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What Bukit Ho Swee was like before fire

Heritage trails and a performance tour of the former squatter area explore issues of resettlement

Published on Jul 15, 2014 3:03 PM
Retiree James Seah standing in front of the MCA (Malayan Chinese Association) shophouses, the only building structures that survived the 1961 Bukit Ho Swee fire. He will be leading heritage trails in the area. -- PHOTO: DRAMA BOX

Retiree James Seah, 65, still remembers the thick smell of burning oil and the sounds of explosions as Bukit Ho Swee burnt to the ground in 1961.

He says: "I was not scared. In fact, I was very excited, wondering what was happening. I was 13 years old and I had never seen a fire before."

More than 50 years later, he will be conducting a heritage tour of his former neighbourhood as part of theatre company Drama Box's community project, IgnorLAND Of Its Time.

On Aug 2, he will point out landmarks and show participants photographs of what the estate looked like when it was still a squatter settlement, before the introduction of public housing in the form of HDB flats. The fire destroyed 2,200 attap houses and displaced 16,000 people, including Mr Seah.

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Where: Meet at Kim Seng Community Centre, 570 Havelock Road

When: July 24 to Aug 1, 7.30pm daily (except July 28)

Admission: Free but registration is required. Go to ignorland-performance.eventbrite.sg

Info: Presented in English, Mandarin and Hokkien


Where: Meet at Beo Crescent carpark entrance, Block 50 Havelock Road

Date: Aug 2, 9.30 and 11am

Admission: Free but registration is required. Go to ignorland-heritage-trail.eventbrite.sg

Info: Presented mainly in English