Good nights for light installations

Singaporean jesters Singapierrot performing at the Singapore Night Festival 2013.

The occasional breeze did nothing to tame the humidity, but that did not stop crowds from descending on the Bugis and Bras Basah areas last Friday and Saturday nights for the opening weekend of the Singapore Night Festival.

The festival, which is in its sixth year, is the biggest so far, stretching from Plaza Singapura to Raffles City and from Waterloo and Armenian streets to Fort Canning Park.

Close to 80 free events, from dance performances and art installations to film screenings, have been lined up for last weekend and this Friday and Saturday, from 7pm to 2am.

Last weekend, more than 250 people, including security officers, were deployed to manage the crowd.

One of the most sardine-packed spots on the opening weekend was at the front lawn of the National Museum of Singapore, which featured three shows - two by French aerial dance group Compagnie Retouramont and one by the fire-twirling and acrobatic home-grown group Starlight Alchemy, from 8.15 to 9pm.

As early as 5.30pm last Saturday, some people, including a woman in a wheelchair, had already arrived.

Families and friends laid out mats and picnic boxes on the lawn, while photography enthusiasts set up their big cameras and tripods and parked them at strategic spots.

Business executive Lincoln Lim, 40, was there at 7.30pm with seven friends who were photography buffs, specifically to catch the Starlight Alchemy performance at 8.45pm.

He says: "We saw some online video postings of their performance on Friday night. It was awesome."

By the time the show started, the spectators were some 10,000-strong. Some had to view the spectacle from across Stamford Road. Children rode on their fathers' shoulders so that they could catch more of the action.

Also popular with the festival crowd were the interactive light installations, including The Magic Melody by Barcelona-based Tigrelab at the Singapore Art Museum and Type Light by French interactive graphic and multimedia design agency, Trafik at the Cathay.

In front of Singapore Art Museum, eight Samsung tablets have been mounted on stands and children and adults alike queued for a chance to move their fingers on the tablet screen and direct different coloured light movements across the building.

Over at the Cathay, spectators typed text messages on one of the two Samsung tablets handed out by festival staff and watched, thrilled, as their messages were displayed on a billboard made up of 90 bars of LED lights.

Further adding life and colour to the streets and alleyways of the area that night were some 30 local street performers.

At one of the alleyways near the art museum, a small group of people gathered around a unicycle juggler as he balanced himself on a single wheel and played a saxophone at the same time.

Over at Armenian Street, a queue snaked in front of a balloon sculptor as she gave out balloons she had deftly twisted into different shapes.

Colourfully dressed stiltwalkers helped ushers guide pedestrians across the road. Others mingled among the crowds, often stopping to pose for photos with them.

Two mime artistsdrew chuckles from the crowd in front of The Cathay, as they mimed the actions of unsuspecting people.

Among those who went for the festival last Saturday were couples, friends and families.

Real estate agent Alvin Lam, 45, was there with his wife Chris, 38, son, Zaccheus, nine, and daughter, Vera, two. It was the family's first time at the festival.

He says: "My wife and I read about Starlight Alchemy in the newspaper and we wanted to catch the show. We thought the children would enjoy it."

The crowd at the National Museum caught them by surprise.

Mr Lam adds: "We had to support our children to sit on a railing nearby so that they could have a better view. It was a good show. My son found the performers very cool."

He hopes to take his family back next weekend to catch the other shows.

Festival director and the director of the National Musem of Singapore, Ms Angelita Teo, 41, is pleased with the turnout for the opening weekend.

She says: "The crowd was as enthusiastic as, if not more so, than those last year. We are very happy to have seen people coming to the festival with their children, parents and friends and enjoying themselves.

"Based on their feedback, it seems like every festivalgoer has found something he likes from the slew of programmes that we have put together."

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