The third iteration of community engagement project Both Sides, Now comes to a close this year with an immersive arts experience at Telok Blangah this July. Presented by Lien Foundation, Ang Chin Moh Foundation, Drama Box and ArtsWok Collaborative, the project focuses on presenting end-of-life (EOL) issues in an accessible way to the public, and this year, has focused on the NOW – how one can learn to be fully present in the moment, nurturing relationships and making plans for the future.
In particular, the team reached out to the residents of Block 7 Telok Blangah Crescent, a culmination of having worked in Telok Blangah for 3 years, in collaboration with community partner, Montfort Care. Comprising of 1- and 2-room purchase and rental flats, the community in Block 7, similar to other locations in Singapore has complex needs, including social isolation, particularly for seniors who live alone. Says Artistic Director Kok Heng Leun: “In trying to engage this community, we found that a conversation about dying well seems pointless if everyday existence is a struggle. Hence, we realised that in talking about a dignified end of life, we have to talk about how to live well now. We have to engage the residents so that they will find beauty, meaning and connection in each and every moment.”
From 29th June to 7th July 2019, this theme will be explored and presented through a multi-disciplinary arts engagement programme, including a Place-making Art Project derived from a collaboration between Block 7 residents and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts lecturer Wendy Chua and her students. There will also be Public Arts Installation, featuring creations developed by Block 7 residents along with artists Alecia Neo, Jasmine Ng, anGie seah and Shirley Soh. From 3rd to 7th July, Both Sides, Now will also feature a Carnival at the open field next to SAFRA Mount Faber, aiming to reach out to families with activities such as a picnic under the stars, a music theatre piece performed by Inch Chua and other actors, and previous Both Sides, Now work EXIT.
Says Creative Producer Ngiam Su-Lin: “We set out to work in this longer timeframe (2017-2019) in Chong Pang and Telok Blangah because we wanted to develop deeper relationships with residents and partners that would help build EOL-friendly communities. The experience has enabled the team to better understand what this goal entails.”
She continues: “Sometimes, the community is more present and ready. At other times, we have to first contribute towards facilitating community building, together with partners on the ground. All in all, there is a lot of potential and possibilities in communities playing a larger role in supporting each other in living well, and leaving well.”
Having moved the marginalised topic of death and dying into the mainstream within these communities, and giving them the unique opportunity to reflect on and express their EOL attitudes, Ang Ziqian, Deputy Chairman of Ang Chin Moh Foundation comments: “Over the past seven years, we have supported this community engagement project that took the messages of dying, death and funerals out into the heartlands. It is my hope that these meaningful dialogues continue over family gatherings, to ease the pain of every family that will lose a loved one in the future.”
Looking forward, the Both Sides, Now team hopes to continue their community-centric approach in other parts of Singapore, having developed a toolkit of arts approaches to having EOL-related conversations and accompanying training for health, social and community care workers and will continue to offer training to more staff.
Both Sides, Now will run at Telok Blangah from 29th June to 7th July 2019. Admission is free, for more information, visit their website here