Organised by the National Arts Council as part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, the annual Singapore Writers Festival has made a name for itself as a truly unmissable event, even for those who aren’t self-proclaimed literary enthusiasts. So this year, as the marquee event returns from Oct 30-Nov 8 for its first-ever digital edition, expect to navigate the theme of Intimacy in the time of distance and the absence of human contact. From immersive, virtual exhibitions celebrating local talents to traditional panel discussions and workshops, here are five highlights you should absolutely attend this year.
If you’ve always wanted to get up close and personal with internationally renowned writers, then grab your festival passes immediately and mark your calendars for An Hour With Tracy K Smith. Besides sharing about how the ideas of intimacy and isolation play into her work, the former poet laureate and educator who won the Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 volume Life on Mars will also discuss her craft and vision. Meet more A-list authors headlining the event alongside Smith including Hugo Award-winning science fiction author Liu Cixin, Sharon Olds who penned Stag’s Leap, Cassandra Clare (author of bestselling YA series The Mortal Instruments), acclaimed American cartoonist Art Spiegelman and even White Teeth’s Zadie Smith. Q&A sessions in various formats will be organised too; feel free to check out the Singapore Writers Festival Instagram page as they call for questions, or anticipate answers at the live discussions instead.
Life has never been more different during this pandemic. And in order to learn how the act of writing can bridge distances and connect people from all walks of life, check out From Singapore to Hong Kong. As writers from both countries have been paired to exchange letters over an extended period of time, hear them share their perceptions about the changing notions of connection and isolation after engaging in the intimate act of letter writing with one another. This programme is offered in Mandarin, with English subtitles available on video-on-demand replay.
See Malay dance and poetry intertwine in this video series showcase that features a collaboration between poets and veteran choreographers, further emphasising the Singapore Writers Festival as one of the premier multilingual festivals in Asia offering English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese programmes. Malay poems by renowned writers are presented with English translations provided by Alfian Sa’at, as Usman Awang, A Ghani Hamid and Basiran Hamzah lead in music and movement. Keintiman is one of the 20 innovative commissions available this year, and other fun activities include a psychological horror game that takes place entirely over email (Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows) as well as a participatory hands-on experience titled A Call Away.
Presented by The Arts House, the popular Literary Pioneer series is back to celebrate the life and work of three seminal Tamil writers and Cultural Medallion recipients, P Krishnan, Singai Ma Illangkannan, and Rama Kannabiran. Expect an interactive and multi-sensorial digital exhibition in both English and Tamil that honours the legacy of these literary figures; think virtual rooms you may roam to have a peek into the lives of these individuals. The showcase will also unearth untold stories of Singapore’s Indian community from the Second World War to the years of industrialisation and urbanisation in the 1970s and 1980s, which makes this presentation all the more special.
The Singapore Writers Festival is an exciting platform for dialogues and the exchange of ideas thanks to its multifaceted and multi-disciplinary programming. This year, participate in an important discussion at Vis a Visibility, that explores how we should address the invisibility of people with disabilities in SEA literature. Co-presented with Sing Lit Station, hear from international writers including Ramón C Sunico, Khairani Barokka, and Jane Ngarmpun Vejjajiva as they shed light on this vital issue.
Purchase digital festival passes to the Singapore Writers Festival 2020 here to enjoy the events in English, Chinese, Tamil and Malay held on SISTIC Live and click here to discover more programmes on the SWF website.