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Bringing in the old and the new
THEY say growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional. Because really, whoever decided old people can't have fun was wrong. The Silver Arts Festival, organised by the National Arts Council, is back in its fifth edition this year to show how age is really just a number.
Chua Ai Liang, director of arts & communities at the National Arts Council, says: "We strongly believe that the arts can impact lives in many ways, especially our seniors. The social aspect is a powerful one and expressing themselves through the arts and sharing their creativity with friends and family members can be extremely satisfying."
The festival, which runs from Sept 1 to 25, features more than 40 programmes with around 80 artists and arts groups. First launched in 2012, the event was dreamt up with the aim of "integrating the arts into the lives of the seniors in a meaningful way, and giving them the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones in a more unique way".
Last year's edition saw around 32,700 people showing up and this year they expect it to grow to 40,000.
Ms Chua says: "When we first started this, we really weren't sure what form it would take and whether people would be interested in something like this, but we've been pleasantly surprised. While it did, of course, revolve around our older citizens, we ended up having a lot of younger people coming to check out the activities as well. When the content is good, it doesn't really matter who the event is aimed at."
The programmes include films, musical performances, as well as seminars offering insights to not only social and healthcare professionals, but also arts practitioners.
The biggest challenge in organising an event like this is "putting together a festival that relates to seniors with diverse tastes but still injects new things to keep it exciting." With this in mind, they introduced films to the line-up last year, and this year, it will also include animation.
She says: "When older people are involved, we sometimes tend to dismiss activities as not being suited to them. Organising this festival has shown me how wrong our pre-judgments can be."
This year, the films which were curated by The Filmic Eye, will have two formats - shorts and features. The Silver Shorts include two new commissions, Spring Again by Ray Pang and The Drum by Ler Jiyuan.
Making their world premiere at Silver Arts Festival, the movies deal with some of the issues faced by seniors such as the need for companionship and the search for meaning in their later years.
Another highlight of the festival is Kampong Chempedak. Presented by The Glowers Drama Group, the production is based on Roger Jenkins' From the Belly of the Carp and explores the reliving of former kampong days by a cast of 16 seniors.
Ms Chua says: "I think it's really great that this group of the community is still so active, and they're really putting across the message that creativity can transcend age barriers. They feel their lives are enriched when they're a part of something like this, and it's an opportunity to just have a good time too."
She adds: "There is this one type of senior who doesn't really think about his age and remains active and engaged throughout. The other type is the one who's never had the exposure to the arts but by the end of it, is as fully immersed as the former."
She first realised that several years ago, when the festival put on a contemporary project titled SoundArt, where participants would interpret sounds into drawings or body movements. "They were hesitant at first, but by the end of it, they were as playful as children. It was a really lovely thing to see," she recalls.
Remember Me Through My Art presented by the Alzheimer's Disease Association is an exhibition that will be held at the Ang Mo Kio Public Library from Sept 5 to 27. It will feature a number of artworks and personal stories made by people with dementia.
Ms Chua says: "It just goes to show that not only do seniors have endless creative potential, but they can also constantly inspire us through their stories and memories."
Although the festival started out as a weekend-long affair and now spans an entire month, it is unlikely to grow much further.
She explains: "We'd only want to scale it up in a meaningful way, so it's not about growing the festival just for the sake of doing so. We'd actually like it to be a platform that inspires other people to look at what they can do to engage seniors using art."
- Silver Arts Festival 2016 will be held from Sept 1 to 25 at various venues island-wide. Please visit www.nac.gov.sg for more information.