SINGAPORE — Taking place from September 16 to October 19, Re-Route Festival brings participants on a multi-sensory journey into the rich cultural heritage of the Little India district. The three-week long festival will host curated experiences, installations, programs, 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.
Reimagined story cores to pay homage to historical sites
Three site-specific story cores have been identified for their unique atmospheres and functions. Through Re-Route Festival, these three sites have been reinterpreted through the eyes of design, emphasizing on their core identity and cultural significance to the area.
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.
The pivotal artery that gave life to the area, Serangoon Road was the birthplace of many businesses and trades. It hopes to highlight the community and vibrancy of Little India, made possible by the many different crafts and means of livelihood here.
Site-specific activations to deepen shared experiences
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:
- 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 at Serangoon Road as “the road leading across the island,” to a melting point of various cultures.
- 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 colored past of Desker Road and Rowell Road.
- 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. Festival-goers can pop over to Re-Route’s merchandise store and check out a wide array of decorative art pieces, memorabilia, festival pins and many more.
- Silhouettes of A New World @ Baroque House, 29 Rowell Road: Did you know? Singapore’s first public cabaret opened in New World Park on December 19, 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, color and form of ceramics.
- 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, or slide through the tunnels – a modern day entertainment that is similar to New World Amusement Park, an iconic entertainment venue for the masses.
- 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.
Collaborations with local creatives to explore the significance of Little India
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 organizers also work with these small business owners to promote and enhance the community that makes Little India unique.
The plethora of flavors 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 flavors of stracciatella, pistachios, pickles, pineapple and coconut fare with the bold flavors of Little India? Gastro Intersections will bring participants on a gastronomic rediscovery of the unconventional and classical. The six-course food walk is priced at $108, and interested gourmands can register here.
Showcasing the unique Singaporean identity through placemaking
Festival Director Cheryl Sim, who is also the co-founder and design director of Plus Collaboratives, shared, “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 recognize today. Through these various installations, workshops and activities, we want visitors to realize 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 colored 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 11:00 am to 7:00 pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and 10:00 am to 8:00 pm on 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.” Festival-goers can 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. They can also 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.