SINGAPORE — This year, the Singapore Heritage Festival (SHF) offers exclusive access to the iconic Caldecott Broadcast Centre as part of a new initiative, SHF Takes Over!.
The initiative offers access to previously unexplored or inaccessible spaces, and the festival at Caldecott, which begins on April 28, serves as the SHF’s opening event.
According to Christie Chua, the creative director for the festival, “since Mediacorp has moved on to its new home at Mediapolis @ One-North, this is an opportunity for us to take Singaporeans behind the famous Caldecott gates, to share lesser known stories of Caldecott Hill, and also of Singapore’s broadcast history”.
The 14th edition of the SHF, in a timely conjunction with the 35th anniversary of Mediacorp’s drama productions, presents a “myriad of exhibitions, performances and tours curated just for the SHF Takes Over Caldecott Broadcast Centre! event and space”, all of which are inspired by Singapore’s broadcast history and the history of the larger Caldecott Hill, said Chua.
There will be a full “festival village” at the venue, the former home of the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation and where television got its start in Singapore in 1937.
There, video DJs will be mixing radio hits for audiences to dance and chill to during retro music, dance party and even a live dedication slot, where people can make song requests.
“Festival-goers are going to be greeted with a full-on, fun-filled party atmosphere in a groovy mix of retro and contemporary elements. After all, we are celebrating Caldecott, which has captivated Singaporeans for decades through the transmission of information and entertainment,” Chua added.
Festival-goers can look forward to a variety of tours by celebrities and industry staff, who will guide them through areas at Caldecott Broadcast Centre, and share stories about the spaces such as the iconic studios, sets and offices that supported Singapore’s entertainment and news industry.
Shuttle buses have also been arranged at pick-up points, where festival-goers will be introduced to the history and development of the Caldecott Hill since the 19th century while making their way up the festival grounds.
One industry vet, Mark Chua, the principal image stylist at Mediacorp, will be sharing his stories on tours. He said that his most memorable moments at the Caldecott campus were the typical “morning madnesses”.
“Seeing sets and backdrops being moved along Caldecott and into the studios, racks of clothing being pushed up into buses for outdoor filming, artistes and calefares arriving and departing, directors and assistant directors dashing around with a flurry of activities ... (Those memories) remind me why I love what I am doing. A drama unfolded and presented itself (every day),” he said.
Another key highlight held at Caldecott Broadcasting Centre Film Studio is a performance piece titled Studio 6, by contemporary theatre company Sweet Tooth by Cake.
With “the wealth of TV and Radio production” as the inspiration, the performance Live at Studio 6! will feature actors on stage responding to the video footage from well-loved TV shows across languages and genres. The actors essentially mimic iconic roles such as Leena and Yusof from Under One Roof, and characters from The Little Nyonya.
“There is a wonderful segment where the actors mimic the child performers from Ke Bulan, Ke Bintang — a 1984 Hari Raya children’s special. The (original video) footage from Ke Bulan, Ke Bintang will also be featured, so we can see the children of yesteryear dancing and singing ... and in the foreground (onstage), our actors will be singing and dancing live,” said Natalie Hennedige, artistic director of Cake Theatrical Productions . She is looking forward to presenting “a wonderful juxtaposition of past and present, history and now”.
Performers will also present a medley of theme songs from TV shows including Kopi, O and Anak Metropolitan, among others.
Chua noted that TV and radio have been a large part of our lives since the 1930s but Singaporeans may not know much about our broadcast history, beyond what is shown on the TV screen.
Food and drinks will be an element at the Caldecott festival village at 1 Andrew Road, although details have yet to be firmed up.
The SHF Takes Over! initiative will run over several weekends from April 28 until May 14. It kicks off with Caldecott Hill, but each weekend, it will also bring festival-goers into the nooks and crannies of historic districts such as Chinatown, Little India and the areas around the Singapore River. Visitors will be treated to immersive programmes including trails, tours, open houses and performances.
The Indian Heritage Centre (IHC), for instance, celebrates its second anniversary in conjunction with the SHF. It will turn Campbell Lane into an art canvas where the street will be awash in vivid colours, since a showcase of sarees — draped in waves above the street — will be presented in the Sea of Sarees installation.
Local celebrity chefs will take festival-goers on food trails that include the famous eateries of Little India. And the IHC is working with the arts and community groups along the Little India Arts Belt to present modern interpretations of classic Indian folktales.
According to Chua, in the Chinatown event, Bukit Pasoh will be shut down for a street party. Pop-up stalls, such as from the Grassroots Book Room, an independent Chinese bookstore and publisher, will offer tikam-tikam picture books, stationery and drinks for sale.
The clans and associations along Ann Siang Road will also present a series of outdoor traditional performances, in an event initiated by the clans themselves.
The entire SHF festival “builds on the growth of community ownership and participation in the festival over the past few years”, said Chua. “We hope to see Singaporeans not just at Caldecott Broadcast Centre, but also at the other SHF locations of Singapore River, Bukit Pasoh, Ann Siang and Little India, to enjoy the many heritage experiences the festival has to offer,” she said.
The Singapore Heritage Festival begins on April 28, and runs until May 14. It kicks off with the Caldecott Broadcast Centre, and ends at the Singapore River. For a full listing of dates and events, visit www.heritagefestival.sg
Some events, such as shuttle buses to the Caldecott Broadcast centre, as well as tours, require registration, which begins on April 20 via the website.