Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Show Must Go On !!! Covid-19 vs Singapore Arts Scene

In the dark light of the current Covid-19 situation happening in Singapore, the local Arts community has been badly affected. Many events have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. For events which have carried on, the turnout has been severely reduced resulting in high losses. Some people will comment that the events should be cancelled anyways and if cancelled at least can minimise losses. It isn’t such a straightforward decision. For many of these events, a lot of time and costs have already invested and deposits on rental of venues have already been paid many weeks earlier and are non-refundable. On top of that, in many cases, the organisers would really want to share their blood, sweat, tears and laughter with the public. Besides, isn’t laughter the best medicine.

In Singapore, due to the relatively small local support of the local Arts, high and / or prolonged losses can have far-reaching repercussions. Smaller, startup organisations may go into debt and be forced to shut down. To cut costs, they may be forced to downsize on their workforce, leading to lay-offs for employees who are already relatively poorly paid or only part-timers. This in turn may lead to a drop in the quality of our local events. Additionally, it may turn away budding playwrights, artists, performers, producers, directors, lighting specialists and set producers from the local scene.

A buddy of mine, recently concluded a survey on the ‘Effect of Covid-19 on the Singapore Arts scene.’ Many respondents were uncertain about their job security especially in the near future. Many were concerned whether the events postponed will ever proceed in the future. Some responded that they may not be able to meet future financial commitments. This is not good.

What can we do about it ?

Before, I give my opinions on what we can do, let me state categorically that I am NOT under the employment of ANY LOCAL ARTS ORGANISATION. I have not in ANY WAY WHATSOEVER been asked, requested, bribed, paid (even in tickets) or forced by anyone to write this. So.. what can we do?
  1. If there are any events happening and you are interested, don’t be scared… GO FOR THEM !!! How is going for an arts event different from going to a shopping mall or even a hotpot meal?
  2. If you have already bought tickets for shows, please don’t go asking for a refund. You already planned to go, so just go and have a good time.  
  3. If you have been considering showing your gratitude for your favourite local arts organisation, what is the best way than to give a small donation to help them especially during this difficult time. Any amount adds up. That extra 50 rolls of toilet paper or 100 packs of instant noodles can wait for next month.
  4. Please don’t discourage your friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbours and pets from going. Did you and will you discourage your friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbours and pets from going to work, foodcourts for meals, supermarkets both in Singapore and in Johor Bahru to stockpile on essentials?
  5. If you did go for any local arts event and had a good time, spread the word…. tell your friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbours and pets in any and all ways. Tell them how good it was and how safe it was and not to worry. It is always better karma to encourage rather than discourage.
  6. If you are going for any of these events, practice good personal hygiene. Wash your hands with soap, wear a mask if you wish.
There are many other things which we can all do to help.

To put it bluntly, all our local arts guys are also risking themselves by continuing to do what they love to entertain us but do we not them putting on a face mask or running away in fear? So why should we do that? I do not see you running away from queuing up at the nearby Buzz newsagents when they have face masks to sell? I am very sure that all measures will be taken to ensure that everyone who attends will be safe. Heck even our arts guys want to be safe right? Please have some empathy. They are performing their hearts for you and putting up their most beautiful art works but then they see a half-empty theatre, an empty auditorium or a ‘dead’ gallery, how would they feel?   

I am doing what I can to help because not only do I have good friends who are involved in the local Arts scene, but because this is a matter very close to my heart. Please do not let our local Arts wither due to this virus.

A big thanks to our local Arts community members who continue to work hard for us. Thanks for putting the laughter and joy in our lives. I think it is about time that we put a smile on your face as well !! Take care and be safe. THE SHOW MUST GO ON !!!!

*special thanks to Mr Terence Tan and his team for the work done on the survey.

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