Writers Festival drew bigger crowd

American author Paul Theroux during a Q&A session at his sold-out lecture held as part of Singapore Writers Festival 2014.

SINGAPORE - This year's Singapore Writers Festival, which ended on Nov 9, drew a total of 19,610 people to its 280 free and ticketed events, topping last year's 19,257.

A statement released yesterday said more than half of the ticketed programmes were sold out, including a lecture by American writer Paul Theroux, the experiential murder-mystery play Body X, as well as nine out of 12 writing workshops conducted by the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon and fantasy writer Ramond E Feist.

The pre-festival events, including the Words Go Round programmes in schools, had 11,603 participants, and 3,477 attended the festival's visual arts events.

This year, 3,200 festival passes were taken up, compared to 3,060 in 2013.

Outgoing festival director Paul Tan, who has overseen four editions of the festival, said in an e-mail statement that he was "delighted" with the turnout.

He added that it was "very encouraging to see more Singaporeans embrace the literary arts, especially home-grown writing... we've seen this from the crowds thronging the sessions featuring our Singapore writers, easily matching or even exceeding attendance at those of renowned international writers".

These included panels featuring playwright Alfian Sa'at and writer Catherine Lim, as well as the festival's closing performance of Apart, a blend of theatre and poetry featuring the work of Singapore poets Cyril Wong, Pooja Nansi, Joshua Ip, Tania de Rozario and Jollin Tan, with dramaturgy by playwright Joel Tan.

Retired civil servant Julia D'Silva, who is in her 60s, was pleased with this year's line-up. She said: "My biggest challenge was choosing what to attend - many events that I was interested in took place across the same time slot. I thought the moderators at the discussions I attended were better than those I experienced last year."

The Straits Times was the official media partner of the festival.

Next year, the festival's nerve centre will be The Arts House, with poet and former Straits Times journalist and editor Yeow Kai Chai at the helm.

This article was first published on November 27, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.