by Felix Cheong
A fictitious self-confessed arts buff, Arthur Aw, complains that Singapore packs far too many arty events than are humanly and financially possible for him to attend. Maybe it’s time the Government steps in to regulate the industry.
IS SINGAPORE over-festivalised?
No matter which direction I swivel my head, there is some kind of festival asking to be counted and courted. And it’s not a good thing for my wallet.
This month alone, there are three film festivals competing for my eyeballs and credit cards: the German Film Festival (Nov 3 – 13), the French Film Festival (Nov 10 – 20) and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, the Singapore International Film Festival (Nov 23 – Dec 4).
That’s not forgetting other film festivals that had already done their time: the Israel Film Festival (Sept 22 – 25); the Buddhist Film Festival (Sept 17 – 24), the Japanese Film Festival (Sept 1 – 18), the Design Film Festival (Sept 3 – 11), the Love and Pride Film Festival (Aug 19 – 31) and the European Union Film Festival (May 10 – 22).
My wife and I, film buffs to our Singapore Core and beyond, have bought tickets to so many films over the past six months that we often skip lunch to save money. Even our two children have to share one meal a day (and sometimes, none at all).
There is so much food for thought that we just cannot afford to give any thought to food.
As if that doesn’t pile on our misery, there are numerous arts festivals whooshing through and swishing around town.
This month alone, there are six die-die-must-go festivals, happening almost one after another: the Singapore Biennale (Oct 27 – Feb 26), the Illustration Arts Festival (Oct 28 – Nov 6), the Singapore River Festival (Nov 4 – 5), the Singapore Writers Festival (Nov 4 – 13), the Affordable Art Fair (Nov 18 – 20) and the Anime Festival Asia (Nov 25 – 27).
Tickets can cost anything from $20 to more than $100. And that’s not including the ones that had already taken our breath (and money) away: the Dans Festival (Oct 13 – 23) and the Singapore International Arts Festival (Jun 22 – Jul 9).
Like all Singaporeans brought up to appreciate (read “grab”) a buffet spread, we make it a point to make it for all arts events, even if it means attending them on an empty stomach.
It’s the yao gui syndrome. Anyone old enough to have an elephant’s memory will remember that back in the 1980s, Singapore was derided as a “cultural desert”.
Well, not anymore. This desert is now an oasis flooded by and drowning in the arts. In fact, there’s so much buzz that it’s giving us a headache.
Our belts have also run out of holes for us to tighten and, short of selling our four-room HDB flat in Punggol, we can no longer afford to patronise the arts.
This is where I strongly feel the G can step in to regulate the industry, the same way it has historically stuck its fingers into all the small spaces of our lives.
For a start, it can publish a White Paper detailing how organisers can coordinate their festivals so they do not bunch up. Alternatively, festivals can be run once every four years, like The Fifa World Cup and the Olympics.
Secondly, we should be allowed to tap into our CPF to pay for arts events. Or a government subsidy, much like the ActiveSG credit to encourage people to lead healthy, sporty lives, could be dangled, like an election carrot, to all citizens.
After all, art is good for the soul is good for the mind is good for the body.
Featured image by Guet Ghee Pang.
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