Bigger arts fest for seniors this year

One of the commissioned films to be screened at the festival is Kirsten Tan's Dahdi (Granny).
One of the commissioned films to be screened at the festival is Kirsten Tan's Dahdi (Granny).PHOTO: KIRSTEN TAN

An upcoming festival lets seniors engage with different art forms

An arty package tour will take people to a hipster cafe to watch an interactive dance performance, before catching a film and heading out for an arts and heritage walk.

This is an activity targeted not at young people, but seniors. It is part of La-Teh, La-Kopi (Hokkien for stirring coffee, stirring tea), a new component of the annual Silver Arts programme organised by the National Arts Council.

Some of the cafes include Cafe Melba in Goodman Arts Centre in Mountbatten and Caffe Pralet in Tiong Bahru.

The Silver Arts programme, now in its fourth edition, runs annually in the month of September and is aimed at senior citizens. It seeks to get them engaging with art and teach them new skills.

This is its biggest edition, having expanded to four weeks from just three weeks the year before. Last year, 34,000 people attended the festival. This year, the council hopes to see 50,000 people at the 50 events held across 25 locations.


  • WHERE: Various locations

    WHEN: Sept 1-27, various timings

    INFO: Go to for more information

More than 100 artists and art groups will be taking part this year. They include Paper Monkey Theatre director Benjamin Ho, who will write a script for a multidisciplinary performance involving music and theatre; and Avant Theatre, which will hold a Tamil Creative Writing course. Seniors will be participating in the performances on a voluntary basis.

One of the festival highlights is a double-bill by Scottish dance group Prime, whose dancers are older than 60 years. Founded by Scotland's National Centre for Dance artistic director Morag Deyes, it aims to show that age is just a number and to challenge the assumptions of who can be a dancer. Prime will also hold master classes for seniors here.

There will also be a mini film festival curated by photography and film centre Objectifs. Ten seniors participated in a workshop with film-maker Jasmine Ng, where they learnt how to handle film cameras and make documentaries. Titled Silver Films, they will be screened alongside commissioned films from film-makers Leon Cheo, Kenny Tan, M. Raihan Halim and Kirsten Tan.

There is also the Silvery Friends Forever Xinyao concert, performed by singer-songwriter Jiu Jian and guests.

Even before the festival opens, some artists have already engaged with seniors via community arts projects. One of the workshops, titled Between Servings, encouraged seniors to tell stories and reveal aspects of their lives via sensory engagement with food.

Artist Serena Pang, one-half of the duo Spang&Lei, which conducted the Between Servings workshops, says: "One of the activities involved participants revealing a secret desire, then spelling it out with pasta letters from alphabet soup, before consuming the soup, and therefore, 'consuming their desires'.

"One woman's secret desire was health. She revealed that she was a breast cancer survivor and didn't know how long she had left to live.

"Some of them were doubtful at first, but they blew our minds with their creativity after a few sessions. Their perspectives are really different and I think there's a lot we can learn from working with them."

Ms Lynn Chen, 56, a former educator who participated in these workshops, says: "I want to use these opportunities to build more relationships in my life. I went home so much more energised after each session and I've met so many new people with so many original ideas. It really added zest to my life."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2015, with the headline 'Hear grandma's stories'. Print Edition | Subscribe