Singapore Night Festival 2019: Is It Worth Going?
Updated: Nov 8, 2019
Singapore Night Festival runs from 23-31 August, 7.30pm to midnight, at Bras Basah and Bugis.
Since I am an avid full-time complainer, I tasked myself with reviewing Singapore Night Festival 2019, here-on known as SNF. Having been to various light shows in Singapore in the past, and to previous versions of SNF, I was quite hyped for this iteration.
Note: this review is based on the opening day of SNF.
Singapore Night Festival is a sprawling array of light-based artworks, displays and performances that takes place over the Bras Basah and Bugis area annually. But the centerpiece of SNF has always been the display on the lawn of the Asian Civilization Museum. This year's version, "Keep Dreaming", is a light show projected onto the museum, which takes place every 6 minutes.
As I wait, I went to see the other highlight of Zone 1- the Banyan Tree. Sometimes the tree looks like it's covered in blood, which is pretty cool. But for the most part, the audio for this exhibit has so much echo as to be indistinct.
The crowd drifts towards the lawn as the ACM light show finally starts. The display comes alive, instantly growing eyes and a mouth."OK KIDS!" the anthropomorphic house booms to the audience.
We are then treated to images of Appropriately Multicultural children, and stock image walkthroughs of the sea and forest. It's all quite pretty looking, but all quite like we were 4 years old.
"OK KIDS!" the house repeats again, for perhaps the 5th time. The crowd, which remains overwhelmingly distinctly older, looks on.
Once the living house finally leaves, the display does proceed more admirably. The music becomes decently rhythmic, and a short stretch of beautifully detailed patterns trace their way across the museum's facade.
But then it ends, about twice as fast as you might expect. It's hard to tell if you've spent more time waiting for it than watching it.
I hear a "That's it?" to my left as I leave for the next zone. My thoughts exactly.
The rest of SNF can't quite rescue the underwhelming start. It's hard to shake the feeling that it's good, but it's not great.
This is not to say that SNF is bad. It's just not grand. There are no long psychedelic tunnels and ghost boats like at iLight, no maze of cosmic sparkle or quirky light-display slide like at the ArtScience museum, no great grand mansion of sparkle like in Christmas Wonderland. There is just no one piece at SNF this year that will make you pause and really take your breath away.
Sure, the light displays are pretty (as you can tell from the pictures) but they feel like secondary pieces. And sure, secondary pieces are fine, as long as there's a centerpiece- but there isn't one. At least not really.
But when I stop looking at the displays and look at the people, I realize that maybe, I'm thinking about this all in the wrong way. Maybe SNF isn't grand moving automatons and mansions of lights and gravity-defying russian acrobats- because that's not what it wants to be. We have marina bay's events for that.
SNF is more small-scale and scattered and almost amateurish- but maybe that is the charm. It's a place to saunter about and buy local trinkets, to sit down and chat with your friends, and just to saunter about like a CBD hipster sort of pasar malam. It's not about exhibition. It's about community.
Or at least that's what I try to tell myself, going there alone and choking on the brazenly illegal cigarette smoke at each traffic light every 5 steps.
But hey, don't write SNF 2019 off entirely just yet- there's still the acrobatic acts on the last 3 days, including a performance by Fuerza Bruta ($15 per pax from Sistic). Is it worth going before that though? Depends on what you expect out of it. If you love the in-your-face style and scale of the marina bay light festivals, then this is probably not for you. But it's a pretty nice hangout spot.
Singapore Night Festival 2019
Date: 23-31 August 2019
Location: Bras Basah and Bugis
Go: if you 1. are a small child, 2. wanna lepak with friends, 3. only plan on going for the acrobat highlights on the closing days
Don't Go: if you want big grand light displays and/or hate traffic lights --- Want to complain about our complaining? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can feature your comment like an ST forum letter --- Kelly is a Year 2 CNM student and Editor-in-Chief of UNITE. She likes health food, doodling, and writing code 'that works, so as long as it works'.