Mr Terence Ho Wee San: To ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth with the evolving COVID-19 situation (a) whether Singapore will heighten measures to ensure safety and welfare of participants in the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2020; (b) how will the COVID-19 situation affect the attendance of SIFA 2020 events; and (c) whether there are proposed plans to give further support to the arts community for this annual festival.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng:
- The Singapore International Festival of the Arts (SIFA) is commissioned by the National Arts Council (NAC) and presented by Arts House Limited (AHL).
- The top priority of NAC is to ensure the safety and well-being of all patrons, performers, and crew involved in SIFA 2020. Given the evolving COVID-19 situation, NAC has decided not to stage SIFA 2020 as planned from 15 to 31 May 2020. This was not a decision taken lightly, but was made because global restrictions on travel, together with our own precautionary and safe distancing measures to reduce local transmission of COVID-19, would have a significant impact on the overall festival experience. NAC will work with AHL towards an exciting SIFA line-up in 2021.
- In addition, NAC and AHL will work with local arts groups involved in SIFA 2020 – namely Nine Years Theatre, The Finger Players, The Necessary Stage and Toy Factory Productions – to explore how they can offer innovative arts and culture experiences in the coming months, based on their SIFA works. These could include webcasts, behind-the-scenes profiling, as well as digital conversations.
- I encourage the arts community to likewise explore digital-based presentations of their work, so that they can continue to engage existing audiences, and develop new audiences, even in the current situation. For example, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra has made available its ‘Dabao’ digital concert series on Facebook. NAC is also engaging potential partners to explore ways to support the online presentation of artworks and productions by the arts community. I urge those who have capability in this area to support others who may not have the same experience and proficiency.
- As mentioned during the MCCY Committee of Supply debate on 6 March 2020, the Stabilisation and Support Package announced at Budget 2020 includes support for arts practitioners – both organisations and individuals – during the COVID-19 situation, in addition to broad-based measures such as the Self-Employed Persons Training Support Scheme announced by the Ministry of Manpower. The Ministry of Finance has given notice to table a Supplementary Supply Bill to give greater support to Singaporeans. NAC has been engaging the arts community on these measures, for instance, the Capability Development Scheme for the Arts (CDSA) which will help organisations and individuals upskill their capabilities and position themselves well for the post COVID-19 recovery.
- NAC is monitoring the situation closely and welcomes suggestions from our arts community on how we can address the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 situation together.