Go on after-dark tours, learn from tombstone engraver in heritage festival

Over 60 events at My Community Festival to get people excited about familiar places, faces

Follow sunset chasers to Dakota and Queenstown for the best photographs and learn the art of making the best gula melaka chiffon cake in a community-organised heritage festival that kicks off next month.

The second edition of My Community Festival, organised by non-profit group My Community, will offer more than 60 programmes over three weeks.

These include guided trips by former islanders to St John's Island, workshops by a tombstone engraver and flamenco performances.

The programmes seek to get participants excited about people and places they may already be familiar with.

In some cases, like the after-dark tours, they literally get participants to see things in a different light.

"The festival gives us an opportunity to come together and connect over our shared love for our island home," said Mr Kwek Li Yong, the festival director.

"We hope that it will increase appreciation for our everyday people and encourage others to venture into the community to uncover the hidden gems of Singapore."

The programmes are split into 10 broad themes. First among them are Sunrise @ My Community events that get people out before the crack of dawn to birdwatch in Pasir Ris, for example, or practise qigong at East Coast Park.

Then there are the island tours, where expert guides take participants offshore to Kusu Island, St John's Island and Pulau Ubin.

A tour deserving special mention is that to Pulau Hantu where, for 10 minutes each month, the waters recede to reveal the biodiversity hidden in the intertidal zone.

A third category features classes conducted by home bakers and heritage sweet-makers such as Philippine sweets with the Filipino Association, and Eurasian sugee cake with Ms Carol Drysdale-de Mello.

  • My Community Festival highlights

  • 1 Welcome to My Pulau Hantu with Richard Kuah

    Nov 5, 3.30pm to 7.30pm

    Nov 6, 4pm to 8pm

    Meeting place: Marina South Pier

    Price: $50

    2 Welcome to My St John's Island

    Sept 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26 Oct 2, 3

    8am to 11am

    Meeting place: Marina South Pier

    Price: $50

    3 Zoroastrian House with Kersi Aspar

    Oct 2, 3

    2pm to 4pm, 4pm to 6pm

    Meeting place: Entrance of Zoroastrian House

    Price: $10

    4 Gula Melaka Chiffon Cake with Cheng's @ 27

    Sept 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26 Oct 2, 3

    2pm to 3pm

    Meeting place: Entrance of Cheng's @ 27

    Price: $20

    5 Rangoli artist Vijaya Mohan from SingaRangoli

    Sept 11, 12, 25, 26

    10am to noon, 2pm to 4pm

    Meeting place: Address will be sent to registered participants

    Price: $40

    Ticket prices listed exclude Eventbrite service fees.

A fourth segment, Meet My Craftsman, sees workshops held by traditional craftsmen such as garland maker R. Jayaselvam, who has made garlands for former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling, and songkok maker Haji Abdul Wahab Abdullah.

Tombstone engraver Raymond Toh from Toh Hong Huat Trading will demonstrate the "dying craft" of stone masonry and also guide participants in engraving characters on a block of stone.

"The blocks are a good way to prompt people to ask our parents about where we are from and what our roots are," said Mr Toh's wife Evelyn Chiong, referring to how Chinese crematorium plaques include a person's place of origin.

"It also reminds us of filial piety, since the plaques are a station for us to go and remember our ancestors every year."

Other programmes take people to places of worship, showcase music and dance performances, and connect participants with photographers and residents to catch the best sunsets around Singapore.

Night owls may be interested in the after-dark tours in Bras Basah, Jalan Besar, Balestier, Geylang, Bukit Brown and Toa Payoh.

My Community Festival said the Bras Basah tour celebrates women, from artists to missionaries.

The one in Geylang will let people listen to the stories of the marginalised communities there, and come to a more informed and nuanced understanding of the often-maligned neighbourhood.

There are also full-day tours of Tiong Bahru and Holland Village, classic heritage venues here.

The 10th programme category includes Zoom webinars following a day in the life of front-liners such as a community nurse, an estate worker and a hawker.

Zookeeper Poh Shan and MP Louis Ng will also give participants a closer view of their workday and life. The Zoom webinars are free while the tours and workshops cost between $10 and $50.

The programmes are supported by the Singapore Tourism Board.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2021, with the headline 'Go on after-dark tours, learn from tombstone engraver in heritage festival'. Subscribe