Singapore Writers Festival ropes in big-name authors

Yeow Kai Chai, director of the Singapore Writers Festival.
Yeow Kai Chai, director of the Singapore Writers Festival.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - This year's Singapore Writers Festival will bring in big-name authors and experts to parse the significance of world events such as ongoing refugee crises, the polarising American presidential elections and incriminating data leaks.

Among the blockbuster names headed here for the 10-day festival in November are: award-winning writers such as American author Lionel Shriver and Indonesian writer Eka Kurniawan, German investigative journalist Frederik Obermaier, who helped to coordinate the Panama Papers expose, as well as Gosho Aoyama, the Japanese creator of the popular manga series Detective Conan.

The 19th edition of the festival, which continues its multi-disciplinary approach under festival director Yeow Kai Chai, will feature close to 330 acts, including novelists, poets, dancers, musicians, theatre practitioners, film-makers, journalists, critics and academics. The line-up was unveiled at a media conference on Tuesday (Sept 6) morning at Bras Basah Complex.

Last year's festival saw an attendance of about 19,700, with the best-attended ticketed event in the festival's history. More than 1,300 people paid $35 each then for Harvard professor Michael Sandel's lecture on morality and market forces.

One key event this year is a lecture by academic Farish Noor, who will explore the etymology of the Malay word Sayang, which connotes both love and loss, and its layered meanings in South-east Asia. Sayang is also the festival theme this year.

Says Yeow: "We want audiences to be introspective, to think about what they've gained and lost, hence sayang. We also hope that they see themselves as part of the larger world, and engage with world issues both intellectually and emotionally, to question the whys and hows."

Some 246 home-grown talents will be featured at the festival as well. One highlight is an original one-woman performance by actress Siti Khalijah Zainal, who will reflect on the roles she has taken on so far, and her future dream roles. It is written by playwright Alfian Sa'at and directed by director Aidli Mosbit.

Company director of The Finger Players Chong Tze Chien will create a verbatim theatre production titled Between The Lines: Rant And Rave II, about the evolution of Singapore's literary scene.

Journalists and editors from The Straits Times will speak on their subjects of expertise and moderate festival panels. They include food critic Wong Ah Yoke, who will speak with chefs from some of Singapore's first Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as senior correspondent Toh Yong Chuan, tech editor Irene Tham and reporter Carolyn Khew, who will give a talk on investigative journalism.

BOOK IT/Singapore Writers Festival 2016

WHERE: Various locations in Civic District

WHEN: Nov 4 to 13, various timings

ADMISSION: $10 to $60 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to

INFO: Go to and