With Neon Lights just a few days away, MNA speaks to the man behind the festival, Declan Forde. The festival director shares with us his ideas on how to keep a lively festival experience by incorporating new elements that are new to the festival scene. Neon Lights debuted their first festival last year in Singapore returns this year with an even stronger line-up promoting family-fun events in the day and attracting a party crowd in the evening – the first festival that is experimenting with such elements all in one in Singapore.
Q: How is Neon Lights this year different from the previous festival?
The one area which we have made a lot of improvement and additions in my view is the whole decor and visual aspects. We have two new art areas including The Nest and The Rocking Horse. We also have the Neon Nooks programme which will fill up the various spaces around the festival grounds with roving arts performances and installations. Neon Nooks will be a whole lot more interesting giving people more than they could expect.
Our manager Sophie Ong, appointed a year in advance this year compared to a day before the event last year, has a lot of time to organise the visual and other aspects of the festival. The handmade flags, the beautiful screen on the main stage, as well as the spectacular installations at the second stage are all part of something new for our returning audience.
Fort canning is a pretty venue so we are trying to enhance it even more for Neon Lights. We also feel that our line-up is strong and more cohesive this year.
Q: We know you’ve been organising festivals in Europe and Australia, how is a festival in Singapore different from the rest?
Actually, the physical climate in Singapore can be challenging. The weather in Australia can be warm at times but not always throughout the day. Singapore is warm all year round, so, it is important that we consider what needs to be done for that. One of the changes we’ve made this year is to open the doors an hour later. We are also conscious in terms of having a few more sheltered and tented areas because we wouldn’t know whether if it will rain.
In terms of things that are unique to Singapore, there are more administrative and licenses to apply to in comparison to other countries. What is quite exciting is the type of festivals we’ve been trying to do, which is quite similar to what we have been doing in other countries. Currently, there isn’t one festival in Singapore that blends an outdoor music festival [strong line up inclusive] with artistic elements – one that has a family friendly element during the day and a party for younger people in the evening.
For the earlier years of a festival, where there’s certainly this sense of things being new and a gap to be filled up and that would get things really excited and give us the momentum.
Q: What about marketing and audience perception?
It’s really all about building audience experiences. Sometimes people are used to going to a certain type of festival. They are used to going along and hoping to have their expectations met. However, if we are trying to exceed their expectations by having all these extra elements that we have not really advertised (ie. Neon Nooks, a segment of the festival) yet already mentioned at the festival, then people would not have perceived what’s going to happen.
So if their expectations are surpassed, that’ll create a certain amount of energy in that. Nonetheless, if we are successful in a few years’ time they’ll [festival-goers] be complaining and can be blasé about it.
Q: Can you share with us the Asian acts that stood out for you?
I’m delighted with the Asian acts this year. Chris Rodrigo from Esplanade has provided insights to our choices. A lot has happened for Linying. She looks like she’s really making a splash internationally and it’s really well timed [Asia tour as part of her album release]. The likes of Gentle Bones and Yuna have already established their own crowds in Malaysia and Singapore.
Cashew Chemists and Disco Hue, although not attracting as big crowds as Gentle Bones and Yuna, have brilliant live shows and definitely have following here in Singapore. They are certainly what we are looking for on a Saturday show. All the acts that we’ve chosen this year have been carefully handpicked. From the reactions we received so far, we are certain the line-up is an exciting one for the region.
For the full line-up and ticketing information, please click here.