Welcome to another week in Singapore, where again, nothing stops.
Singapore really is the city that never sleeps…not only because there’s so much to do, but because 8 hours of sleeping is 8 hours where you could be eating.
Food is important here…if you haven’t already got that vibe from my previous posts and Tumblr page.
Singapore is also an incredibly vibrant city in which to be an artist, because it feels like there’s always something new and very different happening.
For example, in the last week, I went to:
- a feminist reading night as part of the Etiquette Festival, where a range of women read poetry, spoken word, stories and performed music.
- A night of playreadings of Checkpoint Theatre‘s Huzir Sulaiman’s graduate playwriting students, where a group of peers performed each other’s new writing to a warm crowd and, oh yes, a group dinner.
- The gala night of W!ld Rice’s Jack and the Beansprout, where instead of the normal Australian post-show event of a few nibblies and gallons of wine, the audience was treated to a swanky buffet dinner. Furthermore, the entire cast came out into the foyer in their costumes, to take photos with over-excited audience members (that is, children and visiting Australian playwrights). It was a great opportunity to see how companies like W!ld Rice facilitate post-show conversation and natural networking. (Read my interview with Jack and the Beansprout scribe Joel Tan, here).
This past week was also the beginning of my series of workshops with writers from Singapore.
Firstly, a workshop for slightly older writers with the aim of forming a support network to create work and learn new generative techniques together. We had a very fun workshop in the Grey Projects library, where the writers were asked to respond to the current exhibition of works in the Grey Projects gallery space.
I realised what a special opportunity it is to be a resident writer in an arts space; to find the links between visual art and text, and to see if different forms can complement each other.
To continue my story, I’ll need you to follow me down Kim Tian Road, past the art deco apartments, wind your way along the fringe of the green space, and pass Hua Bee Coffee Shop on your way to my next appointment.
Hua Bee has been around since the 1950s, but closed recently due a combination of factors. The spiralling rent in these areas as the hipster value of this suburb hikes up is a major concern for the elderly store owners. But with these challenges has come a strain of creative thinking from the entrepreneurs of Tiong Bahru – the idea of a “two-faced” restaurant has emerged.
By day, Hua Bee is a traditional fishball soup cafe, and by night, a swanky yakitori restaurant named Bincho. Another café down the road, TwoFace, has done just the same: noodles by day, pizza by night. It’s inspiring and a nice human compromise in the face of inevitable development here. The old and the new can live side-by-side.
Keep walking, passing the Resident Centre where I got to watch some senior citizens cut loose to Chinese karaoke songs last week, and make your way to the Tiong Bahru Community Centre, a buzzing open space full of ping pong championships, basketball playoffs, and a community of people sharing a table and that morning’s breaking news. Here is where I’m hosting a workshop for teenage writers called ‘Finding Your Voice’.
This workshop is an introduction to dramatic writing with the aim of creating a monologue by the end of the 4 sessions together. Situating the workshop in my current base, Tiong Bahru, has offered us the unique opportunity to respond to our surroundings. For example, a casual “scavenger hunt” in the Tiong Bahru hawker centre has generated some great material for next week’s workshop.
It has been a lot of fun to work with smart and creative people of a variety of ages and to see what sort of work we can create together. I look forward to seeing what our final project looks like.See you next time to update you on things seen, things written, and obviously, things eaten.
- Tiong Bahru (hnreadwriter.wordpress.com)
- In Modern Singapore, Some Wax Nostalgic (online.wsj.com)
- Anthony Bourdain’s Hawker Centre Sanctuary – Tiong Bahru in Singapore (tripque.wordpress.com)
- Tiong Bahru Roasted Duck (villeyoung.wordpress.com)