Singapore Heritage Festival 2020 – Digital Discovery Of Our Lesser Known Stories

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Travel back in time to a Tanjong Pagar where shophouses rather than skyscrapers were bustling with diverse communities living and working in the area; discover the opulent past of Pasir Ris when it was home to extravagant beach resorts; or listen in to accounts by former police coast guards of the well-loved Kallang Basin before it became the sporting hub it is today! From 19 June to 5 July 2020, the Singapore Heritage Festival 2020: Digital Edition (SHF 2020) will be presenting lesser-known stories of these places as it returns for its 17th edition with more than 80 free programmes. 

Singapore Heritage Festival 2020 – 3 Weeks Of Digital Explorations

Held over three weekends, festival-goers can look forward to enjoying a line-up of fun and interactive online programmes organised together with both new and long-time community partners. These offer insight into the colourful histories of these neighbourhoods and reveal lesser-known facets of our tangible and intangible cultural heritage. SHF 2020 is moving its festivities online for the first time since its conception in 2004 – allowing for more people to access heritage content from the comfort of their homes as part of the ongoing #SGCultureAnywhere movement.

SHF Festival Director, Mr David Chew, said, “Despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation, and probably even more so because of it, we wanted to work with our community partners to still deliver the festival to Singaporeans to provide some ‘respite’ from all that is going on. And this is only possible because of the strong support of our community partners who have gamely adapted their programmes for a digital festival.

“SHF has always brought people together to discover and experience our heritage, and this year, we hope to continue this tradition, albeit digitally. A lot of effort was invested in creating opportunities for our festival-goers to interact and have conversations with our partners, as well as with one another, as they would at a physical festival. I hope festival-goers will go away with a greater interest and curiosity in our heritage to want to dive deeper into discovering more of Singapore’s lesser-known history,” added Mr Chew.

Singapore Heritage Festival 2020 – Three familiar neighbourhoods to rediscover

Festival-goers can look forward to over 80 free programmes from virtual guided tours to live-streamed demonstrations, online dialogue sessions, podcast tours, short films and activities that they can enjoy from home – all of which celebrate Singapore’s rich and diverse heritage. In particular, SHF 2020 will spotlight three neighbourhoods across three weekends this year:

Weekend One | Tanjong Pagar (19 – 21 June)

“The story of Tanjong Pagar is another wonderful chapter in the Singapore story. Within it are many sub-plots, including that of how those who came from near and far – coolies, rickshaw pullers, dockworkers and traders – breathed life into the district. We hope to highlight some of these fascinating historical titbits in the online documentaries.” – Jerome Lim, blogger and researcher 

SHF 2020 kicks off with an exploration of the Tanjong Pagar district. More popularly known today for its many dining and nightlife options, Tanjong Pagar was once home to nutmeg plantations and many communities from all walks of life and continues to be home to several places of worship. Rediscover this historic district through the Hello Tanjong Pagar! mini-documentary series which spotlights the former St Andrew’s Mission Hospital at 5 Kadayanallur Street, or pay a virtual visit to Singapore’s oldest tea house and a well-loved confectionary store through an intimate live dialogue with local brands Tea Chapter and Ji Xiang Ang Ku Kueh. 

Festival-goers can also dive deeper to learn about the communities that lived, worked and played there through the years – such as the Indian Muslim community who settled in the Telok Ayer area through an online video documentary, Stories of the Sea, by Hazel Lim. Also discover tales of everyday heroes in Tanjong Pagar with a digital storytelling and animation work titled Dear Tanjong Pagar by local theatre group Sweet Tooth.

Weekend Two | Pasir Ris (26 – 28 June)

I found out that my dad had visited the Golden Palace Holiday Resort in his early 20s. Popular for fishing, boating and picnics, it was located at the Old Tampines Road, where the fishing pond is at Pasir Ris Town Park now. My dad and his friends paid $2.50 for the entry fee and a lunch box – which in those days was quite expensive for youngsters like him who earned about $100 a month. He said it stood out with its chalets, pavilions, golden pagoda and a night club that featured many local and overseas performers.” – Carlyn Law, Pasir Ris resident 

The idyllic coastal neighbourhood of Pasir Ris takes the spotlight for the second weekend, with hidden stories of this former resort town. Festival-goers can step back in time to the coastal town’s colourful past from its kampong days to the establishment of the historic Golden Palace Resort – through the Hello Pasir Ris! mini-documentary series led by Pasir Ris resident Carlyn Law; a five-part Pasir Ris, Rise and Shine online theatrical experience by ACT3 International, and more.

Local nature communities BES Drongos and Herpetological Society Singapore have also curated activities that will transport participants from their homes to the luscious Pasir Ris mangroves and up close to wildlife from the cackling kingfisher to the elusive shore pit viper!

Weekend Three | Kallang (3 – 5 July) 

“I joined the Marine Police in 1977 and spent about 20 years working at the Kallang base headquarters. In addition to keeping the waters of Singapore safe and secure, I trained batches of officers to initiate them into the duties of a Marine Police officer. I also enjoyed the camaraderie of working with a close-knit group of officers. I fondly remember the tranquil view of Kallang Basin from the canteen of the headquarters. It is a scene that is close to my heart, and something that I miss dearly.” – Deputy Superintendent of Police (RET) Sebastian Yeo

The present-day Kallang is known as Singapore’s premier sporting hub, but did you know that it was also home to some of Singapore’s most iconic buildings? From the Former Police Coast Guard headquarters which protected Singapore’s shores, to Singapore’s first civilian airport that opened in 1937, explore how the district and its architecture has evolved over the course of history.  

Revisit Kallang’s history through the Hello Kallang! mini-documentary series, or immerse in theatrical production Kallang: The View from Fire City, which weaves together the landmarks and stories of Kallang through digital storytelling, animations, soundscape and interactive game experiences. Festival-goers can also relive Singapore’s sporting triumphs with a screening of Kallang Roar the Movie, or enjoy a digital tour by Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah about the history of popiah that ends with a live demonstration of making popiah dough and skin!

Singapore Heritage Festival 2020 – Other highlights to discover

SHF 2020 will also explore our nation’s heritage through a medium all Singaporeans know and love – food! Festival-goers can relish in a feast of programmes that feature our intangible cultural heritage. Watch ‘live’ as heritage pastry-makers Tong Heng Delicacies and Chuan Ji Bakery Hainanese Delicacies knead their signature egg tarts and Hainanese mooncakes or put your culinary skills to the test with interactive demonstrations led by heritage practitioners and culinary experts as they share their recipes for tiam tor kueh (a Teochew sweet glutinous rice kueh), rendang and sambal chilli. 

Festival-goers can also expect to deep dive into lesser-known festivals of our ethnic communities such as the Durga Puja and Nine Emperor Gods Festival, as well as discover extraordinary stories behind seemingly ordinary objects found in historic places of worship. Find out about these rituals and customs, and the communities that celebrate them, through research done by history students from the Nanyang Technological University.

Also, delve into the stories of hospitality and traditions surrounding betel-chewing with the Asian Civilisations Museum’s #HomeAndAwayACM photo essay, or embark on an adventure with Lala, our young festival guide, as she explores the different SHF neighbourhoods this year in our family-friendly #StayAtHome Activity Kit.

The full SHF 2020: Digital Edition #SGHeritageFest experience is available on the SHF website, The website will be ‘live’ from 15 June 2020, noon. All programmes are free and new ones will be added progressively to the website at the start of each weekend.

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