SINGAPORE – The Singapore Night Festival will be back from Aug 19 to 27, following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Organised by the National Heritage Board (NHB) and held in the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct, the festival’s 13th edition, Rebirth, features more than 55 programmes.
Previous editions of the festival have drawn hundreds of thousands of people to the arts precinct, with 2018’s edition attracting more than 500,000 visitors.
Highlights include six projection mapping installations and 14 “night lights” installations, as well as performances and experiential events.
First-time festival director David Chew said that the theme befits Singapore’s emergence from the pandemic. This year’s edition will go “hyperlocal” with a focus on the heritage and character of the precinct.
“We are interested to tell the lesser-known stories of the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct, unveiling particular narratives through the collaborations with the community, artists, and the artworks and programmes presented,” said Mr Chew.
For instance, instead of bringing in overseas groups for the highlight act, which is the festival’s showpiece, local artistes will perform a play that pays tribute to old Cathay films, as well as the former Cathay Building.
A temporary set will be erected in Cathay Green – an empty grass patch opposite The Cathay – for Cathay Hotel: The Curse Of The Missing Red Shoe, a production by local arts collective Vertical Submarine.
The production will feature characters from Cathay films from a bygone era such as Mat Bond, and Mambo Girl, giving audiences a chance to experience these old characters in a contemporary setting.
Mr Chew said festival preparations usually begin a year prior to its launch, and the highlight act was planned without knowledge of Cathay Cineplex’s June 27 closure.
Vertical Submarine founding member Justin Loke, the production’s creative director and writer, said the play examines the cinematic experience as being part of culture and heritage, and not just entertainment.
He said going to a cinema offers a distinctly different experience from streaming movies online, which he described as “much less sociable, if not isolating”.
NHB said the festival is a platform for local artists to co-create and showcase works and performances, and network.
Mr Chew said masterclasses were conducted for selected local artists to develop their capabilities in the design processes and skills required for projection mapping installations.
Artist Amanda Tan, who was among the class participants, will have her work featured at the festival with a projection on the Stamford Court clock tower. Titled Glitches Of You, her work explores a multicultural, modern identity.
This year’s festival grounds have also been expanded to include Fort Canning Park, where some installations will be located.
“The Fort Canning area boasts a rich and long pre-colonial history, which has served as an inspiration for many of our participating artists,” said Mr Chew.
“In this edition, we wanted to work closely with artists and the community in the area to showcase the lesser-known stories behind Fort Canning.”
The highlight act’s show director Jeremiah Choy said he hopes NHB’s use of the festival to showcase local works will help grow the creative industry.
“More often than not, the trend in such big festivals – pre-Covid-19 – was to bring in big international acts to draw the audience,” he said, adding that this denied local artists the opportunity to add to their portfolios.
If local headline acts are successful, this helps artists build their track records and opens doors to international festivals, said Mr Choy.
Paid tickets are required for the highlight act, but the festival is largely free and open to the public.
Undergraduate Seraphina Tham, who attended previous festivals, said she was looking forward especially to the projection mapping and immersing herself in the arts in the company of family and friends.
“While there were online art events happening during the pandemic as everyone tried to adapt to a new reality, returning to tangible events will be refreshing and great for community spirit,” said the 23-year-old, who is majoring in English literature and art history at Nanyang Technological University.
She added that the festival is a boost for the local arts and culture sector coming out of the pandemic.
“Festivals like this are not only inspiring for aspiring artists but it also brings our community together,” she said.
The festival’s full line-up will be announced in early August, and more information on it is available at this website.