Barbara Quek and Zoe Yeo highlight entertainment magazine covers of yesteryear from the collections of the National Library.
For many of us (of a certain vintage), entertainment magazines were part and parcel of our growing-up years. We spent many delightful hours poring over such magazines for news and gossip of our favourite celebrities or the latest in film, music and fashion. We eagerly awaited to buy the next issue – much to the exasperation of our parents – or else tried to borrow a copy from friends or read it at the library.
Teenagers today are just as enamoured of entertainment magazines as their parents were many years ago; the big difference is that they are spoilt for choice these days. Although the news is likely to be digitally consumed via a smartphone, tablet or notebook, recent research indicates that young people also show a predilection towards reading the tried and tested way – on old-fashioned ink and paper.
Pleasures of the Past
The “golden age of Malay cinema” between 1947 and 1972 saw the emergence of key players like Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Productions and Cathay-Keris, which went on to produce many iconic films during this period. Singapore’s film industry began a slow decline in the post-independence years with the influx of movies from Hong Kong and Taiwan. To fill a void in the local entertainment industry, magazines were launched to keep fans engaged.
Since the early 1950s, women in Singapore have fought for basic rights in marriage, education and work. The growing awareness of women’s rights, aided by the launch of the Singapore Council of Women in 1952 and the Women’s Charter in 1961, unleashed a slew of magazines targeted exclusively at women, such as Malayan Lady and Her World – launched in 1959 and 1960 respectively. Her World was the first of its kind, and has outlived many of its competitors to become the most popular woman’s magazine in Singapore today.
The launch of Singapore’s first television station, Television Singapura, in February 1963 was a game changer in the entertainment scene. Television was such a novelty in those days that viewers were just as entertained by commercials as they were by the actual programmes. Magazines such as TV & Radio Magazine (电视与广播), and later Fanfare and Radio & TV Times, appeared on the scene to capitalise on the allure of television and the accompanying line-up of local celebrities it ushered. Fanfare is no longer around but TV & Radio Magazine and Radio & TV Times have since evolved to become the hugely popular i-Weekly and 8 DAYS respectively, two of Singapore’s longest-running entertainment magazines.
Covers from Yesteryear
The National Library has a rich collection of entertainment magazines acquired over the years or deposited by publishers in the Legal Deposit Collection, an archive of over 1 million items. Highlighted here is a small sampling of magazines from the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library and the Legal Deposit Collection.
|What is PublicationSG
Launched in October 2015, PublicationSG is a dedicated online catalogue of all physical materials found in the Legal Deposit Collection, a rich archive of nearly 1.1 million items that is now available for public access. Serials and magazines comprise 70 percent of the collection, with 25 percent being books and the rest made up of audiovisual materials and maps as well as ephemera. Members of the public can place reservations to view legal deposit items at $1.55 each at the information counters of the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library on levels 7–13 of the National Library Building, or via an online form at eservice.nlb.gov.sg/forms/publicationsg. The items can only be viewed at designated work stations in the reference library.
Written by:Barbara Quek and Zoe Yeo
- Arora, M. (2007). Small steps, giant leaps: A history of AWARE and the women’s movement in Singapore. Singapore: Association of Women for Action and Research. Call no.: RSING 305.42095957 SMA
- Big O. (2016). BigO. Retrieved from BigO website.
- Chew, P., & Lam, J. (Eds.). (1993). Voices & choices: The women’s movement in Singapore. Singapore: Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation and Singapore Baha’i Women’s Committee. Call no.: RSING 305.42095957 VOI
- Chia, E. (2004, March 19). BAE watch. Today, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- Her World is still the No.1 seller. (1999, April 4). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- Lee, S. C. (1988, November 1). It all started with Man in the Net. (1988, November 1). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- Loong, M. L. (Ed.). (1988). On television in Singapore. Singapore: Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. Call no.: RSING 384.554095957 ON
- Singapore Film Commission. (1999). Singapore film directory. Singapore: Singapore Film Commission. Call no.: RSING 384.80255957 SFD
- The ‘supporters’ of entertainment magazines. (1988, November 1). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from
- Toh, C. (2009, December 11). 8 Days every week, 1,000 times. Today, p. 102. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.