Singapore literary community encourages public to #BuySingLit in activity-packed weekend

2 Feb 2017

IT’S all things SingLit come the last weekend of February, as the island of Singapore is transformed into a literary playground for everyone. Enjoy a cuppa with pioneering writer Catherine Lim at the Singapore Cricket Club. Join the authors of the Fossil Finders and the Ryan & Rex children’s book series in exploring fossils and dinosaurs at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. And uncover the steamy side of Marina Bay with humourist and crime scribe Neil Humphreys.

These are some of the exciting and accessible programmes of #BuySingLit, the first-ever industry-led, nationwide initiative to promote the reading and purchase of Singapore literature, affectionately known as SingLit. Organised by more than 30 partners from the Singapore book industry, including publishers, distributors, booksellers and non-profits, #BuySingLit hopes to encourage more Singaporeans and Singapore residents to ‘Buy Local, Read Our World’.

From Feb 24 to 26, 2017, the public will have its pick of more than 40 activities in all four official languages, from storytelling sessions and book fairs to guided tours, interactive shows, workshops and book treasure hunts. Young or old, whether you are an aspiring writer, an avid fan of SingLit or a SingLit newbie just looking discover new titles, there will be something for everyone to look forward to.

Special commissions for #BuySingLit include:

  • 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, the Ticket Books will be sold at $15.00 in all leading bookshops from 24 Feb 2017.

  • Three editorial centrespreads in The New Paper featuring poems and short stories by Singaporean writers; these will be distributed on 20, 22, and 24 Feb 2017.

  • SingLit Stitch, an exhibition of fifteen embroidery artworks by artist Jamie Teo, featuring quotes from SingLit, will be held at BooksActually.

#BuySingLit is the largest literary initiative in Singapore which involves more than 30 partners. It is the latest development in a thriving scene which has witnessed a proliferation of both government-led and grounds-up events such as the Singapore Writers Festival, the National Poetry Festival, and Singapore Poetry Writing Month aka SingPoWriMo, as well as in literary awards such as the Singapore Literature Prize and the Epigram Books Fiction Prize.

The grassroots growth of a literary culture can also be seen in the emergence of non-profits such as Sing Lit Station, the Select Centre and; writing collectives such as Burn After Reading SG and TrendLit (新文潮文学社); and regular spoken word series such as Speakeasy and Singapore Poetry Slam.

#BuySingLit addresses several key challenges facing Singapore’s book publishing and retail companies. The rise of consumption of content on the Internet means such businesses have to work harder than ever to persuade readers to pick up a book.

To that end, the literary community recognises that more can be done to promote the appreciation of Singapore literature. According to the 2015 National Literary Reading and Writing Survey, only four out of 10 Singaporeans had read a literary title in the past 12 months. And only one out of the four readers had read a work of Singapore literature.

The 2015 National Literary Reading and Writing Survey also found that most Singaporeans (92%) prefer to read books written in English and on the average, only about a quarter of ethnic Chinese, Malay and Tamil respondents read in their mother tongue language. As such, publishers of Chinese, Malay and Tamil titles in particular face difficulties due to the relatively low demand for non-English works. They hope to encourage more people to read SingLit works by raising the profile of Singapore writers and writing, especially amongst the young.

Says Mr Vijayanand Thamotharan of Crimson Earth, a publisher with a focus on Tamil literature for young readers: ‘Reading has dipped amongst students due to the influence of the Internet. Through this campaign, we hope to understand students’ preferences better, as well as create awareness amongst students, parents and teachers.’

Adds Mr Denon Lim of Chinese-language publisher Lingzi Media: ‘The earlier the students are exposed to SingLit, the more receptive they are to other Singapore works, and will continue to read SingLit even when they become adults.’

#BuySingLit believes in the value Singapore literature has for Singaporeans and others who call this city home. Reading stories from Singapore gives people here the chance to rediscover a shared cultural identity through the written word – one that is all the more surprising and precious in the increasingly globalised world of today.

Says Mr Goh Eck Kheng, English language publisher of Landmark Books, “Singapore authors write about our country with our citizens in mind, so Singaporean readers will be able to connect with Singapore Literature more directly than books published elsewhere.”

Adds Ms Denise Tan, co-founder of book retailer Closetful of Books, “Literature is so powerful that it forces us to see ourselves in stories. It offers us windows into the lives of others and gives us a mirror to our own. I hope with the #BuySingLit initiative, we will challenge readers to expand their world by reading about their own.”

Taken forward by industry players, the #BuySingLit initiative is supported by the National Arts Council. Says Ms May Tan, Acting Director of Literary Arts in the National Arts Council, ‘The Council recognises that a thriving and sustainable literary ecosystem is key to the long-term development of the literary sector. We are happy that the industry has come together to organise this nation-wide initiative to increase the awareness and support for SingLit. Through buying local books, readers can directly empower home-grown writers, publishers and retailers, to produce literature that matters to Singaporeans.’

Adds Mr Yong Shu Hoong, award-winning poet, “The #BuySingLit campaign is, therefore, a timely reminder that the cultivation of the love and appreciation of home-grown literature should take root, foremost, right here in Singapore. It’s only when the locals are reading local books that we can have a better sense of confidence to promote our works overseas.”

Five ways to #BuySingLit

The programmes of #BuySingLit fall into five categories: SingLit Out There, SingLit In Person, SingLit Hands On, SingLit On Stage and SingLit For Sale.

SingLit Out There

Discover the poetry and prose in the world around you via guided tours and outdoor installations. Tours range from a family-friendly ramble through the Singapore Botanic Gardens in the footsteps of Ruth Wan’s Timmy & Tammy, to Walking with Murderers in Sexy Singapore, an exploration of Marina Bay with humourist-turned-crime-fiction-author Neil Humphreys.Art installations include Singapore Poetry on the Sidewalks, in which excerpts of local poetry are written on the sidewalks in special paint, visible only when it rains. Over at Plaza Singapura, an interactive mural will feature illustrated characters from Singaporean picture books and graphic novels.

SingLit In Person

Meet your favourite author or character, listen to a story being told, and enjoy lively debates and discussions on literary topics. Young readers will enjoy storytelling sessions with children’s book authors such as Rilla Melati Bahri and Andy Chua, while aspiring writers can enjoy a cosy tea session at the Singapore Cricket Club with literary pioneer Catherine Lim.At panel discussions, audience members can take sides during debates in which writers ponder the state of Singapore literature, and might even discover a new favourite author.

SingLit Hands On

Become part of the story through writing workshops, craft sessions, and a range of immersive games. Children will be encouraged to engage with stories in a more tactile manner through art & craft sessions at various venues. They will also get the opportunity to discover socially inclusive forms of communication, such as Braille and sign language, in activities organised by Helang Books.Young writers can take part in writing workshops conducted by Singaporean writers such as Don Bosco and Nicholas Yong, while adrenaline junkies can race to find certain titles on the shelves of various bookstores in an island-wide treasure hunt.

SingLit On Stage

Watch SingLit come to life through theatre adaptations, video performances, spoken word events and more. A Ranger Anne children’s story will be dramatized through the magic of puppetry, while the works of Cultural Medallion recipient K T M Iqbal will be celebrated in a street-theatre-style performance.Romantics can spend an evening listening to Singapore love poetry at the National Gallery, while those who love a good party should check out House Party, a spoken word show by performance artists Shivram Gopinath and Marylyn Tan.

SingLit For Sale

Buy a work of SingLit and you can treasure it forever. There will be opportunities to shop across the island, with book fairs at Gillman Barracks, VivoCity, Raffles City, Forum the Shopping Mall and even the Plaza at the Central Public Library.Meanwhile, commuters will want to get their hands on a Ticket Book that not only contains original, specially commissioned SingLit content in four language editions, but also includes a NETS Flashpay card that can be used on public transport.

(Please refer to Annex A for a list of statistics about the programmes, and to Annex B for a full list of programmes with details.)

For more information on #BuySingLit, please click here.

About #BuySinglit

#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.