Singapore Arts Festival 2009

15 May – 14 June 2009








The Singapore Arts Festival 2009 concluded on Sunday, 14 June 2009 with an overall Festival attendance of close to 800,000; an increase of about 200,000 compared to last year. The Festival also achieved a record 92.5 percent house attendance, the highest since 1986. There were 14 sold-out productions out of the 26 ticketed core productions, and 43 sold-out performances[1] (or 70 percent of all indoor theatre performances), the highest since 2000.


The National Arts Council, organiser of the Singapore Arts Festival, also reported findings from a commissioned audience survey covering both the core productions and outreach programmes which showed that:

  • 9 out of 10 respondents found the Quality of Performance to be “good” and “excellent”
  • 9 out of 10 respondents found the Quality of Programmes to be “good” and “excellent”
  • 9 out of 10 respondents agreed that the Festival contributed to Singapore’s positioning as a global city, which is a marked improvement of 13 percent from the 2006 survey.


“We are very pleased that this year’s Festival has surpassed expectations on many levels for different stakeholders, including not least our sponsors and partners, the arts community as well as the wide of range of audiences from arts enthusiasts to first- timers, students and adults, residents and foreigners. The record 92.5 percent house attendance, high total attendance and survey findings show that this year’s carefully balanced programming has proved both accessible yet cutting-edge, in fulfilling the Festival’s mission of bringing the arts to everyone,” said Mr Lee Suan Hiang, Chief Executive Officer of the National Arts Council. 


“Despite the economic downturn, this year’s Festival has remained committed to the long term goal of developing arts appreciation among diverse Singapore audiences. This was done through a programme that combined ticketed core productions with a very extensive high-quality free outreach programme of over 400 performances island-wide, a hallmark of the Festival and a rare feature among arts festivals around the world,” Mr Lee highlighted.


“Looking forward, we aim to sustain this level of commitment and maintain the quality, affordability and accessibility of the overall programming to deliver an increasingly valuable Festival, that will be appreciated by more and more audiences and help make Singapore a global city for the arts,” Mr Lee added.


Enriching the quality of life

This year’s survey also found that 8 out of 10 audience respondents agreed that the Festival enriched the quality of their lives, which underscores the increasing value of the Festival among its overall total attendance of close to 800,000.


The outreach programmes, which make up over 70 percent of the Festival’s ticketed and free performances, therefore plays an important role in cultivating arts appreciation among the diverse and wider audience base which makes up over 90 percent of the Festival’s total attendance of close to 800,000.


“We are very heartened that the large majority of audiences are more than satisfied with the quality of the overall programming of this year’s Festival, which has remained true to the Festival’s direction of delivering and discovering critically acclaimed art-making from diverse fields to stimulate and stretch the audience’s artistic appetite and palette,” said Ms Goh Ching Lee, Senior Director for Performing Arts and Director for Singapore Arts Festival, National Arts Council.


“The quality of this year’s Festival programming is distinctive for its cross boundary offerings.  Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy, The Magic Flute and H3 opened up the Festival to new audiences; the artistry of Long LifeSeven Boards of Tricks and Cullberg Ballet gave us a sense of wonder; and the social reflections of Electra, The Cherry Orchard and Ruhe, gave us some food for thought. The exhilarating scale of Helios II and Crackers? also highlighted an uplifting energy throughout both the core productions and outreach programmes that has clearly resonated across audiences,” Ms Goh added.


In addition, the high quality programming was supported and boosted by Fest Connect, a new impetus to engage and foster conversations about Festival-making with the community through chats and forums, which were well attended.


Also under Fest Connect is the Arts Education Programmes (AEPs) which successfully motivated the schools and students to actively participate in a total of 27 AEPs conducted, involving 4,500 students from 17 schools. Through AEP, students interacted and dialogued on themes related to eight core productions. A total record of 4,724 tickets were bought by40 schools for students attending in groups to experience the Festival. The Festival’s scheduling which was deliberately advanced to start one week before the June school holidays also allowed the schools and teachers to plan and incorporate the Festival into their enrichment curriculum.


Bucking the economic downturn

Despite the current economic downturn, the year’s Festival generated buzz early on with programme-led publicity that resulted in strong early take up of ticket sales. In fact, 65 percent of tickets were sold even before the Festival Opening on May 15, climbing steadily to a final record-setting 92.5 percent of house attendance.


Apart from the merits of the Festival programming, ticket pricing was also adjusted to not let the prevailing economic downturn affect the affordability of attending the Festival. Another important factor was the scheduling of Festival to start one week before the June school holidays, which has resulted in a record number of students attendance.


Online sales also set a new record, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of all tickets sold. This resulted from the successful online outreach which recorded a surge of new sign-ups for the ArtsFest Club with over 5,181 new members representing a 34 percent increase of the total base. Interestingly, 80 percent of new members also indicated they were ‘curious’ and ‘adventurous’, therefore willing to try new or experimental shows as opposed to ‘safe’ shows – which further reflected growing recognition of the Festival’s role in pushing boundaries in the arts.


The Festival also drew in the highest numbers in sponsorship this year in the last three years, in total sponsors as well as new sponsors. Total sponsorship in cash and in-kind reached S$3.7 million, an increase of just over S$1 million from 2008, and almost on par with 2007. The total number of 45 sponsors this year included 13 new sponsors.


“The Festival success this year in attracting audiences to ticketed productions, strong attendance at outreach programmes and increased sponsorship, shows growing recognition and acceptance of the importance of the Festival and the arts in Singapore’s cultural life and society,” said Ms Goh Ching Lee.


Developing Singapore arts talent

“The Festival continues to provide a window for the world to look into Singapore work, while at the same time serving as a window for Singaporeans to look out into the world. Significant effort has been made to strengthen platforms to inspire local artists to realise their creative visions and to secure international interest and invitations for their distinctive works” added Ms Goh.


This year, the Festival continued to push boundaries in arts-making through new works and commissions, including two world premieres and one Asian premiere co-commissioned with international partners, and five other Asian premieres. Meanwhile, into its third and fourth year respectively for Full Frontal and Forward Moves, these developmental platforms are providingimportant outlets and creative licenses for emerging choreographers and directors.


In addition, the Singapore Arts Festival role as a critical bridge for local arts talent to reach an international audience has seen the Festival facilitating the presentation of a Singapore Showcase in Edinburgh comprising leading performing and literary arts talents at the world-renowned Edinburgh Festivals in August this year.


Since 2001, 20 commissions and co-commissions by the Festival have toured 34 countries, such as arts capitals in Europe and America, like New York, London, Edinburgh, Napoli, Vienna, Munich,Copenhagen, Mexico City; and in the Asia-Pacific like Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Melbourne and more. This year, Visible Cities, by Singapore playwright Chay Yew and Italian Director Giorgio Barberio Corsetti signified the Festival’s collaboration with Napoli Teatro Festival Italia for the second time. Body Swap, by Singapore choreographer Joavien Ng, premiered at Kampnagel inHamburg, Germany in May 2009 before making its way to the Festival. Dream-Work / Dream-Home, co-produced by Singapore’s Spell#7 and the United Kingdom’s Bodies in Flight, will be presented after the Festival at the Inbetween Time Festival of Live Art and Intrigue in Bristol, UK.


[1] Footnote: 43 out of 61 ticketed core performances were sold out; excluding performance sessions from Etiquette and Dream-Home/ Dream-Work.


Annex 1 - Story of the numbers

Annex 2 -  What people are saying about the Festival