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Director’s Note


01 April 2016

That’s Entertainment is a delightful vintage MGM film that strings together scenes from the best Hollywood musicals from the 1920s through the 50s. This issue of BiblioAsia may not be in the same league as that film, but it does celebrate the best of entertainment – books, magazines, film, theatre, radio, television, and the like.

The amusement parks of yesteryear, New World, Great World and Happy World, may be physically gone, but these old-fashioned theme parks will always have a special place in the memories of older Singaporeans. Librarian Lim Tin Seng revisits these lost wonderlands in “Old-world Amusement Parks”.

One of the crowd-pullers at these amusement parks was bangsawan, the traditional Malay theatre that recently made a comeback at the Esplanade with the lavish staging of Raden Mas – based on the story of a 16th-century Javanese princess in Temasek. Senior Librarian Juffri bin Supa’at traces the evolution of this erstwhile theatre form in “Seni Persembahan Bangsawan”.

On the subject of lost art, the first fiction films of Singapore were likely made in 1913 by the Frenchman Gaston Méliès. Unfortunately, none have survived the passage of time. How do you write about a film that doesn’t exist? Film director, producer and critic Raphaël Millet fits the pieces of the jigsaw together in “Gaston Méliès and His Lost Films of Singapore”.

Moving from the silver screen to the stage, Stella Kon’s Emily of Emerald Hill and Kuo Pao Kun’s The Coffin is Too Big for the Hole take centre stage – literally – in two iconic plays whose universal themes have captivated audiences time and again. In “One Small Voice: The Monodrama in Singapore Theatre”, drama critic Corrie Tan examines the history of this physically demanding form of theatre.

Radio in Singapore had its modest beginnings in 1924 when expats from the Amateur Wireless Society of Malaya used an aeroplane transmitter to make broadcasts. Chua Ai Lin of the Singapore Heritage Society chronicles “The Story of Singapore Radio” from its nascent days to the pre-war years.

Then came television, 39 years later to be exact – when Television Singapura was launched on 15 February 1963. Media studies lecturer Lau Joon-Nie charts television’s meteoric rise – from the first monochrome broadcasts to on-demand Internet TV – in “Singapore TV: From Local to Global”.

Reading and anything connected with reading is something that resonates soundly with us here at the National Library Board. In her opinion piece, “In Remembrance of Reading”, guest columnist Loh Chin Ee from the National Institute of Education explains why our memories of reading are inextricably linked to the pleasure we derive from reading and the places where we read.

Still on the subject of reading, librarians Barbara Quek and Zoe Yeo showcase a selection of entertainment magazines from the 1930s to more recent times in “From Cover to Cover”. (Some of us may recall reading magazines like Fanfare surreptitiously lest they were seized by disapproving parents or teachers!)

Senior Librarian Gracie Lee goes back even further to 1837 to chart the history of the Raffles Library and Museum – precursor of the National Library as we now know it. Some of the treasured rare books from the old Raffles library (now part of the Rare Materials Collection) are featured in the exhibition “From the Stacks: Highlights of the National Library” on level 10 of the NLB building. The exhibition ends on 28 August, so catch it soon.

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