Explore the evolution of National Day Parades over the past 50 years in new NHB exhibition

Spectators holding up the Singapore banner during the SG50 National Day Parade 2015 at the Padang.
Spectators holding up the Singapore banner during the SG50 National Day Parade 2015 at the Padang.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The past five decades of National Day Parades have been documented in a "retrospective survey" by the National Heritage Board (NHB).

The survey, which took place between February and May this year, has been produced as a travelling exhibition that chronicles the parade's evolution.

The exhibition was launched at Kallang Wave Mall on Friday (June 10) and will travel to Bedok Public Library, Velocity in Novena and One Raffles Place. It will return to Kallang Wave Mall in the lead up to National Day on Aug 9 this year.

The showcase has been divided by decades into five sections from the 1960s to the 2000s. NHB's assistant chief executive of policy and community Alvin Tan said the board felt it was timely to put together the showcase as Singapore celebrates its 50th parade this year.

He added: "We hope that Singaporeans will realise that the National Day Parade (NDP) is more than just a parade - it is the one time in the year that we are truly united in feeling proud of our achievements and hopeful for Singapore's future."

In the first decade, just four parades took place after independence in 1965. The notable ones were in 1966, which took place a year after separation from Malaysia and involved 23,000 participants, and in 1968 when it rained heavily. Participants persisted and performed their roles undeterred by the downpour.

The section on the 1970s features technological advancements. For instance, three colour cameras had been acquired in 1974 to capture the parade. Then in 1976, the parade was held in the newly completed National Stadium.

The 1980s was marked by a surge in confidence in Singapore's growth and success in development since independence. It was also in 1984 that the first National Day song, Stand Up For Singapore, was introduced.

The following decade also had several firsts, including the debut of the gun salute in 1994.

In 1998, the National Day song, Home, a local favourite, was launched as Singapore celebrated 33 years of independence.

Meanwhile, the millennium parades carried a similar thread of national identity, remembering the country's roots while gearing up for the future, said Mr Tan. He added that it was in 2004 that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attended the parade in his new role.

The grandest parade took place during the country's Jubilee celebrations at the Padang last year. Highlights included F-16 fighter jets forming the number "50", a moving tribute to the late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, a Singapore Airlines A380 flying across the parade grounds, as well as a vintage parade.

Retired Major Ponnosamy Kalantree, 69, who took part in the first parade in 1966 and helped to organise subsequent ones a decade later, said that the exhibition will help the public understand the work that goes into developing the show each year.

He said: "I was just a teenager when I took part in the first parade. I was very proud to be involved. Each parade is a countrywide effort that takes a year to put together."

The NHB is issuing a call for the public to share their NDP memorabilia to be incorporated into the exhibition. People who wish to contribute may e-mail nhb_feedback@nhb.gov.sg.