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Migrant Idols
Cover Stories Series 2015> Migrant Idols
UPDATED: February 23, 2015 NO. 9 FEBRUARY 26, 2015
Not Just for Show

A typical way for the Chinese to celebrate the Spring Festival is to have dinner with family members while watching the China Central Television Spring Festival Gala on the eve of the Lunar New Year.

Compared with the big-budget galas featuring celebrities and gorgeous stage backgrounds that are produced by TV stations across China, the Migrant Workers' Spring Festival Gala, which was held in Beijing ahead of this year's Spring Festival, was a decidedly more humble affair. The show was composed, directed and performed by migrant workers and their children. The cost of 100,000 yuan ($15,990) came from online donations and social foundations.

Since its inception in 2012, the event has been held for four years in a row and is garnering increasingly widespread attention. Much the same can be said of the show's performers. Migrant workers, an underprivileged group in China, are now attracting more notice and care than ever from society, thanks in part to the annual show.

The gala has enabled migrant workers to provide encouragement and support to one another, fostering a sense of solidarity among them. As migrant workers often engage in manual labor on a daily basis, there is a palpable need for a cathartic platform that allows them to express themselves and relieves some of the stress inherent in lifestyles such as theirs. Events such as the gala support this need. Every year, the organization responsible for founding the gala, the Beijing Migrant Workers' Home, posts the show on the Internet in a bid to entertain the nearly 300 million migrant workers across the country.

Furthermore, the event has helped safeguard the rights of migrant workers. Many of the performances had the express intention of calling attention to this issue. The gala provides a stage for migrant workers, one from which they may not only entertain each other but also communicate with the larger population of their adopted cities. It is hoped that government officials and urban residents could also take part in the show in the future so that migrant workers' voices can be heard by more and their living conditions can be further improved.

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