Singapore Heritage Festival showcases different locations in Singapore

Singapore Heritage Festival kicks off its SHF Takes Over! programme by shining the spotlight on the site of Singapore's broadcast history

Heritage is not all trapped in black-and-white photographs or stored under lock and key in museums. Sometimes, it comes alive through technicolour sets and raucous music.

For the next two weekends, Sweet Tooth by Cake, the outreach arm of theatre company Cake Theatrical Productions, will pay homage to well-loved local television shows such as Under One Roof and The Little Nyonya through its signature colourful sets and props, singing and lively action.

For example, it will reference 1982 action drama Seletar Robbery, the first locally produced Mandarin drama in Singapore, complete with a prop police car and getaway lorry. Footage from the actual drama will also be shown.

This performance piece is titled Studio 6, after an iconic film studio in Caldecott Broadcast Centre in Andrew Road, where many productions such as Mandarin casino drama The Unbeatables (1993) were filmed.

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE HERITAGE FESTIVAL 2017

  • WHEN: Friday to May 14

    WHERE: Various locations

    ADMISSION: Mostly free. Registration needed for some events.

    INFO: www.heritagefestival.sg

The compound is the site of Singapore's broadcast history dating from the 1930s.

With Mediacorp moving out to its new premises in Mediapolis, the building is currently vacant. Festivalgoers will have access to the oldest part of the building.

Other programmes happening at Caldecott include a live performance of a radio play, tours of the building, a retro-themed Festival Village and even a disco party that children can participate in.

This is part of SHF Takes Over!, a new programme of the Singapore Heritage Festival, which is meant to expose festivalgoers to lesser- known stories of Singapore's heritage through access to otherwise inaccessible or unexplored spaces.

The organisers chose to start with Caldecott Hill to throw the spotlight on Singapore's broadcast history. Many Singaporeans grew up watching shows and radio programmes produced at the site.

Ms Christie Chua, the festival's creative director, says: "However, not many have had the chance to enter the space to explore and learn about the stories behind it. With Mediacorp having moved to its new home at Mediapolis, it is an opportunity for us to take Singaporeans behind its famous gates."

The annual festival returns for its 14th edition with more than 110 programmes by about 80 community partners. It is organised by the National Heritage Board.

It takes place over three weekends, from Friday to May 14. Most of the programmes are free, though pre-registration may be required.

Organisers expect 1.5 million visitors this year.

Besides Caldecott Hill, the festival will have programmes located in three other areas - Bukit Pasoh Road and Ann Siang Road in Chinatown; Little India focusing on the Indian Heritage Centre in Campbell Lane; and Singapore River, especially around the Asian Civilisations Museum.

There will also be programmes happening in other parts of Singapore, including the Singapore Zoo, The Fullerton and several National Monuments.

Outside the Asian Civilisations Museum on May 12 and 13, Singaporeans can stroll down memory lane as food stalls will be set up, paying homage to past riverside eateries, the former Empress Place Food Centre and Satay Club.

At least eight food and beverage establishments will set up shop there, including family business Cho Kee Noodle, which has a stall in Old Airport Road.

Third-generation hawker Jonathan Cho, 29, says: "Heritage is very close to my heart. My grandma started the business selling Cantonese noodles under a tree in Old Airport Road in the 1960s."

Diners can sit at white plastic tables with seats and umbrellas reminiscent of those of the former Empress Place Food Centre, which was located outside the museum between 1973 and the 1990s.

Jin Jin Desserts co-owner Ewan Tang, 39, will sell not only traditional desserts such as chendol and ice kacang, but also a contemporary take on Singapore desserts using durian and mango, which he calls Gangster Ice.

Mr Tang, whose shop is located in ABC Brickworks Market & Food Centre in Jalan Bukit Merah, says: "I have traditional desserts and I have new desserts. It's good for Singaporeans to enjoy hawker culture, instead of just visiting foodcourts. This is the heritage of Singapore."

Ms Chua says that while Chinatown and Little India are known for their rich culture and history, the programmes of the Singapore Heritage Festival aim to challenge "Singaporeans to rethink some places in Singapore that they think they know so well".

Ann Siang Road will be closed on May 6 from 7 to 10pm, and Bukit Pasoh will be closed on May 10 from 4 to 9pm as clans and associations around the area present performances and activities such as calligraphy and martial art demonstrations, and puppetry performances.

Festivalgoers can learn about lesser-known art forms such as the Southern lion dance performed in the Hok San-style, which has moves similar to that of a cat.

The 15-minute performance is presented by Singapore Hok San Association, in the hopes of raising awareness of the 98-year-old traditional lion dance.

Mr Sugenderan Ramiah, 29, a representative of the association's youth group, says: "This is especially meaningful, given that this art is very much a uniquely Singapore heritage."

Over at Little India, the festivities coincide with the second anniversary of the Indian Heritage Centre in Campbell Lane.

Look out for an art installation comprising sari-inspired fabrics, or catch a performance of the Ramayana told cross-culturally through wayang kulit, Therkoothu (Indian masked street dance) and Indonesian gamelan and Indian music.


Other heritage programmes

WALKING CALDECOTT

What: Singapore's broadcast history comes alive at the Caldecott Broadcast Centre - a site rarely seen by the public.

Go on hour-long tours of the building in Walking Caldecott, led by Mediacorp staff and celebrities, to learn about their personal memories, the iconic studios and even ghostly encounters in the area.

Shuttle buses to Caldecott Broadcast Centre will be available from Bishan and Caldecott MRT stations and MacRitchie Reservoir carpark.

Where: Caldecott Broadcast Centre, 16 Andrew Road. Enter via the Old Main Gate along Olive Road. When: Friday, May 5 and 6, 6.30pm; Saturday and Sunday, 4.30 and 6.30pm; May 1 and 7, 10.30am Admission: Free. Total of 25 people a tour. Register on-site

MUSEUM OF EATING

What: While eating hawker food and reliving memories of the former Empress Place Food Centre take place outside the Asian Civilisations Museum, the act of eating is the subject of an exhibition held indoors.

Catering to Singaporeans and their love of food, the exhibition looks at the specific ways they eat food here - from the way Singaporeans serve their food to who they eat with to how food is cooked.

Where: Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place When: Friday to May 14. 10am to 7pm (Saturdays to Thursdays), 10am to 9pm (Fridays) Admission: Free

A LIGHTER SIDE OF HISTORY - WALL OF MEMORIES BY YIP YEW CHONG

What: Yip Yew Chong's popular murals all around Singapore depict olden-day sights such as Samsui women and roadside barbers.

In this talk, the artist shares his interest in heritage and his artistic process, and talks about the people he met while creating the murals.

He will also be painting a mural live this weekend, drawing on the 130-year history of the National Museum of Singapore.

Where: Gallery Theatre, Basement, National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road. When: Saturday, 11am to noon; live mural painting this weekend from 1.30 to 5pm Admission: Free admission. Registration required for the talk. Go to www.heritagefestival.sg to register

EURASIAN HERITAGE BUS TOUR

What: This bus tour sheds light on the Eurasian community here.

The three-stop tour starts at the Eurasian Heritage Centre, before moving on to St Joseph's Church in Victoria Street, which was well attended by many Eurasians who used to live in the vicinity of Waterloo Street.

It ends at the Singapore Art Museum, the former premises of the all-boys school St Joseph's Institution, the alma mater of many men in the community.

Where: The Eurasian Heritage Centre, Eurasian Community House, 139 Ceylon Road When: Saturday and Sunday, May 6, 7, 13 and 14, 5 to 7pm Admission: $10 a person, go to eurasianheritagebustours.peatix.com

LEGENDARY FOOD TRAILS WITH CELEBRITY CHEFS

What: Visit iconic eateries in Little India such as vegetarian restaurant Ananda Bhavan and stalls in Tekka market in these one-hour tours led by celebrity chefs Devagi Sanmugam and Sultanul Ariffin.

The tours are done in celebration of the Indian Heritage Centre's second anniversary.

Where: Around Little India. Meeting point at Indian Heritage Centre, 5 Campbell Lane When: May 6, 7, 13 and 14: 11am, 2 and 4pm Admission: $18 a person. Limited capacity. Registration is required. Go to legendaryfoodtrails.peatix.com

BUKIT PASOH STREET PARTY - CANTONESE STORYTELLING

What: Listen to Cantonese storyteller Lee Swee Har, who is in her 70s, share tales of the lives of three Samsui women who came to Singapore to forge a better life for themselves.

This activity is presented by the 122-year-old Ee Hoe Hean Club, known for its association with Chinese millionaires. Its premises are in Bukit Pasoh Road.

Other clans and associations in Chinatown will similarly share different aspects of Chinese culture and heritage in this special street party in Bukit Pasoh Road, which will be closed for the event.

Where: 43 Bukit Pasoh Road When: May 10, 4 to 6pm. Bukit Pasoh Street Party takes place on the same day from 4 to 9pm Admission: Free

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'Heritage party on Caldecott Hill'. Print Edition | Subscribe