Celebrate Young Talents About the Singapore Youth Festival
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Celebrate Young Talents: About the Singapore Youth Festival

Attending festivals is one of my favorite things to do in Singapore, and luckily, this nation has a lot of celebrations—popular ones include Vesak Day, National Day, and Mid-Autumn Festival. Another one that I look forward to is the Singapore Youth Festival.

The Singapore Youth Festival is a celebration of young talents, and it’s always a lively affair. 

If you’re interested in attending this festival, allow me to be your guide. Here’s everything you need to know about the Singapore Youth Festival.  

Things to Know about the Singapore Youth Festival

What is the Singapore Youth Festival?

What is the Singapore Youth Festival

The Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) is an annual event organized by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to showcase the talents of students in the arts. 

Students in primary and secondary schools are usually the main participants in SYF. But eventually, the pool has been expanded to include young people in tertiary institutions, youth groups and clubs, the National Youth Council, and the People’s Association.

Students from special education schools and independent schools are also welcome to participate in the festival. 

What are the objectives of the Singapore Youth Festival?

What are the objectives of the Singapore Youth Festival

The MOE has laid down several objectives of SYF, which are as follows:

  • SYF should serve as a platform for the development of character, competencies in the 21st century, and social and emotional learning through the arts.
  • SYF should encourage students to participate in arts co-curricular activities (CCA) in schools—whether as members of the CCA or as audience members watching performances and exhibitions.
  • SYF celebrates youth vitality by showing diverse artistic talents and creativity.
  • SYF should support nation-building and help students develop cultural awareness and appreciation through the arts. 

What’s the history behind the Singapore Youth Festival?

What’s the history behind the Singapore Youth Festival

The SYF was first celebrated on July 18, 1967, and it was launched by former president Yusof Ishak. At the time, it was a two-week affair, and around 24,000 students participated.

By the next year, Arts and Crafts Exhibition was introduced, and local compositions by young people were showcased. Sports were also included in the event, especially track and field championships. 

Throughout the years, the festival has become a grandiose event, with more and more events being added. In 1994, it was officially elevated as a national-level festival. 

When can I watch the Singapore Youth Festival?

When can I watch the Singapore Youth Festival

The SYF dates change every year. That said, the festival is often hosted sometime between March and July. 

In 2020, SYF was held from April 24 to July 31—the whole event was online too because of the pandemic—and in 2022, it was hosted from July 1 to 28. For 2023, the schedule was set from March 27 to May 5. 

Where can I watch the Singapore Youth Festival?

Where can I watch the Singapore Youth Festival

Just like the date, there’s no set location for SYF. The National Museum and Esplanade—Theatres on the Bay are the most common venues, but other concert halls and theatres are also used for specific events. 

Luckily, live streaming has become more prominent over the years, so if you can’t make it to the venue, you can watch it online. Links to the live streams will only get active one day before the start of each event, so keep an eye out for them on SYF’s website.

Breakdown of the Singapore Youth Festival

— From: eileenlsj

As the years go by, SYF keeps getting better. 

Every year has its own theme and unique program. However, there are some permanent sections, and these are the opening ceremonies, Arts Presentation, Art Exhibition, and celebrations.

Opening Ceremonies

— From: pssildds

As you would expect, opening ceremonies introduce the various participants and other notable guests. 

SYF alternates between two kinds of opening ceremonies—outdoor and indoor. 

Outdoor ceremonies, which happen during the even years, are held in a stadium, and they feature mass display segments and marching contingents by uniformed groups such as the National Police Cadet Corps and the National Cadet Corps.

Meanwhile, indoor ceremonies exhibit performance arts groups, and they’re held during the odd years. 

Arts Presentation

— From: menaka.gopal.7

The SYF Arts Presentation (AP) is dedicated to different kinds of performing arts. Here are the categories and sub-categories featured in this platform: 

  • Instrumental Ensemble
    • Angklung/Kulintang
    • Gamelan
    • Indian Orchestra
    • Guzheng
    • Guitar
    • Handbell/Handchime
    • Harmonica
    • Harp
    • Strings
  • Dance
    • International
    • Chinese
    • Malay
  • Chinese Orchestra
  • Drama
  • Band
  • Choir

— From: sgyouthfest

In 2023, the events under AP were held at multiple venues, namely the School of the Arts Concert Hall, Singapore Conference Hall (Concert Hall), The University Culture Center (Ho Bee Auditorium), and Gateway Theatre. 

The best performers will receive awards for their performances. Previously, the award structure was Gold (with Honors), Gold, Silver, Bronze, and a certificate of participation 

Recently, it has been changed to Distinction, Accomplishment, and Commendation. 

AP also serves as a platform for learning and improvement since participants will receive feedback from industry professionals.

Art Exhibition

— From: dm.akie 

As the name suggests, the SYF Art Exhibition lets children unleash their creativity by creating original artwork. The main goal here is to facilitate dialogue on ideas, inspirations, and art processes among young artists in the community.

Usually, there is a public venue where interested parties can view the artwork pieces submitted by the students—in 2023, it was in Stamford Arts Center. But attendance was by invitation only, so the rest can check out the online gallery on the SYF website. 

Celebrations

— From: rae.ganphotography

The MOE also organizes celebrations during the festival. This section of the festival provides students with multiple platforms—both multi-modal and collaborative—to encourage them to express their talents and passion for the arts. 

This is probably my favorite part of the festival because it’s jam-packed with so many events and performances. In 2023, it was held at Esplanade—Theatres on the Bay, and the lineup included the following:

  • The Youth Station Project: In which students are encouraged to perform their original songs. This is perfect for students who want to develop their interests and skills in songwriting, music arranging, production, and performing.
  • Kaleidoscope: A platform where students perform a modern adaptation of traditional performing arts 
  • Shall We Sing?: A choral platform with three segments—show choir performances, a sing-along segment that allows everyone to join in, and choral music performed by primary school choirs
  • Festival Concert: A number of schools deliver drama performances, show bands, choral music, and more.
  • The Young Playwright Presents: Performances of plays written by aspiring playwrights

What to Do During the Singapore Youth Festival

What to Do During the Singapore Youth Festival

Watching the various performances and browsing the art exhibition are two of the best things to do during SYF. But you’re not just limited to them because many locations all over Singapore also hold their own celebrations.

Here are a few examples of activities I’ve done during the festival in the past years, so if these open up again during the next SYF, you should try them out too. 

Whip up your own artistic masterpieces

Whip up your own artistic masterpieces

Inspired by the main focus of SYF, several places in Singapore set up their own art jamming sessions to encourage people to tap into their creative spirit. The best part is that these sessions are free—and you’ll be able to try different art styles!

In the past, I tried painting using only fingerprints and creating artwork using the ancient art of suminagashi (Japanese marbling). 

There was even a time when I painted a mug without using brushes. It was challenging but definitely fun. 

In my experience, these art jamming sessions were held at Bukit Panjang Plaza, United Square, and Jurong Regional Library. Be on the lookout for other venues too.

Dance the night away

Dance the night away

Plazas, activity centers, and other places in Singapore sometimes host dance parties in honor of SYF. If you were a big fan of the High School Musical and Step Up franchises, this is your time to shine.

Sometimes, primary school and secondary school students host ethnic and modern dance gigs, and I always try to catch them. There’s just something freeing about dancing with other people! 

Listen to a storytelling session

Listen to a storytelling session

In SYF 2018, I went to The National Gallery, one of the most prominent museums and galleries in Singapore, where there was a dramatized reading of a play script, and that is one of my favorite SYF-related moments. 

Listening to someone telling a story just fires up my imagination, and I’ll be immersed until the dramatized reading ends. It’s even more exciting when I’m with my little nephew because he gets engrossed in the story as well. 

Immerse yourself in music

— From: sgyouthfest

One of the many reasons I love SYF is that the world seems to be filled with so much more music during this time. 

As I mentioned earlier, this festival hosts The Youth Station Project, which features aspiring singer-songwriters performing their songs, and I really love that event. Seeing all these young people express themselves is truly moving.

But aside from The Youth Station Project, some students may host an event where you can experiment with music. 

For example, in Padang Atrium in 2018, a group of students from Zhenghua Secondary School played drums based on the audience’s facial expressions!

Watch a student-led drama production 

Watch a student-led drama production

During SYF, some libraries in Singapore take up the opportunity to host a drama production of their own, and this production is usually a live performance of fairy tales and fables. It sounds so enchanting and fun, and I’m always up for it. 

In 2018, I attended one at Jurong Regional Library, and the performance featured primary school students. 

I really enjoyed seeing their creative interpretation of fairy tales. It just goes to show how wild and vivid children’s imagination is. 

Hopefully, on the next SYF, more libraries will host a dramatic rendition of a story. It always puts a smile on a face, and it’s a great way to introduce my nephew and little cousins to the world of performing arts.