Queenstown heritage walk turns 10 with new editions that include sketching, photography

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, and Culture, Community and Youth, Mr Baey Yam Keng (centre), with a group of volunteers and members of the public during a heritage trail tour of Tanglin at the Queenstown Public Library, on July 22, 2018
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, and Culture, Community and Youth, Mr Baey Yam Keng (centre), with a group of volunteers and members of the public during a heritage trail tour of Tanglin at the Queenstown Public Library, on July 22, 2018.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Ms May Hui, 64, a volunteer guide from My Community, leading a group during a heritage trail at the rooftop of Skyville@Dawson, on July 22, 2018.
Ms May Hui, 64, a volunteer guide from My Community, leading a group during a heritage trail at the rooftop of Skyville@Dawson, on July 22, 2018.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - For the past 10 years, dozens of residents have been showing up in Queenstown on Sunday mornings to go on a walk around the neighbourhood, with volunteer guides pointing out where Singapore's second driving centre, the country's first branch library and first polyclinic used to be.

On Sunday (July 22), heritage organisation My Community, which holds these walks, celebrated the 10th anniversary of these trails with a commemorative walk.

The organisation also launched a new series of walks that will incorporate Mandarin, sketching and photography.

My Community president Kwek Li Yong said: "Every community has a story to tell. Through heritage walks, we wish to narrate the endearing story of the common man, celebrate the little things that make the neighbourhood special and reconnect individuals to the social networks in the community."

He added that the new editions with sketch and photography would help the walks be more interactive and immersive for participants.

"We want them to get involved and create their own memories," he said.

The guide leading the first sketch walk on Sunday was Mr Tan Chwee Seng, 65, a professional artist. He had a group of 13 on his sketch walk.

He said: "This combines art, heritage and culture. Most of the time, we take photos and walk away, but art makes us have a deeper connection and know the specific features of a place.

"I want people to find artistic value in the things they see. It's not something that only artists can do, because art is everywhere and anyone can make art."

The heritage walks were started in 2008 to celebrate Queenstown's rich history as Singapore's first satellite town.

They cover Queenstown, Bukit Merah and Tiong Bahru, where volunteers take participants on trips into the past almost every week.

The tours take people to places such as Singapore's first Housing Board flats in Stirling Road, old British military installations in Gillman Barracks and shrines in Radin Mas.

The first heritage tour in 2008 had four participants. Last year, My Community organised 55 public tours, which attracted more than 2,500 participants.

Each tour now has 30 to 60 participants and can last more than three hours, with more than 15 stops.

In total, My Community has a pool of about 150 volunteers who lead participants on the tours. Some have been tour guides before, while others work in research or museum curation.

One of the volunteers is Ms Morni Mohamed, 53, a library officer. She has been a guide since 2015.

"I started because I wanted to expand my social circle and I've worked in this area before, so I know the place. I wanted to share what I know, but also to learn from others. I used to volunteer with the National Heritage Board as well, so I feel it's nice to be a heritage guide again."

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, and Culture, Community and Youth, Mr Baey Yam Keng, who was at the commemorative 10th anniversary walk, said: "This is one of the few ground-up, resident-led heritage walks and it's something we want to encourage. I'm happy to see this group grow and mature after I saw their beginning 10 years ago."

He added that the strong turnouts show there is value to these tours for people who prefer to see things for themselves and that they provide a different perspective of history.

A participant on the tour was Mr Jim Teng, 44, who works in finance. He was with his wife and 10-year-old daughter.

"I grew up in Queenstown but moved away, before coming back in 2005," he said. "I'm most excited to hear the stories related to each location. We always hear people saying that this place used to be something in the past, and here, we get to hear what really happened. I'm learning about my home town."

Those who want to join the tours can register at www.myqueenstown.eventbrite.sg

Upcoming tours in August include walks in Tanglin Halt to trace how towns have developed; in Alexandra to hear war accounts; and Holland Village to learn about colonial Singapore.