SINGAPORE, 3 March 2017
MORE than 23,000 people attended over 40 SingLit-related programmes in the weekend of 24 – 26 February, which is testament to the warm and positive reception from the public. This is also supported by the results of a survey of attendees who said they are now more interested in SingLit. These programmes, organised under the #BuySingLit banner, ranged from book fairs and literary tours to author talks and writing workshops.
The inaugural #BuySingLit movement is the first time so many partners have made a united effort to encourage Singaporeans to appreciate and buy Singaporean literature. A total of 51 organisations, both within the literary community and beyond, organised programmes and provided support for the campaign. (For a complete list of participating organisations, see Annex A)
In a survey of 351 attendees at various #BuySingLit events, 70 per cent of respondents indicated that their interest in SingLit had increased after attending a #BuySingLit event. #BuySingLit also managed to attract people with little interest in SingLit – 1 in 5 who attended the events said that they had low interest in Singapore literature beforehand and out of these people, 94 per cent said that interest level rose after that. More women than men (two in every three attendees are female) attended #BuySingLit and half of the attendees were aged between 20 and 39.
A first-time attendee, Mr Siddartha Bodi, said: “I’m just very amazed at how extensive the literature scene in Singapore is. Singaporeans know literature from other countries but we don’t know much about Singaporean literature so events like this, it helps young people like us meet local authors and see the local literature scene. It’s a gradual process. People come down to the event and through word-of-mouth, it will spread that SingLit scene is actually quite extensive.”
The #BuySingLit movement also struck a chord with the public. In the run-up to the #BuySingLit weekend, the forum pages of local newspapers such as The Straits Times and Today received several letters from members of the public, urging support for SingLit as it is a defining aspect of our identity.
Straits Times reader, Lim Peng Peng, wrote in a Forum letter (10 Feb): “Local literature is enjoyable simply because it is so much a part of us. It is a tapestry of our history and our culture, but most significantly, the tales often bear the voices, dreams and aspirations of us Singaporeans.” Another Forum letter writer, Colin Lim, also highlighted the importance of supporting local bookshops, which are often the only retailers of SingLit.
Positive impact of #BuySingLit on retailers, writers and the public
Homegrown bookshops enjoyed a boost in sales over the #BuySingLit weekend, with selected participating retailers reporting an average 24 percent increase in sales compared with a usual weekend, and a corresponding 24 percent increase in footfall. These sales were fuelled by attractive promotions such as discounts, book vouchers and lifestyle deals with
F&B outlets such as Creamier. A special #BuySingLit tote-bag, which was given out with every $30 purchase of SingLit titles, was a hit with book buyers.
Altogether, $30,000 worth of vouchers was given out by partners and these can be used to buy any SingLit titles at participating bookstores till 31 May 2017. The full list of participating bookstores, which include both chain outlets and independent stores, can be found at buysinglit.sg/participating-bookstores/
#BuySingLit also achieved another breakthrough, giving the public more access to SingLit in all four official languages, namely English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Commissioned as part of #BuySingLit and published by Marshall Cavendish, The Commuting Reader, comprises four anthologies of new SingLit – one in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. MPH is carrying SingLit titles in all four official languages till the end of the year, probably the only bookstore in Singapore to do so.
Says author Rilla Melati Bahri: “It was so refreshing to walk into Raffles City Shopping Centre on a weekend and see a whole shelf of Malay children’s picture books by local authors. How often do we go shopping in Singapore and see that on full display? Local authors and local titles, especially Malay children’s literature, need that visibility now more than ever.” Her Aksi Adil series of Malay-language children’s books was one of the many SingLit works featured over the weekend
#BuySingLit gains traction after the launch with more local businesses wanted to be part of the movement. For instance, New Ubin Seafood is now offering a selection of SingLit titles, focusing on poetry and short story collections with an emphasis on food, in their waiting area. Says marketing manager Joline J. Lim: “ In addition to endorsing local makan, we also love to champion Singaporean talent, culture, enterprises and causes.”
Also doing their part to whet the public’s appetite for SingLit is the team from DDB Group Singapore, #BuySingLit’s Official Advertising Agency. From 21 – 28 Feb, they launched the Knowledge in Power project at three cafes (Crown Coffee, 5 Little Monkeys Café and Shiberty Bakes), which allowed smartphones users to download an excerpt of a SingLit e-book while charging their phones on wireless chargers that were designed to look like covers of SingLit titles. The featured titles included The Inlet by Claire Tham, What Gives Us our Names by Alvin Pang, 回不去的候车站 (Hui Bu Qu De Hou Che Zhan) by Xiaohan and Selamat Malam Caesar by Hassan Hassa’ree Ali.
#BuySingLit continues: Upcoming programmes to look out for
The weekend might be over, but the celebration of SingLit goes on. The #BuySingLit movement continues with these programmes:
When: Available from 24 February, while stocks last
Where: At all leading bookshops including Kinokuniya, MPH, Times, Popular, City Book Room, Booktique Where Writers Shop, Maha Yu Yi and Woods in the Books.
A set of four Ticket Books (available in the four official languages) which offer new stories, poems and illustrations alongside a NETS FlashPay card to use on public transport – featuring authors and illustrators such as Paatheral Elamaran, Balli Kaur Jaswal, Noridah Kamari, Xi Ni Er, Joshua Ip and Chempaka Aizim.
When: Every Saturday from 1.30pm-2pm and 7.30pm-8pm, till 25 March; repeat broadcasts on Sundays, 11.30am-12pm, till 26 March Where: 93.8 Live Admission: Free
It’s a treat for the ears and the imagination as Michelle Martin’s Talking Books programme teams up with local publishers to feature dramatic readings of excerpts from featured works such as The Wanderlusters by Grace Chia and Sugarbread by Balli Kaur Jaswal.
When: Till 5 March Where: Plaza Singapura Admission: Free
The Whispering Wallpaper is a wall-sized collage of various illustrated characters from picture books and graphic novels by Singapore authors and illustrators. By using a ‘listening cup’ that reacts to sensors embedded in each character, visitors will hear audio excerpts from the books the characters are from, recorded by the authors.
When: Ongoing on YouTube
A Storyteller Reads is a video series showcasing translated works by Singapore writers. The six five-minute-long videos feature storyteller Kamini Ramachandran performing the English translations of selected Malay, Tamil and Chinese poetry and prose, as well as bilingual readings in Malay and English.
When: 11, 18 and 25 March, 8.30am-12.30pm
Where: Serangoon Gardens
Admission: $30 (includes a copy of Heritage Journeys: No Place Like Serangoon Gardens); register at www.catherinekhoo.sg/estore/
Guided by the authors of Heritage Journeys: No Place Like Serangoon Gardens, participants will be hosted for morning tea in an original 1950s home, and end the tour with lunch at an emblematic Serangoon Gardens restaurant. In between, during a stroll through the estate, the authors will share their experiences and thoughts about writing the book.
When: 11-31 March
Where: MPH Parkway Parade
A book display featuring the Aksi Adil series of Malay-language children’s books, written by the actress and author Rilla Melati Bahri.
When: 25 March, 4pm-6pm
Where: Botanic Gardens
Admission: $10 (tickets sold out)
This tour includes the sights depicted in Timmy & Tammy At the Botanic Gardens, such as the Swan Lake, heritage trees, the iconic Bandstand and the Curtain of Roots, as well as other features such as the ‘palm cave’, the largest seed in the world, and pots that grow on trees.
When: Till 25 March
In SingLit Stitch, 15 artworks created by embroidery artist Jamie Teo are displayed around the bookstore in Tiong Bahru, each of which features a quote taken from a work of Singapore literature.
When: Ongoing, until the paint naturally weathers away
Where: The grounds of the Singapore Art Museum
Sing Lit Station has painted excerpts of well-loved Singaporean poems on sidewalks around the museum, using a specially formulated paint that is both invisible and waterproof. The excerpts, largely unseen, magically come to life during rainfall.
When: From 20 March onwards on YouTube
Check out the video of Reverse Oral Examination, an interactive event that took place on 25 Feb in which participants were encouraged to describe pictures and read excerpts from SingLit titles.
Says Writer Gwee Li Sui: “The Communting Reading is a ragbag of literary joy. Read this addictive book on your next travel journey – and try not to miss your stop!”
Says Writer Daren Shiau: “The trajectory of any literature starts with the reader. In this project, it is not the art or its author on the pedestal but the buyer. What of you would you give in exchange for SingLit, for whatever SingLit means to you?”
Says Writer Chow Teck Seng: “As the famous saying by Armstrong goes: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” perhaps the Buy Singlit movement will milestone the start of something greater than what we today know or can imagine. And I secretly wish that one day SingLit becomes literature that is read by the world or universe in different languages of existence.”
Says Mr Fong Hoe Fang, Publisher and Mr Ng Kah Gay, Associate Publisher of Ethos Books: “#BuySingLit provided an occasion for our writers and our team to work with fellow publishers, booksellers, civil servants, and literature enthusiasts from a variety of backgrounds, even including a group of NTU undergraduates. These collaborations allowed Ethos Books to create special experiences for potential readers: a series of radio plays featuring Alfian Sa’at and Li Huijia; video productions and readings of our works by storyteller Kamini Ramachandran; spirited banter over our booth at Gillman Barracks; an Escape Room based on Claire Tham’s The Inlet. Over the weekend, our team was heartened to see familiar faces and some new ones. We hope to see the same familiar faces, fresh converts, and many more new supporters for Singapore literature in 2018. Let’s bring Singapore literature to fellow readers who have yet to feel its resonance.”
Says Writer KTM Iqbal: “BuySingLit project is an excellent way of introducing the beauty and depth of our local literature to the public. Hope future projects will have larger audience with the authors of the selected works.”
Says Ms Dee Pei Hui, who attended the programme, Love @ the Gallery: “I think it was an astounding experience to link poetry to artworks and performances. The fusion is a literary masterpiece that fires up our senses and makes us feel something transcendiary. Personally I’d love to see more poetry here in Singapore. Our voices are new but they are loud and confident and worthy of praise.”
Says Ms Syahidah binte Ibrahim, who attended the programme, Raja dan Ratu: “My daughter loves the series of books by Rilla Melati. We chanced upon their books at My Imagination Kingdom, a bookstore at One KM and when we read it to her at home, she seemed to enjoy it. So when we found out Mini Monsters was going to do this Raja dan Ratu pop-up play, we decided to bring her here.”
Says Mr Sean See, who attended Buy SingLit Festival at Gillman Barracks: “I like that they are gathering the local authors in one place. I think it definitely makes it a lot more convenient for people and it does help spread awareness on Singaporean literature.
For more information on #BuySingLit, please click here.
#BuySingLit is an industry-led movement to celebrate stories from Singapore. Advocating ‘Buy Local, Read Our World’, homegrown book publishers, retailers and literary non-profits have come together to encourage more people to discover and embrace Singapore’s literature. Through buying and reading local works, you support the writers who bear witness to our lives, as well as the businesses in our community that deliver these stories to us. Most of all, you will experience the profound joy of unravelling the multi-faceted world around you.