A field report from our first major reccie trip ahead of FutureEverything Singapore.

By FutureEverything’s Naomi Burgess, Mark Carlin and Tom Higham.

The FutureEverything team ventured out to Singapore at the start of the month for ten intensive (honest – 18 hours of straight meetings every day!) days of meetings, site visits and information gathering; all in preparation for the recently announced FutureEverything Festival in Singapore, 5th – 13th September 2015. The festival will feature a one-day conference, innovation lab, public realm installations, artworks as well as events and performances throughout the week.

After stepping off the plane into what felt like an outdoor sauna, we made our way over to the Tiong Bahru district of the city, our home for the duration of the trip. The journey across the city was pretty fascinating, watching all the futuristic architecture of the city appear along the way. We also saw signs everywhere for the SEA GAMES and began to quiz our very patient taxi driver on all the water based competitive sports that might be lined up for the coming fortnight. I labour this point as here lies our important introduction to the “Three Letter Acronym” (or the TLA, yes, it has it’s own) used frequently across Singapore. This was the South East Asia GAMES involving all competitive sports and I’m glad we got this acronym thing sorted early on before our meetings with our partners at the IDA and also with NDC, MBS, whilst talking about SAM, EDB, UTD, DFW, ODI, MDA, EDM, NTU, MRT, ICT, IOT…..get the picture?

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So, alongside learning all the TLAs and getting used to the heat, we dived straight into conversation with some fascinating organisations and people, who we are extremely excited to be working with, and developing relationships with over the coming months. With each meeting leading to at least another three, not only did our programme development and thinking really move forward but it was great to meet with likeminded people and learn about Singaporean culture – in this digital age there are still some things that can’t be done from a desk in Manchester!

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Another facet of Singaporean life, which became apparent very quickly, is that food is extremely important. One of the first questions when meeting with people would often be food based – had we eaten? What had we eaten? Had we tried the chilli crab or the chicken rice or Kaya Toast, murtabak, fried carrot cake, laksa…? I’m pleased to say we got the chance to try most of these wonderful dishes and others in the company of great people. Mealtimes are an important leisure time as work hours are loooooong, so we felt even more honoured by how generous people were with their time and the hospitality we were shown by everyone we met.

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Amidst the meeting and eating, we also managed to squeeze in visits to a diverse array of events and activities, including the enormous CommunicAsia Exhibition and Conference at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, the opening of ArtScience Museum’s new exhibition The Deep and a special ‘In conversation’ with curator Claire Nouvian and FutureEverything favourite, artist Lynette Wallworth. We wouldn’t have been true to FE’s background if we didn’t engineer the opportunity to check out some of Singapore’s most noted nightlife spots too of course, which included watching a live performance from Nosaj Thing at Club Kyo and a tour around the labyrinthine Zouk Club, which was rounded off with an outstanding set by DJ Jeremy Boon.

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On our (half) day off, we managed to run right though the heart of the city, meeting up with local running crew Purple Lights SG. The world really is a small place, and Ciaran from StillWatersRunDeep in Manchester connected us with Purple Lights. Led by creative whirlwind and unofficial best tour guide in Singapore, Corey Chan, the team meet twice weekly, making their way along the most spectacular running routes in Singapore, giving the chance for creative people to meet up, take in great views and end up at a hawker centre for some tasty dinner. So, on a hot Sunday evening, we got the chance to run along treetop boardwalks, look out across the whole island and chat with a great bunch of runners who were predominantly from the creative sector.

It was one of the busiest and most intense working weeks of any of our lives, but we learnt so much, and moved forward so quickly with programming and partnerships for the forthcoming September event. It’s a real privilege to be able to work in a variety of international contexts (Moscow, Singapore, Manchester..), and it only serves to make our work more interesting and, we hope, inspiring! There’s a second production trip taking place this coming week, so look out for reports from trip number 2 soon.

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Photos by Tom Higham.