Fancy going on a thrilling tour into the depths of Singapore’s crime history? Find a special connection with a stranger over your pet peeves? Or treat yourself to an evening of smooth verses and saucy lines as poets dish out their version of a thirst trap in poetic form.
This year, embrace your literary pleasures at Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) 2021 with programmes covering genres from romance and horror to crime, food, fashion, and even gaming and sci-fi.
Image source: Singapore Writers Festival
Unexpectedly daring yet unabashedly relatable, this year’s Festival pushes boundaries in the literary scene to present a lineup of over 140 programmes both in person and online.
Following news of international headliners such as Ocean Vuong, R.L. Stine, Tan France, and G. Willow Wilson gracing SWF, this second unveiling kicks things up a notch with a new group of exhilarating headliners.
Festival-goers can expect invigorating conversations around the theme of Guilty Pleasures with celebrated writers like Julia Quinn, author of the enticingly addictive Bridgerton series which has been adapted into a Netflix hit series; two-term US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins; bestselling author of the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert; Goncourt prize-winner and author of The Perfect Nanny, Leila Slimani; Becky Chambers, the science-fiction writer behind the Hugo award-winning Wayfarers series; and creator of acclaimed podcast Serial, Sarah Koenig.
Image source: Singapore Writers Festival
Festival Director Pooja Nansi elaborates, “We might not realise it often enough, but the things that we enjoy doing and interacting with on a daily basis do belong in the literary realm. Through this year’s programmes, we wanted to challenge Festival-goers to reconsider what they know as literary content and explore unexpected ways of storytelling. As we gravitate even more towards the things that bring us comfort during periods of change and discomfort, we hope that the Festival’s programmes shed light on the relationship between pleasure and guilt, and offer a platform that encourages people to redefine their canon.”
Executive Director of Arts House Limited, organiser of SWF, Tan Boon Hui added, “In the past year, we have observed many Festivals pivot and adapt to online content delivery channels. In this edition of SWF, we are delighted to reconnect the public with our literary community through physical experiences, while continuing to engage both local and international audiences through our digital offerings. Beyond the format, we hope that this year’s very relatable theme resonates with our audiences and provides fresh perspectives on literary arts in Singapore.”
Highlights You Would Hate To Miss
Festival-goers can look forward to a series of experiential, in-person programmes including a walkthrough of some of the city’s most gruesome crime scenes with Singapore Crimes: A Tour and learn more about the horrors that shocked Singapore.
SWF has also partnered with The Projector and The Fabulous Baker Boy to bring some of these programmes to their venues, where fans of slasher flicks share their love for the genre’s cult appeal, and Beware the Smell of Frangipani At Night hosted by Singaporean author Suffian Hakim which dives deep into the folklore and urban legends of Asian horror.
For a more intimate encounter, experience hate as the tie that binds in Speed Hating, a participatory programme connecting people through their common literary pet peeves, or serve up some short fiction inspired by female pop icons alongside a slice of The Fabulous Baker Boy’s diva-themed cakes in Who’s That Girl?: The Pop Diva Writing Workshop.
This year, the Festival presents not one, but four keynote commissions where four different artists create unique personal responses to guilty pleasures in their various disciplines and mediums. Contemporary performance artist Rizman Putra celebrates all things kitsch in OBIT: The Art of Being.
Taking audiences back to a beautiful time of multicoloured tights, neon lights, and swinging vibes, Putra’s performance unpacks the offbeat sensibilities and campy style captured by the beloved colloquial expression “Obit”.
Other keynote commissions to look out for include Debasmita Dasgupta’s animated e-picture book Gulabi’s Guilty Pleasures; a video series Fork Your Diet featuring Masterchef Singapore judge Bjorn Shen cooking guilty-pleasures-inspired dishes; and Survivors Guilt; Painful Pleasures a participatory sonic performance poem by Edith Podesta interweaving corporeal interactions with fictional soundscapes.
Don’t miss a beat with our music-themed programmes starting with PopSong Prac Crit where three sets of poets school us in a literary deconstruction of their all-time favourite pop songs.
Turn it up a notch in Mixtape Memories with 20 writers taking us through the musical hits of each year from the 80s to 90s, complete with a cover band to pump up the jams.
A Closer Look At The Region
As Asia’s premier literary platform, SWF continues to transcend boundaries by furthering cross-cultural understanding with Southeast Asian Focus programmes co-presented this year by the Singapore Book Council.
Discover the intriguing practices and common pleasures that are uniquely Southeast Asian in panels such as Frontiers of Fantasy: Diving into Superstitions where Hoa Pham, Jocelyn Suarez, and Zen Cho uncover regional superstitions and ghostly cautionary tales.
Then, take a chance on romantic adventures set in the region with For the (young) love of Southeast Asia featuring the New York Times bestselling novelist Yangsze Choo.
The voices of the region are also spotlighted in multilingual programmes across English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. Some of these programmes include The Knots in Being Naughty, an excavation of guilty pleasures in Tamil literary arts with Leena Manimekalai, Vadi PVSS, and Indrajit.
Indian cinema lovers will enjoy a heartfelt sharing about Sridevi, the ‘first female superstar’ of Indian Cinema, in Forget Her Not: Sridevi – The Eternal Screen Goddess with Satyarth Nayak, the author of her biography, and the highly acclaimed director, R. Balki.
Join writer Chang Tieh Chih for a conversation about the medium of the magazine in The Modern Magazine in a Digital Age. Reminisce about food from three capitals of cuisine in Savour the Flavour with Hoo Joo Chuan, Emily Chau, and Wong Chiang Yin.
Puisi yang Berisi brings authors from various cities together with acclaimed Indonesian poet Joko Pinurbo alongside Fahd Razy and Farihan Barhon, as they discuss how poetry can be a rallying cryand secret fans of clichéd storylines and happy endings can indulge in the conversation with Nisah Haron and Amanah Mustafi in Malu tapi Mahu. A full list of Festival programme highlights can be found in Annex B.
A tribute to Hedwig Anuar: Singapore’s First Lady of Books
Image source: Singapore Writers Festival
Hedwig Anuar, the first Singaporean Director of the National Library and founder of our modern library system has nurtured generations of young readers by making books a part of our everyday lives. We celebrate her legacy with SWF’s first playground-themed exhibition, designed for all ages, at the National Library Plaza.
Rediscover libraries and books as spaces of literary imagination, exploration, and discovery as we celebrate the Festival’s first-ever children’s literary pioneer in Literary Pioneer Exhibition: Hedwig Anuar.
For a deeper dive, experience the exhibition as a digital microsite to learn more about Hedwig Anuar from wherever you are.
For The Next Generation Of Literary Fans
From food to games, children have guilty pleasures too! This year, the Festival continues to nurture the next generation of literary arts lovers through programmes specially curated for children at the SWF Playground.
In a series of Bilingual Storytime sessions, journey through food, friends, and fanciful imagination with Singapore‘s storytellers in both English and Mother Tongue languages, and prepare to get up to no good with a cheeky live drawing session by Ross Collins in Dogfoolery and Other Animal Shenanigans.
For our passionate little writers, join Debbi Michiko Florence and Write Your Next Adventure by learning how to make your wonderful imaginations come to life.
Don’t worry, Gen Z literary arts lovers (and those who are young at heart), we haven’t forgotten about you! This year’s Youth Fringe programmes dig into different facets of teen culture such as horror, (fictional) friendships and the Internet phenomena. Get a chance to connect with Rhianna Pratchett, the creative genius behind popular game narratives such as Tomb Raider and Overlord, as she shares more about what makes a compelling storyline for games during the “meet-the-gamewriter” session.
The Youth Fringe, co-presented with Sing Lit Station also presents a series of eight programmes co-created with a panel of Youth Curators including programmes such as The Anatomy of a Wattpad Story, which unpacks the bustling phenomenon of Wattpad fiction and its bite-sized appeal, and How You Like That: Unpacking K-Pop, which dives into the enchanting world of music videos, comics and secret notes from K-Pop superstars like BTS and EXO. A list of family-friendly and youth-oriented programmes is available in Annex C.
Aspiring writers of all ages can also sink their teeth into SWF Classroom sessions like Make Me a (Poetry) Sandwich!, a delicious breakfast-themed poetry writing workshop with Cecilia Knapp, and join script-writer and director Jamal Ismail in A Script-writing workshop.
SWF returns from 5 – 14 November 2021, and its exhilarating and tantalising line-up of programmes is guaranteed to excite one and all.
This year’s bold, cheeky, and relatable edition is organised by Arts House Limited and commissioned by the National Arts Council. Festival passes are available via SISTIC Live.
Public may purchase Festival Passes Plus at $35 with access to all programmes including headliners, or the Festival Pass at $20, a taster pass with access to selected programmes, excluding international headliners. 20% Early Bird Savings are now extended till 8 Oct 2021! Visit SWF website or SISTIC Live to purchase your tickets. More details can be found in Annex D.
Visit the website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube for more updates. You can also follow their hashtags: #sgwritersfest, #swf2021, and #swfguiltypleasures.
15 Children’s Books About Singapore Your Little Bookworms Will Love
Top 21 Most Highly Rated Speech And Drama Classes For Kids In Singapore