Arts Preview Singapore

Re-Route Festival to make its debut at Singapore Design Week 2022 shines spotlight on Little India’s heritage through design activations

Developed by creative brains, Mervin Tan and Cheryl Sim from Plus Collaboratives, Re-Route Festival is a placemaking festival that will immerse visitors in an alternate storytelling of the Little India district. Supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and DesignSingapore Council, the Re-Route Festival aims to demonstrate how design can be used as a tool to spotlight Singapore’s heritage through a collective of creative voices. 

Taking place from Friday, 16 September to Sunday 9 October 2022, the three-week long festival will host curated experiences, installations, programmes, and other design activations, to encourage people to detour from their usual routes to explore the district with a new perspective and connect with Little India’s lesser-known history.

Plus Collaboratives’ novel, design-based placemaking concept of Re-Route Festival, with its focus on Little India’s bedrock of rich heritage and culture, has received support from STB for enhancing the vibrancy and appeal of Singapore as a tourist destination. 

Festival Director Mervin Tan, the co-founder and Creative Director of Plus Collaboratives shares, “As tourism gradually resumes in the post-pandemic world, we saw the opportunity to fuel the appeal of Singapore’s historical areas through domestic and international tourism. This September, Re-Route Festival focuses on Little India, which is well known to many as a historical site and a centre of amenities. Whether people head down to Little India for a specific purpose or to explore heritage sites, visitors tend to only concentrate on specific areas without fully appreciating the characteristics of the location. The Re-Route Festival intends to introduce story cores that will draw people into other areas of Little India and explore the untold histories of the area.” 

The Re-Route Festival will be making its debut in conjunction with the much-anticipated return of the Singapore Design Week, one of Asia’s premier design festivals, which demonstrates Singapore’s distinctive brand of creativity. A key event of Singapore Design Week 2022, Re-Route Festival highlights how design can be used as a tool to advance the Singapore brand, culture and connect communities.

“As Singapore Design Week returns in September 2022 with a brand new vision, we’re excited to celebrate Singapore as a UNESCO Creative City of Design with its own unique brand of creativity. Little India exudes an old school charm and it is a treasure trove of hidden gems. I am delighted that Re-Route Festival will bring homegrown creatives, design and imagination together to spotlight the rich heritage of these otherwise overlooked sites through vibrant and inventive experiences. It is definitely one of the highlights of Singapore Design Week 2022, that I hope will grow appreciation for the transformative power of placemaking,” says Mark Wee, Festival Director of Singapore Design Week 2022.

Ms Lim Shoo Ling, Director, Arts and Cultural Precincts, STB comments, “The Singapore Tourism Board is pleased to support the inaugural Re-Route Festival, which is a timely addition to our vibrant calendar of events. We invite both international visitors and locals to reimagine Singapore through the Festival and discover the lesser-known areas at Little India, one of Singapore’s key cultural precincts. Held together with the annual Deepavali Light-up and festivities, visitors can expect a feast for their senses.”

Created and curated by Plus Collaboratives, the award-winning interdisciplinary group has been recognised internationally for their creativity and unique approach towards user-centred design processes in their projects. Plus Collaboratives has also been  recipients of multiple local and international awards, which include, The Drum Awards 2022, iF Design Awards 2022, Indigo Design Award 2022, A’Design Awards 2022, Fujifilm Innovation Print Awards 2021 and Singapore Good Design Mark 2021.

Festival Director Mervin Tan, the co-founder and Creative Director of Plus Collaboratives, believes that good design centers around the study of users and their behaviours. Mervin was the Festival Director of Singaplural for two consecutive successful editions in 2015 and 2016, and curated the launch event for STB’s “Passion Made Possible” brand campaign. 

Festival Director Cheryl Sim, the co-founder and Design Director of Plus Collaboratives, Cheryl Sim has integrated design principles from both fields into a multidisciplinary design framework, seen through the studio’s portfolio of varied works including an exclusive tactile experience for the launch of the Passion Made Possible brand for Singapore Tourism Board and an experiential launch for SNACK by Income that has been recognised on various award platforms. Cheryl recently had the honour of being asked to appear as a guest speaker for a Fujifilm Business Innovation webinar aimed at printing businesses in the South-East Asia region.

Re-Route Festival takes visitors on a journey that highlights lesser-explored spaces of Little India, to enhance the urban experience of the heritage site. Site-specific key narratives will be curated into experiences such as art installations, activities and performances by various creatives. 

Three site-specific story cores have been identified for their unique atmospheres and functions. Through Re-Route Festival, these 3 sites have been re-interpreted through the eyes of design, emphasising on their core identity and cultural significance to the area. They are:

Race Course Road

  • Serving as the primer for the narrative of the Race Course, the Re-Route Sporting Club is designed as an exclusive sporting club to reflect Race Course Road’s reputation first as a race course, a leisure activity for the wealthy, then a leisure area for the community. 

New World Amusement Park

  • As the first space dedicated to entertainment for the masses, New World Amusement Park represented the new and novel. By recreating the atmosphere in the past with joy and anticipation, the focus is to connect people to the vibrant past of mass entertainment and recreate accessible entertainment drizzled with hints of excitement.

Serangoon Road

  • The pivotal artery that gave life to the area, Serangoon Road was the birthplace of many businesses and trades. Serangoon Road hopes to highlight the community and vibrancy of Little India, made possible by the many different crafts and means of livelihood here.

With over 20 installations, activities and workshops all over Little India, Re-Route Festival has gathered the best of local creatives to bring out the essence of the cultural site. Some of the highlights include:

  1. Re-Route Lookout Tower @ Lembu Square

Wonder what Little India will look like from a vantage point? Go to the observatory deck and witness how this rich and charming cultural precinct evolved from a simple starting point of Serangoon Road as “the road leading across the island”, to a melting point of various cultures. 

  1. PLASTIK_SILO @ 32 Rowell Road

Ubiquitous across Little India, humble plastic crates were used to create this special eye-catching installation, PLASTIK_SILO by UPSTRS_. The installation seeks to poke, distill and reassemble borrowed impressions of public and private spaces and places of the coloured past of Desker Road and Rowell Road.

  1. Re-Route Sporting Club @ 28 Kinta Road

Did you know the first Singapore Sporting Club hosted horse racing which attracted wealthy Chinese, Arabs and Europeans? Inspired by the Singapore Sporting Club, the Re-route Sporting Club is a place to relax and experience the designers’ interpretations of Little India in the form of goods and trinkets! Pop over to Re-Route’s merchandise store and check out a wide array of decorative art pieces, memorabilia, festival pins and many more.

  1. Silhouettes of A New World @ Baroque House, 29 Rowell Road

Did you know? Singapore’s first public cabaret opened in New World Park on 19 December 1929, with vaudeville artists and 30 dancing partners who were “the cream of Manila”. Common Touch Craft Touch interprets New World’s Cabaret through ceramics, expressing the vibrancy and jovial atmosphere of New World Amusement Park through the shape, colour and form of ceramics. 

  1. New Wonderland @ Fountain Square, 180 Kitchener Road

Promising fun for the young ones, the abstract playscape encourages them to experience the different nodes of discovery around the space. Children, and even adults, can run along the hanging ropes, slide through the tunnels – a modern day entertainment that is similar to New World Amusement Park, an iconic entertainment venue for the masses.

  1. Curiosity Capsules @ Kitchener Link

Remember spending your pocket money on mystery capsules at these machines? Known as Gachapon machines, a large-scale Gachapon will be installed and the iconic device dispenses illustrator Valerie Khong’s interpretation of various lesser-known locations and local businesses around Little India. Exchange a ticket with a docent on site and get a coin to spin a ball at the Gachapon machine. Create your own unique Little India journey through these re-interpretations.

Re-Route Festival has engaged several creatives to bring out the essence of Little India through a different lens. One of them is Artist, Chong Li-Chuan. Serangoon Road’s name originated from a Malay phrase, ‘di-serang dengan gong’, which means to attack with gongs or drums. It referenced using a gong to scare away animals from the forested area of Serangoon. In ”Cowbells and Cattails”, Li-Chuan attempts to reconnect to the origins of the name by activating sculptural objects along Serangoon Road. These sound installations harness the wind along Little India to create the sound of gongs clanging inspired by this myth. 

Little India is the birthplace of many traditional businesses. Illustrator Tiffany Yao takes visitors on a trip down memory lane through a series of postcards depicting old businesses such as Thandapani, Yeo Buan Heng Liquor Shop and Azmi Restaurant, which have been around Little India for a long time. The different trades and longevity of old businesses extend the vibrancy of Serangoon Road as the main hub of trading. Pick up these postcards at the premises, and enjoy some Re-Route exclusive products or discounts, as we also work with these small business owners to promote and enhance the community that makes Little India unique.

The plethora of flavours highlights the rich cultures of Little India. Chef Drew Nocente took up the culinary challenge, by integrating unique ingredients with traditional dishes found in Little India. How would the flavours of stracciatella, pistachios, pickles, pineapple and coconut fare with the bold flavours of Little India? Gastro Intersections will bring participants on a gastronomic rediscovery of the unconventional and classical. The 6-course food walk is priced at $78, and interested gourmands can register here.

Festival Director Cheryl Sim, the co-founder and Design Director of Plus Collaboratives shares, “Re-Route Festival is much more than an event for Instagrammable spots. While we have plenty of special installations across the area, what we want to achieve through this placemaking event is to explore the significance of the site and area. We wanted to showcase how communities are formed via purpose-built sites, and how such locations have led to a unique Little India that we come to recognise today. Through these various installations, workshops and activities, we want visitors to realise the value of culture and community within this heritage site.”

To enhance the experience of the Re-Route Festival, specially created merchandise and items are available for purchase. A specially curated festival pack is also available for purchase at $14, which includes coloured glasses, self-guided festival map, face mask, a hand-held fan and discount vouchers for participating stores. The festival pack, along with other Re-Route Festival merchandise, can be purchased at the Re-Route Sporting Club. Opening hours are 11am to 7pm for Thursdays and Fridays, and 10am to 8pm for Saturdays and Sundays.

Re-Route Festival has also collaborated with Let’s Go Tour for a specially curated walking tour called “Re-Route: A Different Little India”. Get up close with the fanfare of the New World Amusement Park, the busyness of Serangoon Road, and the leisurely atmosphere of the old racecourse. Connect to the site through the key design activations of the festival as participants discover the intricate stories of people and histories of Little India. Tour tickets are available for purchase here

Photo Credit: Plus Collaboratives

The Re-Route Festival runs from 16th September to 9th October 2022. More information available here

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