Plus 360 writers and a bevy of new youth-centric events

For literary geeks and aspiring writers on the edge of their seats for news, the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) is officially returning for its 21st edition on Nov 2-11. This year, look forward to over 300 programmes from more than 360 international and Singaporean writers—plus a noticeable new trend towards millennial programming.

As a sort of round-up to the past years’ mother tongue-focused themes (Sayang in 2016 and Aram in 2017), the 2018 Festival theme is jie, or ‘world’ in Mandarin; SWF 2019 will celebrate the Eurasian community in Singapore. A broad concept to play off, for jie allows this year’s dialogues to cover the worlds we live in, our identities, exploring new worlds and much more.

In unpacking the theme, a few sub-themes featuring big names in the literary scene will help govern the programming—namely fantasy and speculative fiction, technology and digital media, eco-consciousness, medical humanities, and trans-national identities. If you fancy sci-fi and the dystopia, attend a talk by Singapore’s own Rachel Heng (author of Suicide Club) or chat with Indonesian author Intan Paramaditha, whose body of work explores the intersection between gender, culture and politics in the horror genre. Or should you like to partake in eco-consciousness, there’ll be an exclusive lecture from climate change expert Jeff Goodell on humanity’s fraught relationship with our planet; in walking the talk, SWF will provide all authors with reusable water bottles throughout the Festival. One highlight to watch out for is this year’s Closing Debate (Nov 11), which in addressing technology and digital media will pit stalwarts Gwee Li Sui and Adrian Tan against newer personalities Daryl Qilin Yam and Preetipls, in a debate on whether Singaporeans are better off with social media.


The Arts House, National Gallery Singapore and Temenggong House will serve as the three main venues for the Festival

The Closing Debate isn’t the only thing this year that has a youthful touch. A special music and poetry event Str8 Up: Word On The Street—perhaps not the best named—will marry poetry and hip hop, and be performed by the likes of Vanessa Fernandez, Subhas (Preetipls’ rapping brother), and Pooja Nansi—who recently did a hip hop spoken word of her own; so this should be up her alley. It sits in line with inspiring individuals “with a multiplicity of viewpoints, experiences and perspectives to expand their pre-existing understanding of the world,” according to Festival Director Yeow Kai Chai, who added that hip hop is a natural medium in the evolution of poetry today.

Str8 Up is one of many programmes under the SWF Beyond category; there will also be a mini festival of film screenings adapted from texts, poetry readings, and exclusive literary tours around colonial homes and royal tombs and burial grounds. Otherwise, spend your money at the headliner performances and lectures under SWF Stage, and the workshops and masterclasses under SWF Class; or your time at the free pop-up activities under SWF Pop. A new SWF Late Night programme will also see The Arts House turned into a hubbub of visual installations, more film screenings, and dialogues after dark, so the festivities don’t just end at 6pm.

On top of all that, you’ll be able to catch your favorite local and internationally renowned authors—such as Irvine Welsh (UK), Kiran Desai (US), John Yau (US), Amanda Chong (Singapore), Zurinah Hassan (Malaysia) and Julia Franck (Germany). German writers in particular will get extra spotlight, as Germany is the Country Focus for this year’s Festival. (Another highlight to look forward to is a VR room that will bring Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis to life.)

We’d expect nothing less than an overwhelming line-up for Singapore’s leading literary event, so we highly suggest you start planning your calendar now. It won’t be long till November rolls around.


Singapore Writers Festival 2018 happens Nov 2-11 at various venues. Tickets are available here and more information is available here.