Lighting up Golden Jubilee: 50 ways to mark occasion

The big day approaches, and Fiona Chan and Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh check out 50 ways - and counting - for Singaporeans of all ages and interests to mark the occasion, from the arts to sport and community volunteering

The Christmas holidays may be over, but 12 more months of festivities have kicked off as Singapore celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence this year.

The whole nation - including government agencies, firms, academic institutions, and various organisations and community groups - is pitching in for the birthday bash.

From concerts and book launches to food parties and gifts for newborns and the newly-weds, the jam-packed line-up of SG50 events promises something for every Singaporean.

SG50 "is an opportunity for Singaporeans to reflect on how far we have come together as a nation", says Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah, a member of the SG50 Steering Committee planning the 50th-anniversary celebrations. "I hope everyone will participate and celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee in their own way."

The jubilee also marks an opportune moment for forward planning.

As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a lecture in October last year: "SG50 should also be a time to look ahead, to set new goals for the next half century, to see and be excited by the opportunities opening up."

To help you make the most of this special year, Insight has compiled a listing of key events on the SG50 calendar:

Public spaces and parades

Art and history lovers are in for a treat. In September, the National Museum will complete the revamp of its permanent galleries to better narrate the country's post-Independence story.

Two months later, the new National Gallery will open at the City Hall and the former Supreme Court. One of the largest arts venues in the region, it will focus on South-east Asian art.

The gallery is also spearheading the Portraits Of The People project, in which Singaporeans draw sketches of themselves and share their thoughts on the National Pledge. These will be collated and displayed in an Art Connector sheltered corridor linking the gallery to the City Hall MRT station.

Another crowdsourced project is the SG Heart Map, which is collecting stories and photos of the public's favourite haunts around the island.

There is also lots in store for nature and outdoor enthusiasts. From March, the National Parks Board (NParks) will bring together 50 gardening groups to create five SG50 Community in Bloom Gardens at HortPark. Towards the end of the year, NParks will organise an SG50 Mass Tree Planting exercise, to plant 5,000 trees at 50 locations.

Walking trails and exhibitions will be set up from this month to August as part of MySG Trails and Exhibitions, which will feature some of the favourite places of Singapore youth.

And in November, an 8km walking trail - the Jubilee Walk - will be launched to take visitors through Singapore's history, including a new pedestrian bridge between Merlion Park and Marina Promenade.

Many annual events will be bedecked with more pomp and splendour. Chingay 2015 promises to be the biggest and grandest in the history of the Chinese New Year parade, while the Golden Jubilee National Day Parade will return to the Padang, where Singapore's independence was declared in 1965.

Art and the arts

Fifty iconic works of the Singapore stage - including Emily Of Emerald Hill - will entertain theatre-goers at the Esplanade in a special SG50 Studios season. The performing arts venue has also lined up new commissions for the year, including a full-length Chinese opera.

The Singapore International Festival of Arts will hold an SG50 edition, featuring works by selected top local artists and art groups, including dance pioneer Goh Lay Kuan, comedian Kumar and theatre company Wild Rice.

Then there is Singapore Dance Day in October, which will involve open classes, flash mobs and outdoor performances.

On the visual arts front, tertiary students are working with Singapore footwear design institute Bronx Creative & Design Centre to design 15 pairs of shoes reflecting their experiences of Singapore. These will be showcased at the In Our Shoes exhibition this month at the National Design Centre, after which they will be put up for auction and the proceeds given to charity.

A special SG50 public sculpture is also being commissioned by developer City Developments and the National Museum, which are calling for local artists to submit their designs. The selected design will be announced next month and the artwork will be unveiled by the end of the year.

A group of artists is painting a picture of the Merlion - using their mouths to hold the brush. Each artist will paint a section, which will be joined in a painting to be printed on postcards.

Yearly art events that will be bigger and bolder this year include the nine-day Singapore Art Week 2015 this month. Among its highlights is the Prudential Eye Programme, a special SG50 exhibition and awards gala honouring Asian artists.

But the celebrations will not be confined to Singapore. The Singapore Tourism Board will take a travelling showcase of local contemporary artists - titled Singapore: Inside Out - to Beijing, London and New York before returning home in November.

A contingent of Singapore artists is also heading to France for three months starting in March. The Singapour en France Festival, organised by the National Heritage Board and National Arts Council, aims to exhibit the best of Singapore contemporary arts, culture and heritage.

Volunteerism

There's no reason you can't have a good time while doing good this year.

The Community Chest is leading a national fund-raising and volunteerism movement. Donations under its Care & Share@SG50 venture will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Government up to $250 million, for a total goal of $500 million.

A separate initiative, SG50 Project Care, will rally volunteers to distribute gift packs to 500 senior citizens and organise activities for the elderly.

Family freebies

Newly-weds this year will receive a commemorative marriage certificate holder, but the best SG50 gifts are reserved for Jubilee babies.

Newborns this year will collect an eight-piece gift set from the Government and a nine-piece gift bag from POSB Bank. Infants also stand to receive free health insurance for one year, worth $108, from Great Eastern.

OCBC is offering expectant mothers a $108 cash rebate, to be credited into their baby's Child Development Account, if they sign up for the bank's MaxMaternity Care plan, which protects pregnant women against maternity complications and their newborns against congenital illnesses.

Getting in on the act is Thomson Medical Centre, which is offering a Joy Pack for babies that includes six months of medical coverage, a selfie stick and diapers.

Film

Veteran actor Lim Kay Tong will play former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1965, an SG50 celebration film that will premiere at the Capitol Theatre this year. The film, produced by former Raintree Pictures chief Daniel Yun, will highlight the fragility of racial harmony in Singapore.

Seven well-known local directors - including Eric Khoo, Royston Tan and Jack Neo - are also creating a film of seven short stories about Singapore's heartland and its people. Titled 7 Letters, it will be released in July.

Book launches

Printing presses are in for a bumper year, with about 100 SG50 books set to be released.

In May, the official SG50 coffee-table book, tentatively titled Living The Singapore Story: 1965-2015, will be launched. The keepsake volume, commissioned by the National Library Board and produced by The Straits Times Press (ST Press), will profile Singaporeans who have contributed to the country over the years - including some of its stars like Zoe Tay.

That will be followed in July with the launch of the Singapore Chronicles, a series of 50 primers on different aspects of the nation, such as politics, the economy, food and sport. Each book in the series - to be published by the Institute of Policy Studies and ST Press - will be written by an expert on the topic.

World Scientific Publishing is also putting out a series of at least 20 books on Singapore, including three in Chinese. The books will be a collaboration between more than 200 writers, including academics and politicians.

For those who prefer pictures to text, 20 photo books are being released by 20 independent Singapore photographers in a self-funded project called twentyfifteen.sg.

The Singapore International Chamber of Commerce is also publishing a commemorative book in June, to showcase its members and their economic contributions.

Senior citizens' tales will get a special airing in Flash Fiction Collection, featuring the life stories of 50 members of Singapore's pioneer generation.

Lectures and conferences

If your idea of fun is intellectual stimulation, you may want to attend one of the SG50 lectures and talks this year.

In July, the SG50+ conference, organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the National University of Singapore, will focus on how Singapore and its people can "future-proof" themselves. Speakers will include global and Singaporean thinkers, as well as political leaders such as PM Lee, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) kicked off last month its series of Future 50 talks, which discuss what the next 50 years has in store for Singapore in the regional and global arenas. The talks are part of SIIA's Future 50 programme, which started in 2013 and will culminate in a final report to be released by August.

Music

Everyone loves a catchy National Day song, but the music programme for SG50 goes far beyond that. A key highlight will be the Sing50 mega-concert to be presented by The Straits Times and The Business Times in August, where local artists will perform 50 songs in the four official languages.

From March to December, NParks will stage Concert Series In The Park, six free public concerts featuring home-grown talents and community performing groups.

This month will mark two firsts: The inaugural Singapore International Violin Competition will draw top musicians from across the world, while the opening of the Museum of Independent Music will shed light on the history of indie music here.

Food

In Singapore, nothing says party like a feast. Get your neighbours in the SG50 mood with Let's Makan, which aims to help residents bond over potluck sessions by distributing starter kits with food and game suggestions.

From April to July, the Singapore Heritage Food Pavilion will debut at the World Street Food Congress 2015. The pavilion will showcase iconic Singapore dishes and their respective master chefs.

Community projects

Ten civil activists, artists and academics - including director Alvin Tan and playwright Tan Tarn How - have formed Project 50/100, to explore "alternate histories" of Singapore that may not be well known.

So far, the group has raised $27,000 and is funding at least eight initiatives. These include a documentary exploring the history of Nantah, the now-defunct Chinese-language university, and a project that gives less well-off teenagers cameras so they can document their lives.

Also capturing Singapore in photos is the Community Quilts project, which will frame Singapore residents against iconic backdrops in their neighbourhoods.

A different type of national treasure comes courtesy of TreasureSG, a series of treasure hunts throughout the year. "Treasures" will be hidden in different locations and clues will be provided on social media.

Sport

Young Singaporeans will display their achievements in sport, uniformed groups and the arts in Youth Celebrate!, a large festival in July that will incorporate two record-setting swim feats at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.

Singapore also hosts the SEA Games in June. A 50-day countdown to the Games will be accompanied by community and school festivities.

Rounding up the year-long SG50 celebrations will be the 8th ASEAN Para Games in December. The event, which Singapore is hosting for the first time, will be the biggest in its history, with the largest number of sports - a fitting end to a memorable year.

Space constraints prevent a comprehensive listing of events, but when it comes to SG50 ideas and initiatives, the sky's the limit.

The same is true about the fun in store for Singaporeans who get into the SG50 festive spirit this year. Here's wishing Singapore a happy birthday and all Singaporeans a fantastic year.

fiochan@sph.com.sg

asyiqins@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 3, 2015.
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