Singapore Heritage Festival 2020: A Festival for the Future
The Singapore Heritage Festival (SHF) is one of the key events organised by the National Heritage Board annually. This year’s digital edition is a first in its 17 year history, and is set to run from June 19 to July 5. Each week, SHF would dedicate programmes to a heritage-rich neighbourhood, which are Tanjong Pagar, Pasir Ris, and Kallang respectively.
SHF has always excelled in presenting eye-catching identities. Nostalgia sells by itself, but putting a contemporary spin on visuals separates SHF from the pack of heritage fan pages.
This year’s identity features colourful illustrations of people having fun, such as beach life in Pasir Ris. The illustrations were created by artist Muhammad Izdi.
Article thumbnails place these illustrations front and centre against clean backdrops. The thumbnails could have been larger to balance the clutter of words on the site, though.
SHF’s social media posts follow a colour scheme which helps to differentiate which neighbourhood it is celebrating that week. Granted, all 3 neighbourhoods do not really have colours which define them (as opposed to Redhill), but the bold colours command your attention while scrolling.
Projects to Visit
With 80 programmes stretching across different fields of interest, it is easy to get disorientated and miss out on something interesting. While new content is being created for this event, I found most design-related ones to be previous NHB projects. Here are some of them:
Architectural Heritage Awards Video Series
This series of short videos showcases the stories behind the Singapore’s Architectural Heritage Award recipients. Made by NTU WKWSCI students, these videos include interviews with the buildings’ custodians who offering insight into what makes the buildings great.
This project is an exploration of Telok Ayer and Amoy Streets’ histories through before-after photographs, videos and more. Made in collaboration with NTU ADM students, transport yourself back to 1984 and hear audio testimonies of people who have seen the streets evolve to what we know today as a hipster hangout.
Many of SHF’s new programmes are family-friendly and worth checking out.
Dear Tanjong Pagar
Dear Tanjong Pagar follows the lives of 3 anthropomorphic animals in 1900s Singapore, through their jobs as wayang performers and rickshaw coolies. Created by Sweet Tooth, this site is a package of family fun, with minigames, animated shorts and even background music.
For those who love colouring or just want a temporary getaway from life’s shenanigans (ahem GE 2020), artist Tobyato created 3 colouring sheets highlighting icons of the featured neighbourhoods: Tanjong Pagar’s Metropole Cinema, Kallang Stadium and the Bumboat Playground of Pasir Ris. The coloured versions can be found on NHB’s Facebook page.
What SHF should have been
NHB gave us a glimpse of SHF 2020’s original plans, which were shelved in March due to the coronavirus. According to festival director David Chew, the main festival was supposed to be held at the former St Andrew’s Mission Hospital, which is typically inaccessible to the public.
History buffs are aware of the building’s colourful history which began in 1922. Architects know this to be one of Singapore’s earliest Modernist buildings designed by Swan & Maclaren. Foodies recognise this place to be the vacant building next to Maxwell Market.
The next best thing SHF could do was a mini documentary about the building, presented by Jermone Lim of the popular Long and Winding Road blog.
One could only imagine the bait-y Instagram sets planned for this colonial building we would probably never get to see.
Smart (Festival) Nation?
Like it or not, the coronavirus has forced many events to go online, bringing us closer to Singapore’s Smart Nation ambitions. I am eager to see how this evolves into a hybrid in-person and virtual festival in the future.
Perhaps the best part of this is that the festival content would remain up even after it ends. Heritage is by definition of historical significance, and deserves to be accessible to the next generation of Singaporeans through the medium they are most familiar with.