Singapore Writers Festival kicks off with a Eurasian wedding party based on a Rex Shelley novel

Participants dance to a Eurasian folk song at the Singapore Writers Festival opening ceremony.
Participants dance to a Eurasian folk song at the Singapore Writers Festival opening ceremony.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - It was a bigger party than expected at the opening ceremony of the Singapore Writers Festival on Friday (Nov 1), as a rousing Eurasian wedding celebration, inspired by the works of late local literary pioneer Rex Shelley, took over The Arts House.

The immersive programme A Bigger Party Than Expected, which takes its title from a quote in Shelley's seminal 1991 novel The Shrimp People, opened the 22nd edition of the annual festival, which will run until next Sunday (Nov 10).

Organised by the National Arts Council, it will feature 290 writers, speakers and artists in 260 programmes.

Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Culture, Community and Youth, was the ceremony's guest of honour. "The Singapore Writers Festival is the pinnacle platform in Singapore's literary arts scene and plays an important role in developing the readership of Singapore literature," she said. "It reflects our commitment, as highlighted in Our SG Arts Plan, to nurture Singaporeans' love for literature and strengthen their engagement of Singapore's literary works."

"By cultivating deep appreciation of Singapore's diverse literary works across languages and cultures, we can connect communities through our shared stories."

Ms Sim also attended a preview of A Bigger Party Than Expected, where she spoke with members of the Shelley family. She later said: "The works of literary pioneers provide us with deeper insight into our cultural heritage, with Rex Shelley's The Shrimp People being the first significant documentation of the consciousness and culture of the Eurasian community in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s."

The programme featured performances and interactive installations throughout The Arts House, including ETA 9mins by Main Tulis Group, Jinkli Nona Redux by Edith Podesta and Watch My Damn Mouth by Irfan Kasban and Ruby Jayaseelan.

The festival's theme is A Language Of Our Own. First-time festival director Pooja Nansi said: "I hope the festival gives us all the chance to be collectively challenged to think about what it means to have a language of our own, and most importantly, what it means to encourage and celebrate difference rather than insist upon the status quo."

Festival headliners include acclaimed authors from abroad such as Min-Jin Lee, Roxane Gay and Pico Iyer. A new addition to the festival is the SWF Youth Fringe, a youth-centric, student-curated line-up featuring young adult authors such as Nicola Yoon, Hanna Alkaf and Ning Cai, as well as programmes on fan fiction, zine-making and memes.

Man Booker Prize-winning Jamaican novelist Marlon James will give the festival prologue on Sunday and Singaporean playwright and Cultural Medallion recipient Haresh Sharma will deliver the epilogue at the festival's close.


BOOK IT/SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL 2019

WHERE: The Civic District

WHEN: Till next Sunday (Nov 10)

ADMISSION: $25 (festival pass) and $15 (Youth Pass) from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg). Individual ticketed events are priced from $10 to $60. A valid student card must be presented upon collection of the Youth Pass

INFO: www.singaporewritersfestival.com and www.facebook.com/sgwritersfest