Record turnout at Singapore Writers Festival

The 20th edition of the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) set a new record for attendance this year by drawing almost 25,500 festivalgoers, a 25 per cent jump from the previous year.

The annual literary festival, which ran from Nov 3 to 12, also had a record number of more than 335 authors, up from 312 last year.

Festival director Yeow Kai Chai said at an appreciation lunch yesterday that the festival attracted many first-time attendees and that its classroom series, as well as its speculative fiction focus, were hugely popular, with almost all the sessions full. "The strong Singapore flavour in many SWF programmes was well appreciated by the community," he added.

Eleven out of 12 masterclasses and workshops, such as those by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout and Cultural Medallion recipient Suratman Markasan, were sold out.

Seven out of 11 SWF Stage events - including sold-out lectures by American authors Ken Liu and Junot Diaz - were more than 80 per cent full.

Festival guest Lee Li-Young, an American poet, said in a thank-you note: "It was truly an honour and a privilege for me to be a part of something so important as the cultivating, nurturing and growing of Singapore's literary consciousness, which I sense has real potential to become globally significant. I felt I got to witness something of historical importance."

Freelance editor and researcher Dawn Lim, 31, who attended the festival for a third year, said while she felt last year's guest authors included bigger names, she was "pleasantly surprised by the underrated names" this year.

She praised a talk by Israeli author Etgar Keret on the absurdity of everyday life. "I could not believe he was such a good storyteller, so interesting and provoking."

Ms Noridah Kamari, 37, who works in literary publishing, enjoyed events such as a panel on Malay science-fiction and fantasy, but lamented that some events, such as a panel on self-publishing and a talk by veteran local writer Catherine Lim, were too full. "I hope that, next year, they can expand the capacity for such events or hold another session."

After attending 13 events at the festival, senior information technology analyst Mani Kandan, 40, said his favourite was a showcase of migrant workers' poetry. "You get to meet famous authors, but also those who have been marginalised yet have so many ideas for poetry and fiction. It truly is a festival that includes all kind of people."

Next year's festival will run from Nov 2 to 11, with the theme of "jie", a Chinese word meaning "world" or "universe".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2017, with the headline 'Record turnout at Singapore Writers Festival'. Print Edition | Subscribe