Singapore Writers Festival 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

"The human impulse yearns for development, they would like to transform themselves through immigration or getting wealthy" 

This was one of the main notions put across in a panel I attended during the Singapore Writers Festival 2014. While it is true in a certain sense with people trying to improve their lives constantly, I happen to think that this is unfortunately centered too much around material wants. In terms of emotional needs, I personally feel like having constants in one's life is extremely important. Imagine if you constantly changed the people you leaned on for emotional support - that'd be tiring, and draining. 

The beautiful thing about having events that recur every year would be that it's a tangible way for one to chart one's development, such as birthdays where we'd take stock of the things we've done for the past year and how we've matured and grown. It seems like the Singapore Writers Festival could be a yearly affair for myself and some of the constants in my life to see how much we've grown, and to use it as a platform to get back together and catch up, and if it works out it'll be so wonderful. If the festival continues on for years to come, we might be mature adults (with not-so-mature thoughts) when we meet then. I don't know, but it's such a lovely and beautiful ideal in my head right now. One thing's for sure, we'll be sure to try, to support the festival and to support one another, and we'll take a photo right in front of the festival pavilion. The one above is from this year and the one below's from last year

Seems like we've grown a fair bit visibly in terms of appearance but also there's so many more things encompassed in the span of one year that has happened and it's crazy. The most stark contrast would probably be Swan's disappearance, though we now have Phionna joining us at the festival. 2014 has been a ride, but then again this post is really about the festival itself, although reminder to self: time to start compiling events for my end of the year look-back post :') It's going to be insane. 

Anyway, this year's festival did not disappoint. It was full of great insight, though sometimes it takes a bit of sieving through information to find the gems because it seemed like the moderators weren't entirely sure of the description printed in the programme booklet. Many of the panelists blew me away though, I remember walking out from the Gallery Theatre of the National Museum thinking "oh gosh, how are they so smart?" It made me feel inferior, in a good way if that's even possible, because I was so glad I was given the opportunity to hear from all these brilliant people. 

Last year, I didn't really pay attention to the little musical performances littered throughout the programme but this year, I did and I have no regrets at all. There was a little tent named the "Gazebo" this year dedicated to these, as well as morning coffee readings and one particular one that got my attention was Dennis Lim Kiang, pictured here (with the microphone). I can't really comment on his musical ability because I don't have the ears for that, though the description on him shows that he's really accomplished. But what really struck me was how real his music was - his lyrics are based on bits and pieces of his life, and he gave anecdotes before most of his songs. The lyrics were all very literal as well, no beating about the bush - it was beautiful, to say the least. It brought tears to my eyes listening to him, and I think his age played a part too, as I thought about all the experiences he has encountered in his life and the many things he has had to go through, leading to the very pleasing music. 

One of his songs was about this particular girl who dropped by his bar very regularly back in the day and when he said "I was madly in love with her" so directly to the audience with a look in his eyes full of nostalgia, and memories, I was immediately drawn in and I don't think I've felt anything like that for any musical performance, ever. I don't know, but there was a certain magic to his music, so raw, no frills. 

Look at the lyrics of his songs which he referred to during the performance pictured above, they are in such big font and in capital letters. I would usually frown upon such terrible formatting but there is a certain real-ness to it, as if he didn't really care about making it look pretty. It was functional, and that's all that matters - he could put the emotion and the beauty into the words with his performance. 

This year's festival also featured a café situated within the Festival Pavilion itself. Last year, they had Plain Vanilla cupcakes but there wasn't proper sitting spaces so this year was an improvement and it allowed for everyone to take a break in between panels. Shermaine and I shared cake on two occasions, a chocolate one as can be seen in my previous post and this red velvet one :-)  Service standards can be improved by a lot, but overall it's satisfactory. It doesn't make me want to visit the actual café though. Also, this year they had roaming polaroid photographs giving away free polaroids, and I thought that was a nice touch and might really appeal to the older festival-goers.  

Another annual tradition I'm going to try to uphold would be to visit Fast Food for Thought everytime I attend the Singapore Writers Festival. This was my second time visiting it after I did last year with Sarah during the SWF period and I've been wanting to drink the Earl Grey milkshake ever since my first visit and I finally got it again, exactly a year later. The price increased by $2, which is insane and it wasn't as good as I remembered it to be though I still really liked it. 

And they have the nicest backgrounds outside Fast Food for Thought, of which Shermaine and myself took advantage of :-) 

We even borrowed the flowers from the café HAHA it wasn't my idea

Thank you Shermaine for being one of my constants and really becoming so much closer to me since we were in Waddle House Committee together in Year Two. I remember the first time I met you I thought, "wow this girl has some rad dress sense" because even then at just fourteen you didn't have any awkward pre-puberty dressing style. Little wonder why you're in Raffles Runway now. 

And although the four of us weren't together the entire duration of the festival, which each of us having our own different commitments and interest in various panels, I'm glad we got to come together for the final closing debates, even Phionna who would have been so tired from Council Retreat and all that :') The debates this year weren't as entertaining as last year's and some of the speakers did annoy me a little, but they did put up a good show nonetheless and I'm so thankful for everyone who had a part to play in making this festival a success. 

I think the Festival Director, Paul Tan, who is stepping down - next year's festival will be helmed by another poet - did a fantastic job and his closing speech was a lovely way to end the entire event. I don't know him personally, but by the way he speaks and carries himself, I see him as an unbelievably humble and down-to-earth person and that's just so admirable for all his contributions and effort he put into the arts scene in Singapore. These are truly real life role models and someday, I wish I'd be able to organize events as meaningful and large scale as this, yet remain true to myself and the things I believe. That is really something to work towards. 

After the festival ended, Phionna, Sarah and myself headed to Plaza Singapura for dinner/ supper and we had Four Fingers. It was my first time and it was quite exciting though I don't think it's super worth it. I would come back though, I quite enjoyed it. 

C H I C K E N :-) 

Sarah and Phionna's typical strange poses :-) 

Thank you to everyone involved in making Singapore Writers Festival 2014 such a huge success! I have a feeling I'll have to miss next year's because it usually clashes with the A Level period but I'll definitely be back for the next few years to come. It's always a brilliant experience and I look forward to the great things that'll be in store for all of us. 

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