Our Audacious Guide to SG50

Published on 23 December 2014

In 2015, Singapore turns a Fabulous 50 with a year-long birthday blowout packed with arty amusements to fit every fancy. We’ve collated some of our favourites into a mini A-List of events, all of which can be described with our favourite letter.



The greatest hits of Singapore productions are coming back to stages and screens, some after decades of absence. The Esplanade is presenting not one, but 50 Singapore scripts for its upcoming The Studios series. Unfolding over the course of 2015, series highlights include full stagings of five productions such as the classic Emily of Emerald Hill, audacious The Lady of Soul and Her Ultimate ‘S’ Machine and sensual 2011 production The Weight of Silk on Skin by Huzir Sulaiman. The other 45 scripts get their share of the limelight via staged readings helmed by seasoned or up-and-coming theatre luminaries such as dapper stage/screen star Tan Shou Chen.

Another theatre classic coming out to play is Titoudao by Toy Factory, a production in English, Mandarin and Hokkien about Singapore’s real-life street-opera star, Mdm Oon Ah Chiam, a kampung girl struggling between being an actress and conforming to societal norms in the 50s and ’60s. Written by her son, playwright/director/artistic director of Toy Factory Goh Boon Teck, this script has seen several stagings, the last in 2007 starring Pam Oei. This latest version plays from 5-14 March 2015 with ST Life! Theatre Awards Best Supporting Actress and real-life Chinese opera student Audrey Luo in the lead. 

On the film front, Spotlight on Singapore Cinema is a September event where three to four iconic films depicting Singapore in the ’50s and ’60s will be restored and screened, all shiny and new, at the refurbished Capitol Building. You can also view these yesteryear classics at museums, libraries, community clubs and even on MediaCorp TV.

Active Art Appreciation

Since Singapore has journeyed for 50 years, show your solidarity by going for a ‘walk’ of discovery with her. From January to August 2015, register for an interactive wander through the island’s significant sights, sounds, smells and sensations, as mapped by Singaporean students in MySG Trails and Exhibitions. The students will share and guide you through what they value in Singapore through self-designed trails.

Prefer strolling solo? Explore the Jubilee Walk, due for a November 2015 opening, which connects historic locations and monuments in the Civic District and Marina Bay area, and includes a new pedestrian bridge that will stretch from the Merlion Park to Marina Promenade, in front of the Esplanade Theatres. Your walk will be made all the more engaging with the presence of three spanking-new public art works and event spaces rolling out free performances.

All Together Now!

Unlikely bedfellows are assembling to celebrate Singapore’s half-century milestone. Check out New Year’s Day concert The Best of Black Dog Bone and Gingerbread With Orkestra Melayu Singapura. Funky Malay-music stars Black Dog Bone (formed in the ’70s) join musical forces with local ’80s pop band Gingerbread and relative youngsters, the Orkestra Melayu Singapura (formed in the early ’90s to promote Malay music through the fusion of modern and traditional instruments), to whip up a rockin’ good show.

Meanwhile, in the first quarter of the year, the Esplanade is commissioning a collaboration between The Philharmonic Orchestra and Singapore dance company Arts Fission for an all-in-one symphonic-dance-theatre production featuring the music of pioneer-generation local composers. Other highlights include a collaboration between Taiwanese dance doyen Lin Hwai-Min and young cinematographer Chang Hao-Jan.

International collaborations continue at the soaring da:ns festival: highlights include a spectacular production featuring a mix of the classical Indian Kathak dance and Spanish flamenco.

Over in the literary corner, local scribes, including Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Award recipients, will pool their creations for the Singapore Writers Festival, happening 30 October to 8 November 2015, to publish and launch an anthology of 50 original works in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. The worthy tome will include short fiction, poetry, plays and graphic novel extracts.

Visual artists get in on the act in the Let’s Draw project, with dozens amalgamating their artistry by painting, drawing or otherwise, depicting their neighbourhood in one or two pages of a sketchbook before passing it on to the next artist to add his or her touch. The final filled sketchbooks will be reproduced and sold for charity.

By Our Powers Combined Two stellar Singapore bands of yore and one orchestra join forces to summon in the new year.
Picture This Drawings of Singapore neighbourhoods are being amassed in a special sketchbook, included is this sketch of Tang Gah Beo Temple by artist Edric Hsu.

Ab Fab

These events, all fabulous fixtures in the Singapore calendar, are getting such an awesome boost for SG50 they absolutely must be mentioned.

End 2014 with the bigger, better Marina Bay Singapore Countdown to 2015. The bay area will light up with carnivals, bazaars and outdoor concerts featuring the biggest local music acts, an eight-minute musical fireworks display, plus 25,000 glowing wishing spheres set afloat in the Singapore River.

From February to March 2015, witness an upsized Chingay Festival enlivened with more than 8,000 multi-cultural performers from local community groups and international cultural troupes.

And we hardly need to remind you to catch the National Day Parade on 9 August 2015, which will be a Golden Jubilee super-spectacle by maestro of music, theatre and fashion, and Cultural Medallion recipient Dick Lee.

Meanwhile, the Singapore International Festival of the Arts, running from June through September 2015 and themed Post Empire, will look to both the past and future of made-in-Singapore performance art. Expect big-budget commissions of new works and revivals by top local artists and art groups, including dance pioneer Goh Lay Kuan, multi-media artist Brian Gothong Tan, fashion designer Reckless Erica and classical Indian dance maven Santha Bhaskar.

Finally, October will see the long-awaited birth of the National Gallery Singapore from the union of two old local architectural fixtures: the former Supreme Court and City Hall. Be the first to check out a collection of visual art from Southeast Asia dating from 19th century to the present day, spread over a whopping 64,000 square metres.

Up-Sized Parade  many mainstays in our celebration Calendar, like the Chingay parade, will be bigger and better in SG50. (PHOTO People’s Association)
Nation Building Come October, the National Gallery will be a striking new local landmark. (PHOTO Artist’s Impression of National Gallery Singapore, Courtesy of Studio Milou)

All Star

The biggest names in the business lend their star power for the nation’s 50th annivesary. Much anticipated is 1965, the movie about Singapore’s troubled times. Currently being shot, the film stars celebrities from Singapore, Malaysia and beyond, including Joanne Peh, Deanna Yusoff, Qi Yuwu and Lim Kay Tong.

Also in the works: A set of seven short stories scheduled to be screened at the refurbished Capitol Theatre in July. 7 Letters, presented by seven celebrity directors such as Royston Tan and Jack Neo, sees each film celebrating our heartlands and heartlanders in forms ranging from musicals to dialect love stories.

Club 7 Seven top local directors will each create a short film for the anthology,  7 Letters.

The Singapore Art Museum’s The Five Stars Project, running 9 July 2015 through January 2016, will feature five big names of the art world creating works based on values represented by the five stars of the Singapore flag: democracy, peace, justice, progress and equality.

About Time

We wouldn’t have hit the Big 50 without our pioneers, whether in art, heart, labour or all of the above. Little ones can learn about these industrious forerunners in the Esplanade’s special FYI (Feed Your Imagination) tot-targeted programmes held over the year. Multi-award-winning local puppet-theatre company The Finger Players will present Samsui Women: One Brick at a Time, a story set in the ’60s about the women who, quite literally, built our nation.

Ding Yi Music Company focuses on an earlier pioneer with music presentation A Legend Begins, telling the tale of our island’s legendary founder Sang Nila Utama. There’s also Our Songs Our Stories which presents the predecessor of local pop music, xinyao.

In November 2015, the Peranakan Museum shines with its Great Peranakans exhibition, archiving achievements of 50 prominent Peranakans who have shaped life and culture in Singapore over the past two centuries through art, education, business, popular culture, governance and public service.

To honour our pioneers from the comfort of home, log on to Tribute.sg, an online repository filled with stories, quotes, biographies, photographs and interviews of pioneers who have contributed significantly to the development of the arts in Singapore. The list of champs includes artists, educators, administrators and patrons.

Aiyah, Ownself Do!

Too pumped with patriotism to just passively appreciate the art of others? Create your own SG50 works for posterity. Make your memories a part of documented local history with the SG Heart Map at www.heartmap.sg — simply pick a place on the Singapore Map and share why it holds memories for you through a paragraph, poem and/or photograph. You can also read heartwarming stories contributed by others like Jerome Lim, who recalls his Toa Payoh flat being visited by the Queen of England back in the ’70s.

Document Singapore’s grand entrance into her Golden Jubilee by having your camera ready at the Marina Bay countdown to 2015. Entries can be submitted to the annual photo competition with the best entries proudly displayed in a month-long exhibition come 2015.

Alternatively, create a portrait of an irreplaceable figure in Singapore’s history — yourself — with the roving Portraits of the People campaign. Visit them at various locations (they’ll be at United Square till 28 December 2014, with further locations regularly updated here and use the iPad provided to sketch yourself. From November 2015, a collection of selected portraits will be given a permanent place in the Art Connector: a walkway connecting City Hall station with the completed National Gallery. Who needs a star on the Walk of Fame when you can have your face on public architecture?

If you’re too shy to have your lovely likeness immortalised on walls, express your love through humble plastic bags. In place of the clichéd 99 roses, Chingay 2015 will express affection for the nation with a crowd-sourced flower bed of one million flowers that you can craft from used plastic bags lying around at home. Easy-to-follow instructions are available at www.chingay.org.sg.

Blessed with a flair for design? Put your stamp on the landmark year by getting creative with the familiar SG50 logo, adding and replacing elements with your own flourishes and colours. Do it at your leisure by downloading the logo template at www.singapore50.sg.

DIY Devotion Profess your patriotism through photographs or craft flowers, all of which could become part of the official SG50 celebration. (PHOTO  iStock)
PHOTO Bryan van der Beek, The Esplanade
BIG PICTURE MediaCorp artiste Joanne Peh and Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore, get hands-on with the Portraits of the People campaign. (PHOTO National Gallery Singapore)

Added Interest

While not officially commissioned by or in conjunction with the SG50 campaign, look out for a super slew of artists creating lots of fun, uniquely Singapore projects next year. For example, pioneering theatre company The Necessary Stage is putting up original production Pioneer (Girls) Generation starring sassy Singaporean seniors as a group of politically incorrect, acid-tongued elders living in a swanky retirement home. Naturally, this bunch aren’t afraid to make comically candid observations about our nation. There’s also a year-long season of five productions by W!ld Rice, each giving a tongue-in-cheek take about each of the values embodied by the five stars on our flag.

Admission Free

How can you have a celebration of Singaporean-ness without freebies? That’s why many SG50 activities include fee-free fun. Look out for concerts by diverse homegrown talents in our local parks, beginning with a community initiative on 4 January 2015 at the Singapore Botanical Gardens featuring Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian and European instruments played by a blend of music professionals, students and enthusiasts from community centres.

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