On Mayday 2008 Sun Heng opened a migrant workers museum in Picun to document the struggle of ordinary working people for a better life. The museum and festival are the fruit of several years work in the area during which Sun and a group of colleagues opened the Tongxin Experimental School for the children of migrant workers.
The school meets a pressing need. Chinese local governments see themselves as responsible for the welfare of local people only. Children of migrants are not entitled to free schooling, so to get an education they either have to stay home with the grandparents or pay hefty fees - way beyond the means of ordinary workers.
The fees at Tongxin school are low enough for the parents to afford and just enough to cover the costs of running the school. It is a wonderful and lively school – but has difficulty retaining staff as wages are low and Leather Town is not a great place to live. The teachers are mainly straight out of college and, with a few dedicated exceptions, leave after a year.
The New Year workers festival comes at time when the financial crisis has caused the whole world to rethink economic orthodoxy, and there are signs that China's very own version of market fundamentalism may be running out of road.