In its 10th year, Singapore Night Festival still dazzles

Convolutions (above) by EZ3kiel (France) on the facade of the National Museum of Singapore.
Convolutions (above) by EZ3kiel (France) on the facade of the National Museum of Singapore. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Les Hommes Debout (The Standing Man, above) by AADN (France) at the Singapore Art Museum.
Les Hommes Debout (The Standing Man, above) by AADN (France) at the Singapore Art Museum.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

The throngs of people did not deter Ms Annie Lim from taking her two primary school-aged children to watch performances and enjoy the art installations at the Singapore Night Festival, which ended last Saturday night.

The nine-day festival kicked off on Aug 18. As of press time yesterday, it was estimated to have attracted about 600,000 festivalgoers, similar to the event's record turnout in 2015.

Ms Lim, a 45-year-old housewife, says: "The festival keeps outdoing itself every year. The outdoor event is a wonderful way to make art more accessible to the public and also introduce it to children.

"The event also serves as a short history tour for younger Singaporeans and foreigners."

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the festival was first introduced in 2008 to enliven the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct. Over the years, it has grown to become one of the biggest outdoor arts and cultural events on the calendar here.

In the first year, it had just six partners and a visitorship of 60,000. Today, the festival works with about 70 partners and has attracted more than 500,000 festivalgoers annually over the past few years.

It culminated in three evenings of performances that began last Thursday. In previous years, performances took place over four evenings on two weekends.

This new format allowed fans of the Night Lights installations to have more time with them without feeling like they had to rush off to catch the other performances.

On the success of the new format, festival director Angelita Teo says: "The feedback received has been positive and we can really see how visitors are taking more time to enjoy the Night Lights installations, with some joining us on multiple evenings even on the weekdays."

Security was also beefed up this year, with bag checks for some events. This meant long queues at some venues, but festivalgoers did not seem to mind.

Madam Lynn Guo, 57, who had her bag checked before entering Cathay Green to watch Globe by Close-Act, an international street theatre company, says: "If this is what must be done to ensure the safety of attendees, then by all means, check our bags."

Globe stunned the crowds at Cathay Green with its large whimsical spheres and display of circus techniques and pyrotechnics. A crane was also used to suspend a performer, who flew through the sky in fairy-like fashion.

Other popular installations include Convolutions by French group EZ3kiel, the full-facade animated light projection on the National Museum of Singapore; and Phosphene by Praxis+, a cavern of twinkling lights at the National Design Centre.

The annual event also helps to give participating creative groups more traction and visibility in the arts scene. Freelance playwright Nur Sabrina Dzulkifli, 20, says being part of it helps to legitimise what practitioners like herself do.

She is one of nine members that make up the year-old Main Tulis Group, a collective of playwrights who write in both Malay and English, which participated in the Singapore Night Festival for the first time this year as part of Late-Night Texting, a series of text-based performances curated by arts training hub Centre 42 in Waterloo Street.

Bank executive Lin Weihao, 29, found this year's mix of performances and installations "hypnotically refreshing". A standout artwork for him was Secrecy by The Ratpack at the Armenian Church.

He says: "The neon lights gave the historical grounds a futuristic twist. Yet, at the same time, there was also something so serene about the space even though the installation was accompanied by loud music. The festival never fails to amaze me each year."

Rebecca Lynne Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2017, with the headline 'In its 10th year, Singapore Night Festival still dazzles'. Print Edition | Subscribe