MCCY to pilot small-scale live performances, give additional support to arts community

A dancer from China Wahhaha Art Troupe performing at the River Hongbao opening ceremony at The Float@Marina Bay on Jan 23, 2020.

SINGAPORE - Plans to resume live performances are under way, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) on Friday (Aug 21).

Though performing art shows and concerts ground to a halt for months during the Covid-19 crisis, MCCY and the National Arts Council (NAC) are now exploring commissioning and programming small-scale pilot performances as trial runs.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said: "Live performances add a buzz to our society and community. I think we all yearn to be part of a live performance.

"We're going to try and pilot a few live performances at a few venues to see how that works out and if it's safe enough, we'll scale up.

"Of course, safety is of paramount consideration and we want to ensure that measures are in place, and that the venues are suitable."

MCCY added in a statement that it would "ensure a range of performances for all communities that reflects Singapore's multicultural character to cater to Singaporeans who have not been able to attend a show or concert over the last few months".

It said NAC would reveal more details about the pilots later.

Mr Tong, who is also Second Minister for Law, said he was looking at ways to further support the arts community.

"We've had the Arts and Culture Resilience Package and that has gone to supporting the digital space. We've gone to subsidise venue hires and also sought to give rental (waivers).

"But I think more can be done because it's sometimes easy to assume that arts and culture are not essential services. But they do need support and are a vital part of our society."

The $55 million package, which was announced in April to sustain the arts community during the Covid-19 crisis, has provided more than 6,000 work and training opportunities for arts and culture practitioners, MCCY said.

The package has also supported more than 900 digitalisation efforts by local artists and arts organisations, from Streets Of Hope, an NAC visual art project of works by 350 artists, to The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art partnership with NAC.

New measures will include an additional grant to support operating costs for arts and culture organisations, as well as those in closely-related sectors such as media and design.

Co-working spaces at Goodman Arts Centre and Stamford Arts Centre will be reopened over the coming weeks, with safe management measures in place.

Arts freelancers can use these spaces for free and also attend programmes and webinars organised by the Arts Resource Hub, such as clinics conducted by experienced freelancers on how to access government support schemes.

The application window for the Capability Development Scheme for the Arts and the Digital Presentation Grant for the Arts has been extended to Sept 14 to support training or projects until March 31 next year.

After the Sept 14 deadline, freelancers can apply for NAC's regular project grants, some of which have been enhanced to offer higher funding for projects planned for 2021.

The Capability Development Scheme for the Arts, which covers course fees as well as absentee payroll or training allowance of $10 per hour, has supported nearly 600 training opportunities, half of which were for freelancers.

The Digital Presentation Grant for the Arts helps artists fund the digitalisation of their work. It has supported more than 300 projects and provided around 4,500 work opportunities, 1,100 of which were for freelancers.

Theatremaker Saiful Amri, 42, received $20,000 from the Digital Presentation Grant for his project Panggung Digital 1.9, which features recordings of dramatised readings of five radio dramas by established writers such as Cultural Medallion recipient Nadiputra and M. Saffri A Manaf. It can be viewed on YouTube and Facebook.

Mr Saiful said the grant was helpful. "All the projects we had planned were put on hold, so any form of support we would take with open arms. We had to plan something for this grant particularly. At least we artists had something to do, which we were remunerated for, rather than sitting and waiting for this whole thing to end."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.