Historic castle serves up prata and kueh

The historic Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire may be more used to actors in period costumes roaming about its magnificent halls and manicured gardens.

Movies like Shakespeare In Love, The Madness Of King George and Jane Eyre have all used the manor house in the English countryside as a filming location. But the 14th-century castle got a Singaporean touch on Friday evening when it hosted a special SG50 celebration party on its sprawling lawn, where guests nibbled on roti prata and durian kueh while being entertained by Cultural Medallion alumnus Jeremy Monteiro, who led a British-Singapore Friendship Jazz Band.

The party is among a few key events in Britain marking the 50th anniversary of Singapore's independence.

Celebrations started with a charity run in London's Hyde Park in March. This was followed by Singapore: Inside Out, a travelling showcase of the country's creative talents, and the City Of London Festival where Singapore was the featured country.

They will culminate in the biggest National Day reception in the United Kingdom at the Guildhall of the City of London on July 6.

On Friday night, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office S. Iswaran mingled with about 200 guests, among them Lord Newby, the deputy government chief whip in the House of Lords; MP Graham Brady; Imperial College president Alice Gast; and Mr Neil Smith, chairman of Tower Transit, the bus company that recently won Singapore's first bus tender.

"We're a tiny red dot, but people notice us and appreciate the things we've done and how we've been able to do that. What I take away from all these discussions is the deep appreciation that many have for what Singapore is," Mr Iswaran told The Sunday Times.

"As we celebrate SG50, it's an opportunity for us to reflect on what has brought us this far and making sure that, as we go forward, we don't lose those core elements that have made us who we are, even as we adapt to a new environment in the world and Singapore society."

Broughton Castle is not such an unusual location for a Singapore party. Singaporean Pauline Kang-Fiennes is the daughter-in-law of the castle's owner, Lord Saye and Sele Nathaniel Fiennes.

"I thought it would be quite fun to bring a bit of 'Singaporean-ness' to a very English home," she said on offering the venue to the Singapore High Commission for the event.

"I wanted to show another part of Singapore that wasn't just efficient, pragmatic and task-oriented. I wanted to show that we could be fun-loving and there's a part of us that's free and loves music and good food."

Friday's event was also organised to raise funds for a collaborative project between the British Dyslexia Association and the Dyslexia Association of Singapore involving raising awareness, mentoring and joint research.


This article was first published on June 28, 2015.
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