Night Fest draws record crowds

New elements, including ticketed acts, attract 600,000 visitors this year

The Anooki Celebrate Singapore light show at the National Museum as part of the Singapore Night Festival on Aug 21, 2015.
Photographs of Garden of Angels parade at Armenian Street and aerial performance at National Museum on Highlights of Singapore Night Festival. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Photographs of Garden of Angels parade at Armenian Street and aerial performance at National Museum on Highlights of Singapore Night Festival.
A artist performs with wielding flame torches 'The Garden of Fire & Light' during the Singapore Night Festival, in Singapore, on Aug 21, 2015. PHOTO: EPA
Spark! from UK performs at the Singapore Night Festival at SMU on Aug 21, 2015. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
People interact with "Pixel Wave 2015" a projection art installation by France's Miguel Chevalier and local designers Carolyn Kan and Depression that features geometric patterns that react to movements and interactions of people, during the Singapore Night Festival at the Singapore Design Center, on Aug 21, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

The 8th edition of the Singapore Night Festival ended last Saturday night with a bang as sparks flew from the airborne angels from Theater Tol's Garden of Angels performance.

The Belgian act was a crowdpleaser, with throngs of people huddling together on the grounds of the National Museum of Singapore, craning their necks to get a better view of the graceful performers who filled the air with balloons, glitter, feathers and even fire.

The National Museum, the organiser for the annual event, reported a record visitorship of more than 600,000 this year. It drew a crowd of just over 500,000 last year.

Festival director Angelita Teo described the response as "very encouraging".

She says: "The increased international attention and strong participation at this year's Singapore Night Festival attests to its resonance as South-east Asia's most anticipated outdoor night festival."

The festival, themed Glitz And Glamour this year, took place over two weekends, on Aug 21, 22, 28 and 29. As in previous years, it was held in the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct.

Theater Tol's Garden of Angels filled the air with balloons, glitter, feathers and even fire. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Theater Tol's performance was on the second weekend, which appeared to draw a bigger crowd compared with the first weekend.

When Life visited last weekend, the festival grounds was packed, especially at the closed-off Armenian Street in the lead-up to the street parade for Garden of Angels, which started there. Later, during the aerial performance on the National Museum grounds, the crowd spilled out to the opposite side of Stamford Road, in front of Singapore Management University (SMU).

The museums also drew many festivalgoers attracted to the novelty of the late-night entry and programming.

At the Singapore Art Museum during the first weekend, eager shutterbugs camped out on its front lawn from 5pm to get a front-row view of local flow arts group Starlight Alchemy's fire and light performance, Alchemy. Flow arts is a movement-based art form that merges dance with theatre and prop manipulation.

With visitorship numbers up, it appears that the organisers have done something right this year.

New elements included the House Of Glamour, a tented area on Cathay Green across the road from The Cathay.

It housed a number of ticketed acts, ranging from improvisational comedy and theatre to acts that were inspired by cabaret or were slightly more risque. The tickets went for $15 an act.

The line-up included Moonage Daydream, a colourful and madcap set by local glam rock and experimental band Tiramisu; and drag show Riot!, headlined by local drag artist Becca D'Bus.

Both were held at 1am on the first and second weekends respectively. Stand-up comedy sets by local comedian Kumar were sold out on both weekends.

Arts manager Sara Poh, 36, was hesitant to pay for tickets at first as she had not expected there to be any ticketed events at the festival, but in the end did not regret buying tickets to see Tiramisu.

"They were the highlight of the festival for me," she said.

She and her friends even returned the following weekend for another ticketed act, theatre performance Fat Kids Are Harder To Kidnap by How Drama.

The House Of... series will return next year, following the new theme of the festival, and will feature only local acts like it did this year.

Another stand-out element this year was the Festival Village at SMU's Campus Green, a sprawling area with food-and-beverage stalls selling items such as churros, burgers and iced Thai milk tea.

Festivalgoers could hang out at seating areas under hanging fairy lights while enjoying live music and film screenings under the stars.

Mr Chung Deming, 34, owner of Asian fusion restaurant The Quarters, which was back at the Festival Village for a second year, said that sales far surpassed last year's, when his stall was located at the Cathay Green.

"The response was really beyond our expectations. Our salted egg fries were the overwhelming favourite and we sold out everything else too," he says.

The Festival Village was a hit with Ms Ingrid Mak, 28, an event and branding specialist, who went on the second weekend with her best friend.

She said: "We loved the chill-out vibe of the live music and the seating areas. We wish this could be a more regular feature here, outside of the Night Festival."

And while large crowds are de rigueur for the popular festival, this proved to be no deterrent for arts lovers.

"The crowds last year were a turn-off. But after doing our research this year, we managed to catch interesting installations such as Pixels Wave 2015 at the National Design Centre," says lawyer Vithyashree, 30, of the interactive light installation on the floor of the centre, located in Middle Road.

"The atmosphere at this year's festival was just amazing."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline Night Fest draws record crowds. Subscribe