Singapore Arts Festival 2012 engages communities and touches lives


Singapore Arts Festival 2012 engages communities and touches lives


  • Festival drew in more than 220,000 audiences and visitors over 16 days
  • Community-based projects moved audiences and connected them in memorable ways


SINGAPORE, 5 June 2012 – The Singapore Arts Festival 2012 drew to a close on 2 June 2012, having brought inspiration and enjoyment to many Singaporeans over the past 16 days. From the ticketed productions to the free programmes at the Festival Village, Singaporeans from all walks of life were all able to connect with the arts through their own cultural lenses. 


2              Highlight programmes such as Flux, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and LEAR DREAMING impressed audiences with their innovative set designs and cast of talented performers. More experiential and unusual productions such as Parallel Cities, The Best Sex I’ve Ever Had and End of the Road touched the hearts of their audiences through the sharing of the performers’ personal stories. Other Festival projects such as Bridge Café Project and Advance Studies in…(Ten Lessons for Life) also saw a greater level of involvement by members of the community, many of whom have not participated in the Arts Festival before.


Key takeaways for Singapore Arts Festival 2012

3              The key features of the Festival this year were the programmes that showcased a strong community engagement component. Productions such as Dream Country, The Best Sex I’ve Ever Had, Advanced Studies in…. (Ten Lessons for Life), Bridge Café Project and Parallel Cities saw ordinary individuals handpicked from the local communities performing and sharing their personal stories for the first time with members of the public. The range of participants represented a wide demographic of Singapore’s population; from senior citizens and youths to foreign workers and students. Each participant played an integral role in their respective production and contributed to the overall success of the show.


4              Ms Jean Hair, 28, an audience member who caught a large number of the experiential shows at the Festival, commented, “I love the interactive and experiential quality of some of these productions I caught this year, like [The] Best Sex [I’ve Ever Had] and Parallel Cities. Through the personal stories and accounts shared by the performers, these shows provided a very personal and relatable touch, and left me pondering over the topics long after the shows ended. Universal themes such as personal memories, love, family, life and death, also made the shows feel so real and all the more relevant to me. I really hope that Festival will continue to pursue such unique performances that connect with regular audiences like me.”


5              More importantly, these community-based productions left an indelible mark on the lives of these first-time performers. Through sharing their personal stories and performing in front of a live audience, participants were able to find a new sense of confidence. Being part of the process-making of these shows also allowed them to forge new friendships with the other participants and artists. These unique experiences demonstrate the transformative power of the arts, and how platforms like the Festival are able to ignite passion and stir curiosity in the arts.


6              53-year-old Roger Neo, one of the performers in Bridge Café Project, commented, “The experience gave me a chance to get up close and personal with the audience, and allowed me to showcase my newfound passion for dance and music. The smile on our audiences’ faces and their sense of anticipation when we performed encouraged us even more – it filled us with confidence and joy. My participation in this year’s Arts Festival has managed to spark my curiosity in finding out how I can be more involved in the arts.”


7              Mr Darren O’Donnell, 46, artistic director of Mammalian Diving Reflex, worked closely with a number of Singaporean women in their 50s, 60s and 70s, to develop and co-create the project The Best Sex I’ve Ever Had. He said, “The women who starred in this production experienced something that surprised all of us – they were rewarded for their honesty and recognised as experts simply due to their experience. By the end of the show, we saw young women from the audience approaching them to seek advice on sexual and gender matters, among other topics. It’s so unusual to see that happen - these older women in Singapore are generally perceived to be conservative and reluctant to talk about sex, therefore not the most likely target to be consulted on such matters. However, being born into a generation that was transitioning between the old and traditional to the new and modern, made these women’s stories more intense and their experiences more relatable. The young women in the audience valued this experience, and the older women in the show seemed to take on their role as ‘advisor’ with greater ease and pride.”


8              The Kids Arts Village also proved to be highly popular with the public, especially families with young children. Melina Tan, 40, a mother of four, was at the Festival Village to participate in Tangle with her kids. She commented, “I had a fun time watching my kids create something of their own. I really enjoyed this activity as it was interactive and fun – and the music was great.”



9              Over a period of 16 days, preliminary figures show that the entire Festival drew more than 220,000 audiences and visitors in total, with the Festival Village alone attracting a record of over 120,000 visitors. While ticket sales stood at more than 70 percent sold, shows like Language of their Own, LEAR DREAMING, The Best Sex I’ve Ever Had, Advanced Studies in… (Ten Lessons for Life) and Parallel Cities – Roof were completely sold out. Productions such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, End of the Road and Parallel Cities – Factory were also close to full-house attendance. In terms of community participation, a grand total of 496 Festival Ambassadors were actively involved throughout the Festival while 1,392 individuals participated in the shows.


10           Says Mr Low Kee Hong, General Manager of the Singapore Arts Festival, “We are very pleased with how the Singapore Arts Festival turned out this year. Ticket sales did well and response to the Festival Village, in terms of visitor numbers and experience, was significantly stronger than last year’s. But more importantly, I was extremely glad to see how the Festival and its projects were able to impact so many lives, from the uncles, aunties and youths on the street to our artists, collaborators and partners. It really demonstrates how the arts can transform people and organisations in extraordinary ways. The community projects were able to connect with audiences on a more personal level, and many found these productions memorable and inspiring. Based on the feedback received so far, I think this year’s Festival has managed to achieve the goals we had first set out to reach – engaging communities and touching lives.”


Next steps

11           Moving forward, the National Arts Council (NAC) will conduct a review of the Singapore Arts Festival, to chart its future direction. This is to ensure greater alignment to the objectives presented in the Arts and Culture Strategic Review (ACSR), which was published earlier this year. Through the review, NAC hopes to build a stronger Arts Festival that remains relevant and engages Singaporeans, and one that reflects greater ownership from the local arts community.  Within the year, NAC will form a working committee made up of members of the arts community and partners, to discuss a new working model for the Festival.

12           Says Ms Yvonne Tham, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, National Arts Council, “Since 1977, the Singapore Arts Festival has helped shape and challenge Singapore audiences by presenting a variety of arts performances and events. And our arts scene has matured significantly over the years. In line with ACSR objectives for greater community involvement while sustaining peaks of artistic excellence, NAC sees that the Singapore Arts Festival has the potential to become the focal point amidst a busy arts calendar, for all Singaporeans to connect with the arts. There is also potential for the Festival to involve our local arts practitioners and groups more deeply in its programming, organisation and collaborations. At this juncture, we are looking into forming a working committee to kickoff discussions on how the Arts Festival can further evolve, and will share more details at a later stage.”


13           In view of this, NAC will put the Arts Festival on hold in 2013 and return with a re-energised festival in 2014.