoon. She posted in the Facebook group Hanoi Massive that she had extra clothes to donate, and asked if anyone else would be interested in contributing.


“The feedback was so impressive. It just blew up,” she said. She originally planned to hold a modest fundraiser at her home, but due to the enormous response, she needed a bigger space. When Barbeque Garden Westlake offered their venue, Alma was launched into event planning. “We collected kilos and kilos of clothes. In total, we raised US$2,000 (VND42 million), all of which went to The Philippines.”


After the fundraiser, Alma launched the monthly Hanoi Urban Flea Market. Unlike a typical flea market, her concept is not a place to trade clothes or buy thrifty secondhand goods. Alma’s flea market is distinctly urban as she offers Vietnamese sellers — many of whom do not have a physical shop — a venue to display their goods and a chance to network with the public. The 30 participants at her January market included handmade shops, vintage clothes and crafts.


Under the Lan Tree


Under the Lan Tree


Under the Lan Tree is relatively fresh to Hanoi, but their projects are already garnering attention. Alina Shine only founded the project last August, but she has already organised a variety of events, including weekly movie screenings at Madake and Son Tinh Lounge Bar, the Lose Your Face Halloween party at 21North and the Hanoi Designer Showcase Night Market at Hanoi Rock City.


“Planning events is like owning a business,” Alina said. “Your mind is constantly thinking.”


Alina’s mind works on diverse projects. Along with event planning, she also teaches children’s yoga classes, which combine classic poses with imaginative games to engage children while promoting English practice, fitness and flexibility.


Under the Lan Tree is currently holding a photo exhibition at Joma on Tong Duy Tan, with 20 percent of the proceeds donated to charity organisation SympaMeals.

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