Has it been a year already? The A List looks back in wonder.
TEXT BY PAMELA HO
Published on 13 October 2015
TEXT BY PAMELA HO
People say magazines the world over are dying. If that is true, then there’s good reason to celebrate the first anniversary of The A List, a fortnightly magazine dedicated to the arts and culture scene in Singapore. Yes, we’ve made it to the one-year mark, are alive and kicking, and still raring to go!
It has been a compelling year of storytelling. Since our official launch at the National Museum of Singapore on 17 October last year, we have published 27 issues, all of which are downloadable from our website (www.a-list.sg) for free.
Initiated by the National Arts Council, the magazine serves to promote the arts to a wide readership, from youth and working adults to families and the elderly. Our aim is to showcase the diverse values and benefits of the arts, as well as to engage, inspire, inform and entertain the public. Enhancing public perception of the arts and fostering close ties between the arts and community is what The A List is all about.
The A List is more than just a magazine. In the past year, we have seen our reach expand through multiple platforms. Original content is also generated for our website and social media platforms.
Social Media – This has been an integral part of our bid to broaden coverage of arts events in Singapore. Through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, we’ve been able to cover events that didn’t make it to our pages, and in real-time, too. It also allowed us to engage the online community, to encourage them to ‘try out’ the arts through regular contest giveaways, where concert tickets, an exclusive tour of the Naked Museum (National Gallery Singapore before the paintings were in) and hotel stays near event venues were up for grabs. Within three months, we hit 1,000 followers on Instagram and in under a month, 1,000 followers on Facebook!
Radio – Every fortnight, 12,000 copies of the magazine are distributed to over 200 locations across the island. When the magazine hits the shelves on Wednesday, the highlights of that issue are talked about on-air by DJs across five MediaCorp radio stations during the evening drive-time belt. These stations cover the four official languages: Class 95FM, 987FM (English), Yes 933FM (Chinese), Warna 94.2FM (Malay) and Oli 96.8FM (Tamil).
Television – MediaCorp television has also supported the magazine’s content with their weekly three-minute arts digest on Channel 8. Entitled The Arts Is Awesome (Yi Dian Jiu Tong), the programme is hosted by the ever-popular Dennis Chew (aka Zhou Chongqing), and airs every Wednesday before the 9pm drama series and again on Thursday, after the 1.30pm news.
Online – To complement the content published in The A List, MediaCorp’s daily newspaper also ran monthly features on TODAY Online that tied in with the theme of each issue.
SPH online properties AsiaOne, The Straits Times, The Business Times, Lianhe Zaobao and Berita Harian also hosted our content as nano-websites that online users could explore. M1 and the Singapore Tourism Board have also partnered with us to expand outreach through additional distribution points in Singapore and through international platforms that have flown the Singapore flag for the arts.
While the concept of The A List was clear from the start, it didn’t stop us from evolving as we gained a better feel of the ground.
Overseas Singaporeans – We realised that many Singaporean artists living overseas are continuing to create great works. So we devised a ‘Singaporean Abroad’ tag to specially acknowledge them. Among those we have featured under this tag are Paris-based curator Khairuddin Hori and violinist Siow Lee Chin, currently based in Suzhou, China.
Special-Needs Arts – Some of the most heartwarming stories we’ve covered this past year have explored the role of the arts in special-needs communities in Singapore. Even as we paid tribute to the ability of the arts to heal and transform, we also revealed how these communities contributed to the arts scene. We’ve profiled inspiring artists like sculptor and Cultural Medallion recipient Chng Seok Tin, who, despite her visual impairment, continues to create world-class art. Then there’s Deaf musician and educator, Lily Goh of ExtraOrdinary Horizons, who empowers members of the Deaf community to make a living through the arts.
Traditional Arts While an important part of Singapore’s cultural landscape, the traditional arts often escape media attention because they are not regarded as ‘mainstream’ or ‘cool’. This past year, we shed light on how Indian theatre and Chinese opera are reaching out to new audiences by including English surtitles in their performances and adapting stories from inter-cultural exchanges.
Offstage Spotlight – To acknowledge the arts as an ecosystem, beyond the talented creatives, we’ve given voice to arts educators and arts managers in Singapore; chatted with technical director Kenny Wong, wardrobe mistress Theresa Chan and hair/wig designer Ashley Lim.
In bringing these less-conventional stories to the fore, we’ve opened doors to multiple new worlds and given readers a backstage pass to the different groups supporting Singapore’s arts ecosystem.
This past year of storytelling has merely set the wheels of change in motion. There are many more worlds to explore, conversations to share and exciting initiatives to tell you about. We are already rolling up our sleeves. But first, here’s a glimpse of what goes into the making of The A List….
We catch up with some of our favourite arts advocates, all of whom have been featured in The A List.
“One of the highlights this year was being chief choreographer for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore. I was recently back on stage as a dancer for Above 40 — part of the Esplanade’s da:ns festival — after not dancing for seven years! I’m also choreographing a full-length ballet, The Nutcracker, for the Singapore Ballet Academy for 250 kids, and am already preparing for National Day Parade 2016, as chief choreographer!”
Jeffrey Tan choreographer (Profile, Nov 2014)
“I’ve been travelling quite a bit for the past year, bringing shows from Singapore overseas. I did Another Country in Kuala Lumpur and Best Of in Brisbane and New York. It’s such an awesome feeling to be able to represent the country and give a little introduction of our Singapore arts scene to those abroad. Once I get back from New York, I’ll be starting rehearsals for W!ld Rice’s annual year-end pantomime!”
Siti Khalijah Zainal actress (Beyond Cultural Heroes, Oct 2014)
“This past August, I was sent by the National Arts Council to Thimphu, Bhutan, to present and teach at the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival. The festival’s patron is the Royal Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, who has authored books on Bhutan with co-writers. Prior to the festival, I also conducted a Creative Writing workshop for the locals. Another highlight of this year for me will be the launch of my new novel, When a Flower Dies, at the upcoming Singapore Writers Festival 2015.”
Josephine Chia writer and Singapore Literature Prize winner (One Small Voice, Jul 2015)
“It has been a fulfilling year for us, with new partnerships and continued enhancements to our channels for partners and customers. Among the highlights: expanding our system capabilities to cater to attractions such as the National Gallery Singapore and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. We’ve also recently revamped our mobile app with new functions for users to keep track of upcoming events, along with events they have already purchased. They can also choose to receive relevant offers that are triggered by their location. ”
Kenneth Tan Chief Executive Officer, SISTIC (One Small Voice, Jan 2015)
“This past year, I’ve done a few new sculptures: one is the Moongate, which is at Boulevard Vue on Orchard Boulevard. I’ve been busy working on a bronze commission for a building on Orchard Road. I can’t reveal details at this point, but hopefully, it will be completed and installed by mid-October. I’m also working on another bronze sculpture featuring two children, a big sister and her younger brother, for a condominium along Ardmore Park. In the midst of all this work, I underwent surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on my right hand!”
Chong Fah Cheong sculptor and Cultural Medallion recipient (Beyond Cultural Heroes, Oct 2014)
A List readers speak up!
“I’ve loved every edition of The A List! Beautiful cover designs. Always enlightening stories and such good variety of arts events!”
Petrina Kow, Voice/Presentation Coach
“Congratulations on your first anniversary! Thanks for all the colourful contributions to the arts. Your presence has made such a significant difference to the arts community. We feel ourselves more than ever before, connected to one another. Here’s to more years of building the arts scene together!”
Alvin Tan, Artistic Director of The Necessary Stage and Cultural Medallion recipient
“I especially like Issue 21. Audrey Luo left an impression. I think she’s wonderful and takes pride in whatever role she has been given. I think I will forever remember Mrs Wong from Our Sister Mambo!”
Joanne Mok, Education officer
“I enjoyed reading the profile on toy pianist Margaret Leng Tan and Najip Ali. I’d love to read more about arts personalities in future issues! I also love the layout of the magazine. It’s very nice and easy to read.”
Mohammad Juhari, Semi-retired
“Congrats! I’m loving every issue, thanks for bringing the arts to us busy bookworms in these bite-sized digests.”
Edric Hsu, Artist/actor