One Small Voice: Carmen Low
Published on 4 August 2015
I grew up in Chinatown where my family has owned a traditional Chinese medicine business for over three generations. I remember how as a child, I was always running around the alleys; everyone was family. But for the longest time, I’ve felt Chinatown wasn’t Chinatown anymore, which is why I started my businesses there: to bring community back.
With Lepark, located on the rooftop car park of People’s Park Complex, we wanted to create a community platform, an alternate space where young people can just come up and enjoy original Singapore content and bond through shared experiences. Youths today are not interested in cookie-cutter mainstream stuff; they go for hipster trends, underground, so we built Lepark with the sole vision of making the arts relevant and accessible to them.
Getai Electronica, a rooftop concert featuring Singapore bands and original music, was a huge confidence-booster for us. It took us five days to organise and attracted 1,500 people! Part of the magic was that we just went ahead and did it, without a proper stage or equipment. But we believed in this generation!
Overseas friends tell us that people in their countries pay for original content. No one pays to hear someone sing Taylor Swift songs! So we hope Lepark is a first step, a conversation-starter, to celebrate youth who have original content.
If we were a truly business-driven concept, I’d play DJ beats, rock, electronic dance music and commercial hits all the way. When you play that kind of music, people tend to drink faster, eat more and order more. But we didn’t choose to programme it this way because we really wanted a medium-sized platform for the arts scene in Singapore, so we took the risk.
Our model is very simple: we need to be sustainable so we can pay the artists, and they can continue doing this. We hope to expand beyond music and film to photography and visual arts. Something like clay-making, for example, may not be attractive to youth, but if we can mesh it up with live music and DJ beats, then it becomes more accessible and fun!
We hope to reach a point where people stop asking who is playing tonight and just trust the curation; just turn up and be exposed to all the local original content we have.
I think for Lepark, it’s an education process if you come with an open mind. We see people going up to the bands to ask, “What’s your Facebook page? Where can we listen to more of your tracks?” They’re sharing an experience, hanging out together, and that’s the kind of positive vibe we hope to pass on.
We get a lot of repeat customers because they can’t find this anywhere else, and they feel good about supporting this movement. So we’re always working on new collaborations. When I sit in the crowd, I feel proud that I am — in some small way — a part of this, that I’ve set up a business to support this. This sense of fulfilment means a lot more to me than any monetary value tagged to it.
Carmen Low is co-founder of Lepark (a rooftop Food & Beverage concept promoting the arts), Getai Group (an arts platform and events group), Afterglow (a healthy lifestyle joint) and Keong Saik Collab (a co-working space). After working in Shanghai for five years, Low, who comes from a corporate communications background, has returned to her roots in Chinatown by starting businesses in the neighbourhood. She hopes that by driving new concepts in the area she grew up in, it will help rejuvenate Chinatown through thoughtful arts and lifestyle content.