Make chiffon cake, join after-dark tours and meet traditional craftsmen at S'pore heritage festival

Garland maker R Jayaselvam, who has made garlands for Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Joseph Schooling, will be conducting a workshop for participants. PHOTO: MY COMMUNITY

SINGAPORE - 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 in September.

The second edition of My Community Festival, organised by the eponymous ground-up 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 people excited about places they may already be familiar with. In some cases, like the after-dark tours of Bukit Brown Cemetery, they literally get participants to observe their surroundings 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 even before the crack of dawn to bird-watch at Pasir Ris and Kebun Baru, for example, or practice 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 Filipino sweets with the Filipino Association, and Eurasian sugee cake with Ms Carol Drysdale-de Mello.

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

Tombstone engraver Raymond Toh from Toh Hong Huat Trading will demonstrate the "dying craft" of stonemasonry and also guide participants in trying their hand at 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, at a time now when many people choose to do a simple sea burial," said Mr Toh's wife Evelyn Chiong, referring to how Chinese crematorium plaques include a person's place of origin, usually a city in China.

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

Songkok maker Haji Abdul Wahab Abdullah will be conducting a workshop for participants that starts in September. PHOTO: MY COMMUNITY

Other sets of programmes take people to places of worship, showcase music and dance performances by various groups, and connect participants with photographers and residents in twilight tours around Singapore to catch the best sunsets.

Night owls may be particularly 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 give people a chance to listen to the stories of the marginalised communities living there, and come to a more informed and nuanced understanding of the often-maligned neighbourhood.

Tombstone engraver Raymond Toh demonstrates how to get gold leaves to stick in the grooves of characters that he has carved. PHOTO: MY COMMUNITY

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

The 10th programme category, in a nod to the pandemic, 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 more intimate view of their workday and life.

The Zoom webinars are free while the tours and workshops cost between $10 and $50.

Programmes are supported by the Singapore Tourism Board and will adhere to safe management measures. The vaccination statuses of the guides will be public, for participants' ease of mind.

The full list of programmes can be found at the My Community Festival website.

Tickets can be purchased from Tuesday (Aug 24).

Some highlights of the My Community Festival

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.

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