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Aug 16, 2013

People's Parade - National Day Celebration For Everyone

"One idea is set up a "Celebration Row" divided into sections, each with a theme which could also be projected by hotels, restaurants and shopping centre in the area.  Source::  The Straits Times

This "instintive" personal blog to express is inspired by the previous topic:  Journey to National Day Parade - Then and Now" .

This is another story on another blog at another time...

While watching National Day Parade 2013 on TV at home, my mind was switched back 48 years ago to the first National Day Parade on 9th August, 1966.  I did not realise that my participation as a citizen of independent Singapore's first national birthday was historic, memorable for me personally.

I was then my last year in Outram Secondary School in 1966 and had the opportunity to participate as a member of the Singapore Red Cross Society (previously the British Red Cross Society when I joined in Secondary One) contingent for the first National Day.

Looking back, I remember how simple but dignified and solemn National Day parade on the Padang.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his cabinet colleagues were dressed in white long and short-sleeved  shirts and white pants (now commonly known as the "Men in White"),  the VIPs and invited guests behind them were in suits and ties.  The antiquated wooden chairs were provided for them.

Under the scorching hot sun on the Padang that afternoon, my schoolmates of the various uniformed groups (Red Cross, Police Cadets, Scouts and others) stood in attention ("sedia") or at ease ("senang diri") at the parade commander's orders.  We waited for the arrival of the then first President, Inche Yusof Bin Ishak and everyone at the parade stood in attention and sang our National Anthem, "Majullah Singapura" with respect and pride.

At the first traditional National Day Parade, the President inspected the Guard-of-Honour in a military jeep.

At about 6.30 pm with the approach of  darkness in the sky over the Padang and the City Hall, the last participating contingent marched off at St Andrews Road to salute to the President, Prime Minister and the spectators at the steps of City Hall.

As a finale for the day's event, the loud and noisy drums and cymbals from the local members of the Chinese martial art groups and performed by the lion and dragon dancers with "kungfu" ("wushu") demonstrations to entertain the spectators.

That's my personal experience and collective memories of my first National Day Parade on 9th August, 1966.

Somewhere along the way as my memories linger over the journey of the National Day Parades over the decades, I wondered how much have changed in the ways of our once-a-year memorable celebration as Singaporeans then and now.

I vaguely remembered that an old article which appeared in the Straits Times many years ago, there was a suggestion about the presentation format, theme or concept of the National Day Parade.

As I did not have a newspaper clipping of this particular article, I sought the assistance of "ASK", the Reference Point remote reference enquiry service provided by the National Library Singapore.

I can ask for assistance in identifying and using appropriate printed and electronic resources to meet the information needed. National Library's reference librarians will provide answers to queries, suggest search strategies and guide you to relevant and useful resources. 

This is not the first time I have requested the National Library to help me for stuff and information on my heritage blogs with themes on educational and memories of Singapore blog topics in the past.  This is another "memory aid" resources from Google, related photos or images from the National Archives of Singapore, Straits Times and other publications or blogs of  same-minded friends (known or unknown contributors) to whom I readily credit them whenever available with acknowledgement and thanks.  As this is a non-profit, commercial blog to share with everyone on "blogosphere".

As Norman Lear said, "You receive as you give. But you have to expend energy to get energy. Electricity happens from rubbing two wires together. That's what giving does for me."  For the benefit of our blog readers and fellow bloggers for their generosity and appreciation to share knowledge and collective memories. For the help of so many resource people and friends directly or indirectly, thank you.  Without their help, the blogs to express would be "expressless" and meaningless to share.

With thanks to Reference Point of National Library for the required answers to my question two days ago, I am pleased to reproduce this article from "The Straits Times", 29 August 1987 Page 24 here:

The story on this blog ...   (Source:  National Library Board adn Singapore Press Holdings).

How to make National Day celebrations even better


Though the much-heralded show of the year has come and gone, the National Day parade is still a talking point in many circles.  The organisers, in particular, are doing their post-mortem and tossing ideas for future, even better, shows.  This article suggests how it can be turned into a birthday bash in  which everyone can take part.

National Day should serve as a unifying symbol of patriotism, pride and a sense of  common achievement.  There still will be a place for pomp and ceremony as well as some high-flying performances to add glitter to the occasion.  But mostly the celebration should be about Singaporeans coming out of their homes and getting together to exchange National Day greetings, toast their nation and simply enjoy themselves.

AFTER  two great National Day parades in a row, achieving a hat-trick next year will require organisers to turn a whopper of a show into a whale of an event.

The difference is that a great show needs merely crackerjack techniques and a big turnout of spectators.  But a great event is a shared experience - a tempting party in which you itch to take part.

That missing element of a party mood was what made the National Day shows of this year and last year - both good as television productions - fall short of becoming exciting events.

We saw it last year at the National Stadium, where an audience of 60,000 lingered to keep on singing and waving their torches after the curtains came down, but got no encore.  This year, thousands of happy-to-be-there Singaporeans, waiting outside the parade ground, streamed in to sing and dance unabashedly with spectators after the last act.  But, as before, the television cameras were switched off and the pulse of the show rapidly faded away.

What future organisers should consider are ways of making the parade part of a bigger, people-oriented event to encourage wider participation.

The parades of old used to be rah-rah displays dominated by the military.  As the concept changed to project pageantry and showmanship, the influence of television grew more obvious.

In recent years, the parades stopped going out into the streets and housing estates and were instead brought into living rooms via television.

This transformed hundreds of thousands of interested Singaporeans from active National Day participants into mere observers.

Another effect of turning the parade into a "video spectacle" is that audiences get harder to please each year.  The first question to pop into the minds of future parade organisers inevitably will be:  What can we lay on this year to make the razzle-dazzle more dazzling?

Make it a big event

Surely the question should instead be:  How can we get more Singaporeans to celebrate National Day as one people?

One answer is to make it a big event which will encourage more people to join in.  Instead of a one-and-a-half-hour television show before a limited number of invited spectators, let's make it an all-day party for all Singaporeans.

National Day should serve as a unifying symbol of patriotism, pride and a sense of common achievement.  ( Note: the sentence in bold and italic font is highlighted by me).

There still will be a place for pomp and ceremony as well as some high-flying performances to add glitter to the occasion.  But mostly the celebration should be about Singaporeans coming out of their homes and getting together to exchange National Day greetings, toasting their nation and enjoying themselves.

Children may find it fun to wave flags and the new -fangled torches with chemical luminescence.  Teenagers may prefer to disco in red and white outfits.  And adults may enjoy seeing the city aglow with lights or eating out with family and neighbours.

There is no need to go overboard with super-duper effects every year, but we should strive for bold approaches to mark anniversaries of significance.

For example, why don't we throw Singapore a really super party on its 25th birthday in 1990?

One location for the party could be the historic area stretching from Raffles' landing site by the Singapore River, across the Padang to an invented portion of modern Singapore - Marina Centre.

Starting in the morning with carnival-type activities along Marina Park, the party could build up into the evening with a new-style parade that is taken into the streets.  The night might end with National Day dinners and informal get-togethers in the same area.  All the night functions could be synchronised so Singaporeans could drink a common toast to the nation and sing with one voice at the end of a short ceremonial segment broadcast "live" from City Hall.

It is true that this approach would present some difficulties.

Traffic and crowd control alone would represent a big headache.  For instance, extra security measures had to be taken at this year's parade because of the tall buildings which had sprung up near the Padang. Policemen were stationed on all the Westin Stamford's guestroom floors, and plainclothers policemen were also assigned to the Marina Mandarin, Oriental Singapore and Pan-Pacific.

Logistical problems

During last year's parade, about 1,800 policemen were on ;duty for crowd control and security.  This year about 2,400 men were deployed because more roads were affected by National Day activities.  But these and other logistical problems are not insurmountable.

With the experience gained from the other major events organised here, plus wider private-sector support and sponsorship, 1990's mammoth party could be a milestone in the short history of National Day celebrations.

The practical, farsighted and useful lessons to be learnt from his long-forgotten article written by Ivan Fernandez 26 years ago with vision and lots of imagination.

He wouldn't believed that the venue for our National Day Parade in recent years was held at  The Float at Marina Bay and maybe the next venue at "Singapore Sports Hub", Asia's most inspiring destination for sports and entertainment when it is ready in mid-2014. Akan Datang! "The best is yet to be"!



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