Night Fever

Published on 26 July 2017

The Civic District and Bras Basah.Bugis precinct come alive after dark with two outdoor festivals that are set to fill August with alfresco fun.

By  Pamela Ho

WALL TO WALL The inaugural Projection Trail will see the story of Hemera’s Dream projected on the facades of four heritage buildings in the Civic District. (Photo: National Gallery Singapore)

Giant bunnies will be invading the Civic District this month. These large inflatable rabbits, illuminated in stark white light by night, are part of a spectacular installation — ‘INTRUDE’ — by Tasmanian artist Amanda Parer. After hopping across festivals around the world, they will be making their first appearance in Singapore at the inaugural Civic District Outdoor Festival (CDOF) 2017, which takes place over two weekends in August.

“Visitors will have the opportunity to picnic amongst these illuminated bunnies on the Padang as they enjoy a multimedia projection show mapped on the entire façade of the National Gallery,” reveals CDOF’s festival director Suenne Megan Tan (right), adding that the Projection Trail is one of the highlights of the festival. “This inaugural outdoor circuit is a poetic and imaginative exploration of the festival’s creative theme ‘When Time Stood Still’, and features the story of Hemera’s Dream — what happens when time stands still.”


“The story of Hemera’s Dream is set in an imaginary world. Hemera and her brother Aether are tasked to keep the Cosmic Clock running so the Eternal City stays awake,” explains CDOF’s co-creative director, Beatrice Chia-Richmond. “However, when Aether falls asleep from eating too much, Hemera is unable to keep the Cosmic Clock running on her own. It stops and chaos ensues. It’s a whimsical and surreal adventure!

“The best way to enjoy the experience is to bring your mat and find a picnic spot on the Padang,” adds Chia-Richmond, who has directed high-profile events such as the National Day Parade and the opening and closing ceremonies the 28th Southeast Asian Games. Backing her on the creative team are industry bigwigs such as Kenny Wong (technical director), Brian Gothong Tan (façade multimedia designer), Don Richmond (composer/sound) and Chong Tze Chien (writer).

The full story plays on the façade of the National Gallery Singapore, coming on every 40 minutes. “After the show, do follow the rest of the Projection Trail,” she advises. “Different tableaux inspired by Hemera’s Dream will play on the other projection surfaces — the front façade of The Arts House, the façade and interior of the Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall, as well as the annexe wing façade of the Asian Civilisations Museum.”


Like the Singapore Night Festival, which has enlivened the cultural landscape of the Bras Basah.Bugis precinct over the last decade, CDOF looks set to do the same for the Civic District.

Known as the historic birthplace of modern Singapore, the Civic District was central to Sir Stamford Raffles’ 1822 masterplan and boasts Singapore’s most beautiful architectural and heritage buildings. “In essence, this inaugural precinct-wide outdoor festival celebrates our stunning Civic District, and aims to transform our experience of it by night,” says Tan of the festival’s purpose.

“This festival also complements the range of programmes offered in the key cultural institutions located within the Civic District, and extends the art experience beyond their walls and into the precinct,” she adds, revealing that from 2018 onwards, CDOF will be held in January, to coincide with Singapore Art Week.

Photo: Joel Low


Just a stone’s throw away from the Civic District is the Bras Basah.Bugis (BBB) precinct, which has been the home-ground of the hugely popular Singapore Night Festival (SNF) for the past decade. This year marks its 10th anniversary!

“When the festival was first launched in 2008, it was part of an initiative to enliven the precinct, which was busy with students and office workers during the day, but often quiet at night,” shares Angelita Teo, SNF’s festival director.

Integrating cutting-edge contemporary works into the historical precinct proved an instant hit with Singaporeans. From attracting 60,000 visitors that first year, SNF welcomed more than half-a-million visitors last year. The network of festival partners has also grown from just six in 2008 to a record 70 partners in 2016.

RELIVING THE MAGIC To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Singapore Night Festival brings back 10 local artists who have wowed audiences over the years. (Photo: Singapore Night Festival)


This 10th anniversary celebration — which takes place this month — is themed ‘10 Magical Years’ and will recognise the many people who have contributed to the festival over the years. “Home-grown performers such as Bloco Singapura and HomeMade, for example, have grown with the festival since their debut. To celebrate how far we, and they, have come, we’re bringing back 10 local artists from various past editions,” reveals Teo, citing the likes of The Brass Barre, Mind Magic Mistress, Starlight Alchemy, and New Stream Brass Band (Timbre Music). “But with a twist!”

SNF has since become a platform for local and international artists to showcase their works, as well as to come together for cultural collaboration. “It’s now one of the most anticipated outdoor night events in the world,” says Teo. “In 2013, we made a decision to add the prefix ‘Singapore’ to the original name [‘Night Festival’] to reflect both its local identity and international appeal.”

Looking ahead, Teo reflects, “Ten years ago, a floating ship and aerial acrobats [‘The Dancing Sky’ by Studio Festi] impressed the crowd so much you could literally hear their silence! These days, an amazing show is expected. Singaporeans are also generally well-travelled and more exposed to arts and culture events overseas. So the challenge for us is to curate performances and installations that cater to increasingly sophisticated tastes, while building on mass appeal.”

The CDOF takes place on 4-5 August & 11-12 August. SNF is on from from 18-26 August. For details, visit &

Step Right Up!

Besides the Projection Trail and Amanda Parer’s installation, here’s what else you can enjoy at the Civic District Outdoor Festival.


Festival-goers can enjoy music acts, dance acts, theatrical shows, roving performances and art installations at the National Gallery’s Padang Atrium and Empress Lawn.


Explore Aether’s Art Market, which features unique crafts and art workshops, as well as Hemera’s Feast, a food street along St Andrew’s Road. Inspired by Hemera’s Dream, both feature decorative designs by Singapore artists and collectives, Speak Cryptic and Canvas Club.


For families with little ones in tow, Cake Theatre’s Dragon by the Door will be playing on the Empress Lawn stage, while huge playful puppets are on-hand to tease the children.


Cultural institutions in the Civic District will stay open till late. A great opportunity to catch:

1. Yayoi Kusama’s ‘The Obliteration Room’ (Children’s Biennale)
National Gallery Singapore

2. ‘Ghost Nets of the Ocean’, a marine-themed exhibition
Asian Civilisations Museum

3. Stunning images captured by Singaporean-born photographer Lee Fook Chee
The Arts House 

4. Performances by Guangzhou Symphony Youth Orchestra and contemporary dance performance by Era Dance Theatre
Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall



Angelita Teo, festival director of Singapore Night Festival 2017, singles out a few good shows.


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