Shh! A punk band's playing in the library

Silence was missing at Jurong Regional Library yesterday afternoon as its fourth floor was transformed into a live concert venue.

Local pop punk band JJ and the Paperplanes belted out original songs as its audience, made up of mostly young people, clapped along while seated among shelves of books.

Even first-year Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Frederick Ching, 18, who was there to do a project and does not usually listen to bands, got into the swing of things.

"It's a totally different experience in a library, though I hope it'll be quieter during exam periods," he joked.

The area was part of a "community node" launched by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong at the library yesterday.

Piloted in 2012, community nodes are centres of activity that allow the public to enjoy regular arts programmes in their neighbourhoods.

The youth-centric space at the Jurong library offers a line-up of free arts programmes all year round. These include live performances and creative arts workshops in areas such as writing, doodling and photography.

It also offers a platform to young people and emerging arts groups to showcase their talents.

There are three other such centres in Singapore - at Siglap South Community Club, Kallang Community Club and Woodlands Regional Library.

Another will open at Tampines Regional Library on Saturday, offering visual arts programmes for adults and seniors ranging from watercolour painting to pinhole photography workshops.

The National Arts Council plans to have more than 10 such activity centres by the end of this year, and 25 islandwide by 2025.

A $5 million fund had been set aside to set them up, said Mr Wong.

"We want the arts to be accessible to all Singaporeans," he said.

Beyond reaching out to arts enthusiasts, his ministry wants to attract a new audience, he added.

This includes, for instance, someone who has not set foot in a museum because he finds it intimidating.

To counter that attitude, his ministry has been getting more members of the community to play an active role in helping to create exhibitions, he said, such as by getting them to showcase their own artefacts. This resulted in "The People's Collection" exhibition, which was held at the National Museum of Singapore over the past two months.

And last year, entry to National Heritage Board museums was made free to all Singaporeans and permanent residents.

Mr Wong also touched on plans to get more people involved in sports.

"With ActiveSG, we're changing the way we operate our sports facilities. If you don't know how to play a sport, you can sign up for a package with a coach to learn how to play," he said, referring to the movement by national sports agency Sport Singapore that aims to encourage people of all ages to embrace a sporting lifestyle.

All Singapore citizens and permanent residents get $100 to spend on sports facilities and fitness classes under ActiveSG.

By yesterday evening, 138,680 individuals had signed up, said Sport Singapore.

New sports, such as piloxing - a cross between pilates and boxing - and underwater cycling will also be introduced at sports centres, Mr Wong added.

This article was published on May 4 in The Straits Times.

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