Singapore Writers Festival Connects with Wider Audiences Through Creative Programmes


Singapore, 18 November 2013 - The 16th Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) closed with a full-house crowd at the electrifying closing debate on the motion: “This House Computes that Singaporeans are Illiterate Robots”. Drawing on this year’s theme, the debate drew parallels between utopian/dystopian worlds, and the paucity of literature in Singapore. The session ended on a positive note, with hopes of a bright future for Singapore’s literary scene, judging by the strong attendance at the ten-day Festival and an increasing interest in creative literary programmes in Singapore.


2          Featuring 183 writers in over 200 programmes, SWF 2013 welcomed a variety of festival-goers to perennial favourites such as the SWF lectures, as well as new surprises such as the first-ever guerrilla walk curated around the Singapore Biennale installations, and a dialect nursery rhymes session presented by the I-Lien Drama Society. Preliminary survey findings show that audiences remain pleased with their experience of the Festival, with a higher rating for Little Lit! programmes, the literary conferences and the SWF 2013 Literary Pioneer Showcase.  


 3         On the success of this year’s edition, Festival Director Paul Tan said, “It's been a pleasure and honour for my team and me to put together this year's festival. The Festival district was buzzing with energy throughout the 10 days, with many moments that stood out for me - the enthusiastic yet patient queues at the book signings, the smiles of the grandparents as they recited nursery rhymes from their childhood and everywhere, sparks in festival-goers’ eyes after a thoughtful panel or lecture. It is encouraging to see the Festival growing year on year, both in the range of programmes, and reception from audiences. We are extremely heartened that SWF continues to spread the love of the written word to more people.”


Programme highlights

4          The highly anticipated SWF lectures by philosopher AC Grayling, Nobel Prize Laureate Gao Xingjian and Chinese biographer Jung Chang, attracted full-house audiences with refreshing perspectives on life, values, culture, literature and the arts. Singapore writers Adrian Tan and Gwee Li Sui also struck a chord with young and old alike at the Festival’s debut Singapore lecture, when they revisited two familiar literary classics, Brave New World and Animal Farm, and showed why they are relevant today. 26-year old teacher Ngiam Jing Zhi commented, "It was refreshing for me to see these two classics from different perspectives - how both stories written decades ago remain current to us as Singaporeans. The lecture was not only witty, but also educational - and I wish I had brought my students to the Festival for this lecture!"


5          Curated by The Arts House, SWF Fringe returned for a second time with the theme of “Once Upon A Time”, showcasing authors who are masters of the darker side of fairytales. Crowd favourites included acclaimed Paris-based filmmaker and writer Catherine Breillat, as well as award-winning fantasy writer and folklorist, Terri Windling, who both offered interesting perspectives on how the modern retelling of fairy tales allows a feminist revisioning.


6          Highlights of the multi-lingual programming this year included a tribute to Tamil Murasu founder Thamizhavel G Sarangapany. The SWF 2013 Literary Pioneer Showcase celebrated the life and achievements of Thamizhavel G Sarangapany, and brought together close associates of Sarangapany to share their thoughts on his literary and social contributions in a forum session. Irshath Mohamed, curator of the Literary Pioneer exhibition said, “I am delighted to have the opportunity to present one of our key literary heroes through the SWF platform, not only to Tamil audiences, but to the rest of Singapore as well. It’s important for all of us to recognize and acknowledge our literary roots, and I am encouraged to have met different people who became more familiar with Sarangapany through the showcase.”


7          In addition, the Festival’s first-ever Malay Literary Conference concluded successfully, with participants passionately contributing their perspectives on the concept of urban literature. Organised by the Department of Malay Studies (NUS) and the National Arts Council, the conference gathered views from established Southeast Asian writers, including Indonesia’s award-winning author Putu Oka Sukanta, Malaysia’s SEA Write Award winner Khadijah Hashim, as well as Singapore’s Cultural Medallion recipient Isa Kamari.  


Attendance and participation         

8          The SWF saw a 19% increase in the total number of participants from the last edition, recording more than 19,200 participants in free and ticketed events, as well as programmes accessible with the Festival Pass. More than 3000 Festival Passes were taken up, marking a significant increase of about 30% from 2012. (Please refer to Annex A for a detailed breakdown.)