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A gritty warehouse turns into party hub
ON the outside, it looks like another inconspicuous industrial building. Men in coveralls go about their work, as forklifts and lorries rumble noisily between the buildings.
But take the lift up to the second floor of Block 203A of Henderson Industrial Estate and you'll find an anomaly - a converted warehouse space that looks like a mash-up between a dance studio, a music recital hall and a pub.
The space is the rehearsal studio and office of Dream Academy, the company founded by actress-writer-producer Selena Tan and co-managed by her husband John Pok.
The company is well-known for staging hit revues such as the Dim Sum Dollies, Kumar and Broadway Beng shows. But between these splashy big-budget productions, the company has started doing something else - throw very cool parties.
Simply called The Henderson Project, these parties were started last year and have been steadily drawing the hipster crowd with the promise of food, drinks, DJs, live music, art, poetry reading and film screenings. Last year's gigs starring local musical theatre stars Robin Goh, Mina Kaye and Linden Furnell drew approximately 600 people altogether to the 214 sq m space over a few nights.
This year, the company joined forces with creative firm Present Purpose led by ex-Zouk marketing manager Tracy Phillips. It drew more sponsors such as Fred Perry, Heineken, Crumpler and Snow Leopard on board and expects a bigger turnout for its current project.
The project starts this Friday night with a party-cum-film screening of Our Hobby Is Depeche Mode, a trippy 2006 documentary about the obsessive world of diehard Depeche Mode fans whose massive base stretches from Russia to Mexico.
Tickets for Friday night have sold quickly, so the organisers are holding a repeat screening this Saturday at 5pm, followed by an after-party by DJs from the Singapore arm of the Depeche Mode fan club. Special Crumpler Depeche Mode bags will be sold and a Mac make-up counter will be set up should anyone wish for a free 80s makeover.
Next Friday, the Henderson Project will hold another hip music event called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. It will be headlined by cult UK hip-hop group Lazy Habits, whose much-anticipated performance will be preceded by homegrown talents Benjamin Kheng, Michaela Therese with her band LAB and rapper Shigga Shay. The party continues after the performances with DJ collective Matteblacc spinning the decks.
Tan and Pok initially thought of the project as a way to "build a community of people who are open to different art and music forms".
"The Henderson Project is sort of an artistic playground for us, aimed at expanding the space for artistic expression and experimentation," explains Tan. "Since we have this flexible space which we don't use between productions, we thought why not programme events that let people play and party."
Every inch of the warehouse space has been put to good use. One corner boasts a well-stocked bar sponsored by Heineken, Snow Leopard and Cutty Sark. Another corner features original drawings and paintings by emerging artists, selling for as low as S$300.
Just outside the party space are a couple of merchandise stalls selling bags, CDs and T-shirts. And in the stationary cargo lift, there is a ping pong table - after all, what's a hipster party without a ping pong table?
Rising soul singer Therese, who will be performing with her band LAB next week, is grateful for a space like The Henderson Project to flex her vocal chords.
She says: "Spaces like this are sorely needed in our scene. Singapore has Blu Jaz for the more casual, open-ended gig, Sing Jazz for the more serious, sit-down gig, and a few more bar and cafe venues that hold only a certain number of people. Then we have the bigger venues like the Esplanade or the Victoria Concert Hall. But we don't have many spaces in between the two. The Henderson Project fills this gap perfectly.
"We need venues with character, where an artist can feel like an artist, and where a gig can feel like a proper party. So I'm really grateful to have a space like this."
The Henderson Project takes place at 203 Henderson Road, #02-01, Henderson Industrial Park (Lift Lobby A), Singapore 159547. This Friday and Saturday, it will screen Our Hobby Is Depeche Mode followed by a dance party. Tickets for Friday night are sold out. Ticket for Saturday, 5pm screening, at S$15, followed by the party, are still available.
Next Friday, on Feb 13, The Henderson Project will hold a music party, headlined by UK underground hip-hop band Lazy Habits, and featuring several homegrown stars. It starts at 8pm and will go on till late. Tickets from S$20 to S$30 are available. Call ticketing hotline 9726-7866 or e-mail email@example.com