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Lit Up Singapore 2010: Emerging Writers and Performers Festival:

Singapore lit up with shining letters



Chris Moony Singh



Savinder Kaur

The Lit Up 2010, Emerging writers and Performers Festival was held in Singapore from July 9 to July 18 with the participation of foreign as well as local writers and performers. Among the galaxy of visiting literati who conducted sessions during the festival were Dr. Brenda Flanagan, a Professor at Davidson College, USA; Mike Ladd, founder producer and presenter of Australia's ABC Radio National's Saturday afternoon poetry program Poetica; Joel M. Toledo, a poet and academic from The Philippines; Ankur Betageri, a bilingual Bangalore writer and poet based in New Delhi, and also the Assistant Editor of the literary journal, Indian Literature Dr. Leslie O'Dell, a professor of theatre and film at Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, Canada, Arianna Pozzuoli, a winner of first Poetry Slam in 2006; Thato Ntshabele and Andrew Mwini, the dynamic poetic duo from Africa; Sunil Govinnage, bi-lingual Sri Lankan-Australian poet and Perth-based Prof. Dennis Haskell, the Chair of the Literature Board of the Australia Council.


Student share a happy moment during school performance

The festival which spread over a week was organised by The Singapore Writers Centre headed by Chris Moony Singh and Savinder Kaur who was the director of the festival. Apart from the extensive school visits where diverse workshops, panel discussions, performance, readings were conducted, the evening events were held at Creative Cube of Lasalle College of the Arts, a top private school of arts in Singapore. The National Arts Council of Singapore and US Embassy in Singapore were also sponsored the festival.

The LitUp 2010 Festival commenced in 2009 during the outbreak of bird flu. Despite the flu, the festival was a success and this year, the festival was represented by diverse of literati from equally diverse genres. The evening programmes were highly successful and the array of events included a series of open microphone readings, individual readings of writers, Joint readings, Group Performances particularly the women writers' performance. The women writers' performance was facilitated by Agnes Meadows. Agnes, an English poet actively took part in the programme along with five young women Singaporean poets.

Festival equally focused on page poetry as well as stage poetry. A highlight of the festival was Singapore National Poetry Slam event and the winner which was won by Stephaney Chan. A part of her award prize included a free air ticket to represent Singapore in the Indian Ocean Slam Event in Union island. Other students focused events include National Schools' Literature Festival with the participation of fifteen hundred students.

The one day programme included performance, drama performance and literary debating. Another tie up programme of the festival was that which was conducted for four hundred gifted students with the collaboration of the Gifted Branch of Singaporean Ministry of Education.

The students had the benefit of participating in programme conducted by guest facilitators.

The panel discussions on the theme of black pacific expression, the influence of African and American on Asian popular culture through literature and Southern Hemisphere Skype Poetry Slam competition between four poets from Singapore and four poets from Melbourne in Australia. The events were conducted live through Skype.

One of the important events was the first ever book launch by the Red Wheelbarrow publishers in Singapore. The regional publishing house has its headquarters in Singapore and Australia with developing regional network of distribution. Chai Travel Poems by emerging Singaporean writer Marc Daniel Nair is a poetic journey into the routes of the poet re-discovering his own Asia.

Extensive school visits


During a school session

One of the prominent features of the Lit Up 2010 was the extensive school visits. It is noteworthy that The Singapore Writers Centre and literati which organised the festival have understood the value of propagating literature among students in an extremely innovative manner. During the school visits, workshops, panel discussions, performance and forums were conducted for both students and teachers. Teachers' training is an important aspect of school visits where the festival team ‘imported’ practical as well as theoretical knowledge through interactive forums and performances.

The activities centred on the areas of poetry, Fiction Writing, Acting development, theatre skills and performance focusing on Shakespearean Studies. What was obvious from the workshops and numerous activities conducted in schools was that Singaporean students often noted for quiet nature, were, in fact, quite robust when they were given a chance to come out with their creativity. A striking characteristic was that the students were extremely interested in taking part in the activities and all the participants thoroughly enjoyed the events.

Perhaps, the first lessons that students learn intuitively from the events is that the poetry is not something which is boring and aimed at passing examinations. It is obvious that events in addition to teaching literature in an innovative manner impart life skills such as building confidence in students, eliminating stage fright and improve students' presentation skills.

Poetry slam

Poetry Slam is one of the main techniques used in the festival. Broadly speaking, the poetry slam is a competition. In the Slam, poets read or recite original works and sometimes works of others. Individual poet performance is judged by a panel of selected judges on numerical scale. Originally, poetry slam is highly politicised and different issues including political, economic and racial issues. It is a rare technique in which sporting platform is being used for reciting poetry. However, poetry slam is different to popular reading of poetry.

The poets are judged not only on the content of their work but also on the manner of delivery. In Singapore, poet Christ Moony Singh who is the driving force behind the Singapore Writers Centre has pioneered the Poetry Slam.

Apart from its impressive array of events, LitUp 2010 was noted for its innovative applications of literature against the backdrop of technologically driven society of Singapore. Some of the techniques such as Poetry Slam provide a prototype formula which can be adapted to revive interest particularly among students in the literature, thus making truly a literature generation.

Sunil Govinnage, a keen observer of Singapore's literary scene for over a decade and a close associate of Singapore writers and poets said: LitUp 2010 Singapore is not a significant literary event but an investment of future poets, writers and dramatist to emerge from Singapore."

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