Parliament: NMP Terence Ho proposes 'culture pass' to boost ticket sales to arts and cultural events

Nominated Member of Parliament Terence Ho, who is executive director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, noted that while the number of arts groups in Singapore had increased from 2,689 in 2013 to 3,162 in 2016, paying audiences had shrunk.
Nominated Member of Parliament Terence Ho, who is executive director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, noted that while the number of arts groups in Singapore had increased from 2,689 in 2013 to 3,162 in 2016, paying audiences had shrunk.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A Culture Pass mobile app with sponsored "credits" that allow Singaporeans to buy tickets for arts and cultural events, and more efforts to deepen appreciation of traditional arts, were called for by Nominated Member of Parliament Terence Ho in his maiden speech on Monday (Jan 14).

Mr Ho, who turns 50 this year, is executive director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. He is the first NMP from the arts field who is a formally trained musician and from a traditional arts group.

Speaking in Mandarin, he noted that while the number of arts groups in Singapore had increased from 2,689 in 2013 to 3,162 in 2016, paying audiences had shrunk. Only 1.81 million tickets were sold in 2016, compared with 2.06 million in 2012.

More needs to be done to change the mindset of "pragmatic" Singaporeans to increase their interest in arts and culture so they make it an integral part of their lives, he said.

He suggested that arts education should be part of National Education for Primary 3 and 4 pupils. Each pupil should get the chance to watch at least one arts performance a year.

He also mooted the pass, giving free credits that Singaporeans can use to offset the cost of tickets. It could follow a model similar to the ActiveSG app, which can be used at public gyms, swimming pools and other sports facilities.

In addition, the traditional arts, which he said "connect us to who we are today", have an important part to play in creating shared understanding across different communities in Singapore. He suggested setting up think-tanks to research the importance of these arts.

In response, Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said the National Arts Council (NAC) would build capabilities and enhance research into traditional arts under the Our SG Arts Plan, its five-year blueprint for developing the arts. For example, Stamford Arts Centre, which was revamped and reopened last year, will house a mix of traditional arts groups from different ethnic communities that can bring these arts to the community.

He added that the ministry and the arts council would consider the Culture Pass "as part of ongoing efforts to grow audiences, and enhance accessibility of arts and culture, by leveraging technology".

He said that while ticket-buying fell in 2016, that year had the highest attendance at arts and culture events since 2012, thanks to more non-ticketed performances than ever.

He added that both ticketed and non-ticketed attendance contribute "to the vibrancy and sustainability of our arts and culture landscape". "We hope that non-ticketed arts activities will create accessible entry points to the arts, while artists and arts groups will build on this increased awareness, and create works that could interest and attract more people to become paying audience," he said.

Artists are intrigued by the idea of the Culture Pass. Mr Tan Hong Ging, 31, marketing manager of Chinese chamber music company Ding Yi said the ensemble's free concerts in public spaces have led to interest in its ticketed programmes as well. The proposed pass could help tip the balance and bring in new ticket-buyers, but different ticketing platforms like Sistic and Peatix would have to be brought on board, he noted.

Flautist Tan Qing Lun, 31, who leads multi-ethnic ensemble yIN Harmony, a Culture Pass could help convert audiences at free performances to ticket-buyers. "But the funds should only cater for traditional art forms, not pop concerts, otherwise everyone will use it to buy tickets for JJ Lin," he quipped, naming a popular Singaporean singer.