On 1st of August 2021, the Migrant Writers of Singapore, a volunteer led community held its Inaugural Slam Poetry Festival showcasing talent of migrant, local and international poets. It was supported by Sing Lit Station and Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre.The Festival ran from 1:00 – 4:00 PM SGT, broadcasted live in the Migrant Writers of Singapore Facebook page.
The Planning and Workshop
Before the year 2020 ended, the Workshop team of the Migrant Writers of Singapore led by Zakir Hossain came up to a plan of adding another regular event to their calendar of activities and they visualized to have their first ever Slam Poetry Festival Singapore.
It’s aim is to empower migrants, raise awareness on the importance of mental health and create a strong bonding between local and migrants through arts and literature.
It was made possible through the support from Sing Lit Station and Mr Rahul Shah. On January 2021, they started the six months workshop focusing on Creative Writing and Performing Workshop.
It was mostly done via zoom due to the current Covid-19 situation of the country. But it didn’t hinder the participants to stay motivated and work hard on practicing their poems.
And on 11th of July, workshop participants together with Mr Rahul Shah were able to have a taste of the actual performance stage at The Great Hall Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre. They did their final reahearsal on the same venue focusing on delivery and hand gestures.
Zakir on the other hand invited local and other migrant poets to join the Festival via in person performance or recorded video. With the help of Stephanie Chan, they were able to get in Sylvia Ang, Jedidiah Huang and Teophilus Kwek which made the event even more special.
As they were getting closer to the event date, the country went in to a heightened alert due to the increasing number of Covid-19 local transmission forming different infected clusters. Zakir seek advice and help from MOM and after a thorough discussion they were able to give him a go to push through with the Festival.
Sing Lit Station communicated with the National Arts Council (NAC) and submitted the required documents. They were allowed to carry on with the event by strictly adhering to the rules that there should only be 15 people at one time including performers nd crews and not more than 50 people in total, mask should be worn at all times, maintain distancing and disinfect the chairs and shared microphones after every use.
The Organizing Team arrived at the venue around 10 in the morning and started arranging the hall and other logistics. Excitement was painted on everyone’s faces! There were four sets expected to perform following different themes.
Performers were given a warm welcome by the Receptionists and gave them flower, small note and chocolates as a way of cheering on them.
The program started with Charlene Shepherdson on the podium as an emcee. Mr. Rahul Shah gave a warm opening and welcoming speech, sharing few words about the workshop journey undertaken by the participants. It was followed by a Greetings Speech from Lim Choon Choon, the Centre Manager of the Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre.
The theme for the first set was “Anguish.” The performers gave a truly heart piercing and emotional messages of their poems from the Palestine war to women abuse and deprivation of rights.
It was followed by the second set wich theme is “Desire“. Hope, longingness, acceptance and empowerment were heard from the different poets recorded videos and on-stage performances.
The second half of the program was hosted by Janelyn Dupingay Vergara, one of the organizers and performers.
The third set followed a theme of “Happiness“, giving a break from the first two heavy performances. We were taken to the different forms and definitions of happiness, from the admiration of chefs to a cool and hilarious description of poets and poetry.
The fourth theme “Love” was defined through different stories and experiences from extreme longings about a deceased mother to a powerful message about self acceptance and a narration of a beautiful love story.
Halfway on the fourth theme was a Meditation facilitated by Rena Pierron. She highlighted the importance of self care and practicing a simple breathing exercise to relieve stress and have a happy and healthy mind.
Another highlight of the event is a Book Fair displaying published books and anthology from migrants and locals as well. It is a part of promoting reading as a way of coping with mental stress and anxiety.
The program ended with a heartwarming message from Zakir highlighting the activities that Migrant Writers of Singapore is doing for the migrant community.
He also didn’t forget to recognize the hardworks and generous efforts of the organizing team, volunteers and other support who made the event successful.
The event delivered a strong message that wonderful things could happen when there is unity.
Here are some lines quoted from his speech: “Migrant Writers of Singapore is a volunteer-run platform for all migrants who love literature and the arts. It is also a platform which aims to build a bridge between locals and migrants through literary interactions and the arts. The group has been raising awareness, promoting unity amidst diversity, and empowering the migrant community through literature, reading, photography, films, blood donation drives, book fairs, panel discussions, human library sessions, theatre and poetry recitals, art exhibitions, publishing book and other literary activities. Migrant Writers of Singapore believes that everyone is gifted, and that gift must be shared and celebrated.”
Some photos posted in the Facebook page:
You can follow more of their activities through Facebook, Instagram and YouTube official accounts. Migrant Writers of Singapore also created a Facebook group named ARTS IN ME where everyone is welcome to post their literary works or arts.