[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Sunday, June 22, 2008

[Arts Fest at Bedok Reservoir]
1. The title was "Hydro Sapiens" performed by a Dutch group called "the Lunatics". I attended Saturday's performance not quite knowing what to expect. There was a big crowd estimated at 7000, a few even perched on trees. The weather could not have been better with a cool, light breeze blowing. It turned out to be quite entertaining although I could not figure out bits of the storyline. The performance was both on the stage and in the water which was novel. It was nice to see fireworks and a big monster made of water bottles spewing out flame and water.

2. Watching the crowd enjoy themselves, I felt happy that Bedok Reservoir is indeed becoming a 'happening' place. Some came all prepared for a picnic. We are now on the map in the minds of many Singaporeans. And when the Berlin Wall is unveiled next year, we will be on the world map.

3. One grassroots leader told me that all the coffee shops at Reservoir Village did a roaring business that night. With more activities around the reservoir, I hope there'll be more business activity with the outlets nearer the water's edge going up in value. A posting on the website had one restaurant owner complaining about the lack of support from regulatory authorities. I've asked the shop committee to find out what can be done but I must say that, on the whole, the authorities, especially PUB, NParks, HDB and URA, have been helpful in the last few years. Otherwise we would not be seeing all these activities now. I must also acknowledge the good work of Koh Hup Leong and his Reservoir Village Shop Committee.

View the full set of photos of the performance here
Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr George Yeo,

Since you did not accept my invitation for Nasi Padang, I thought I should write to you for the last time before my staff and I leave Bedok Reservoir for good in a few days time. I am solely responsible for the business failure but I thought you might like to read my oxymoron experience directly from me.

1) Business.
In the 3 evenings of performances, the other coffee shops did roaring business probably because we closed as usual at 7pm including our toilets and changing rooms that are closest to the park. The crowd would have warranted 10 additional helpers and big revenue expected, the question is probably "why did we close at 7pm?". It was an easy decision to close but a tough one to explain. If there is a chance, maybe my staff, who lose their jobs and who are all residents in your precinct, can express their disappointment better and in simpler terms.

Except for the banner announcing it at the playground, I wonder what “Reservoir Village” is all about when there seems to be no ACTIVE shops open near the reservoir. This is a dead-locked situation where the customers wait for more varieties, more shops/stalls to open and at the same time the operators are waiting for more crowd to come before they open. The performances might give you the impression that it is a happening place, but on other nights the Reservoir is a “dead” place just like it was before. The new paths and lamps make no difference, there is just no attraction to offer.
A “Chernobyl”, no sound, no birds, no ants.

2) Lack of Communication.
I have requested on several occasions the time-table for the events in Bedok Reservoir and I received no response. Yes, I contacted the correct persons and agencies. I was told the amphi-theatre had no T.O.P. yet. We did not know that the Hydro-Serpians would be staged at this south side of the Reservoir until the props came. I also have no clue when the upgrading will reach my doorsteps and affect us, when the bird-cage hangers will be repainted or relocated, whether there is a new path across the front. Like some of my customers say “don't quit yet, there are big plans for this place, boom for sure just very slow only lah”, but nobody has idea what it is so nobody knows when it is completed for sure.

3) Lack of Support.
Since the naming of Reservoir Village on 16Feb08, nothing had happened. To help myself, I sponsored a Malay cultural dance troupe in May to perform but the approval came 2 days before the event leaving no time to inform the public. Nonetheless, those who heard the kompang gathered like we have never seen before, children sitting on the grass, people dancing with the music. I had proposed to liven up the evenings by inviting the troupe to practice their arts in the park for the community to enjoy and participate, like the Qigong/TaiChi clubs who practice here regularly. My request was rejected and the reason was that the noise might disturb the residents. Agreeing that we should have vibrancy and more activities but the authority cannot accept the noise that come with these. Despite proof that the noise intensity recorded for the performance was only 85dbA, way below nuisance and way below Hydro-Serpien that must have been at least 100dbA. I had previously asked RC to organize events, I got a “no time” response. I had asked RC to organize a bird singing competition, the response was “wait”.

4) Non-Coordinated Effort.
Since the naming of Reservoir Village on 16Feb08, nothing happened. I thought I heard it would be like Holland Village and “conversion to a pub” was suggested to me by your aide. Maybe you did not tell the other agencies or they don't understand or appreciate what you mean. In 2005, the Chief of PUB had also foresee that there will be vibrancy, alfresco and he said merchants around the reservoir should exercise creativity and imagination to liven up. I thought I got the idea but how is this going to happen when :
- Class 2 liquor license is rejected, by default reason. I think we can imagine that a pub needs at least a Class 2 otherwise it is not a pub.
- Public Entertainment License for arts & cultural performance is rejected with the reason “location is not suitable”. We are so close to the theater and yet softer, so I wonder how the performances got the license.
- HDB rejects Karaoke when I can prove that residents (especially elderly and mobility-challenged) actually want affordable and accessible singing sessions, even the residents upstairs.
- Commercial initiated activities are discouraged. RC organized activities are welcomed but none happening.
- Since the proposal in 2005 to increase parking spaces, only about 8 (if I count correctly) new lots are created so far. There is a big empty space seems suitable for more parking lots, is it inter-agencies red-tape that is preventing more lots from being built ?

The other common reasons for not approving any vibrant activities are:
- There are child-care centers in the vicinity.
- There are residential units in the vicinity.

5) Rules.
An Eating House operation liaises with many regulatory agencies and many licenses and permits are involved. It is my opinion that some rules are applied because they are there and have been giving no trouble therefore there is no need to revise. This is the general “play safe” and “don't try to be different” attitude we have and maybe that is why there is lack of entrepreneurship in Singapore. Here is an example, the regulation says that the cooking exhaust must not be a nuisance but does not technically define “nuisance” nor provide the technical specification. Everybody install the exhaust the same way and it becomes accepted in the industry until one guy comes out with a better system but looks different. This guy is “hammered” to conform or else. There is absolutely no room for appeal, nor representation, nor explanation, nor consideration. Instead of examining this new ways of doing things and maybe update the obsolete requirement, this guy is treated unforgiving for trying to be a “hero”. So this guy says “pui !” and starts thinking of investing his talent elsewhere.

6) Community.
The man cried because he will lose his tranquility place for rest before a tiring night shift ahead. He fell in love with the place, his regular cup of coffee and the cozy hangout by the park. Over the years, he saw the shops close one-by-one and one after the other. He said the endurance and perseverance of tenants moved him.
The groups of kids from neighbor schools who were chased away from void decks sometimes hang out here, under my surveillance. In real life they are not as bad as we would have imagined after reading the newspaper reports. They have pride and show respect, some even got freelance jobs from me. They say "where we go now?". We can see it as just a business that one can get in and out of, or just a job, or we can appreciate that we may have a social responsible operator that unknowing merge the business into the community. In any case, we are quitting. If possible, please request the new tenant who takes over to retain the mural painted by the students from Temasek Polytechnic School of Media Studies.

Leong CC
Seewater Cafe

Monday, June 23, 2008 6:31:00 pm

Blogger George Yeo 杨荣文 said...

Sorry I was not able to take up your nasi padang offer. I asked the Shop Chairman Koh Hup Leong to see if he could help. But pity things did not work out for your business.

Work to improve Reservoir Village will start soon. We'll have to
coordinate with PUB on the programming of activities on the water's edge. I myself found out about Hydro Sapiens from the Arts Fest brochure when I found to my pleasant surprise that Bedok Reservoir was the venue for the
final event. I invited myself! It takes time for these things to be sorted out.

I know there are lots of regulatory problems. There are conflicting considerations: residents don't want too much noise, NParks don't want to
lose too much park land to car parks, PUB worries about water quality, and so on. But we'll resolve them one by one, finding the proper balance.

Thanks for your views which while they don't benefit you will benefit
others in the future.

Thursday, June 26, 2008 10:59:00 am


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