Singapore Writers Festival Returns

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By Zara Karimi (18A01A) and Nadine Staes-Polet (18A01B)

The front page of the SWF programme brochure, accessible via the SWF website.

Clear out your calendars for the second week of November, because the Singapore Writers Festival is back with its 20th edition!

The Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) is an annual literary event organized by the National Arts Council (NAC). Over the past few decades, SWF has grown from a niche platform showcasing emerging local talent, to an exciting outreach event featuring both local and international writers, academics and thinkers. Last year, it engaged over 41 000 people, establishing itself as one of the region’s premier literary events. This year, SWF will be taking place in the Civic District from the 3rd to the 12th of November.

The theme for SWF this year is ‘Aram’ (அறம்), taken from Thirukkural, an ancient text widely revered as one of the Tamil language’s most influential works. This is SWF’s first ever Tamil theme, part of a larger, more inclusive narrative that featured ‘Sayang’ as last year’s theme, serving to cement SWF’s position as one of the few multi-lingual literary festivals in the world. ‘Aram’ zeroes in on the universal ethical concept of what ‘goodness’ really entails, seeking to question ethical quandaries and moral conundrums.

As Festival Director Yeow Kai Chai shares: “We are always looking for new ways to use SWF as a platform to question different ideals and provoke thought amongst readers and writers alike.”

A photograph by Alecia Neo, a visual artist commissioned to respond to the theme of ‘Aram’. Neo has also produced a video art project, accessible here.

“The richly nuanced theme of ‘Aram’ is complex and multi-layered, and with conflict and tensions rife in our world today, we hope that this year’s like up of authors and programming will inspire festival-goers to reflect upon the concept of ‘goodness’ in thoughts, words and action.”

For the uninitiated, here’s how SWF works. Festival events are divided into five groups; SWF Class (featuring workshops and masterclasses), SWF Stage, (mainly performances and lectures) SWF Pop (pop-up events and performances), SWF3 (events for families) and SWF Beyond (featuring exhibitions, film screenings, panels and more.) While free events abound at the festival, the value-for-money Festival Pass grants you access to a wider variety of events throughout. Masterclasses and workshops, however, tend to be ticketed separately, so do be sure to snap up seats before they sell out.

This year’s festival will feature 240 local literary talents, and 65 international creative talents, from Colombia to Hong Kong to Israel. In addition to being an important platform in promoting Singapore’s emerging and established writers to Singaporeans, SWF also invites international writers for fruitful exchanges of opinions and learning opportunities.

Aside from the list of five headlining authors released by the NAC in August – Tony Parsons (UK), Ken Liu (US), Perumal Murugan (India), Lu Min (China) and Datin Saidah Rastam (Malaysia) – SWF features writers from one country every year to share their experiences with their local literary scene.

This year’s country of focus is Ireland, featuring 8 Irish authors in panels and talks. Alongside this, SWF 2017 will be casting a spotlight on Southeast Asian literature, and use the Festival as a platform for cultural exchange by presenting authors across the region in celebration of ASEAN 50. Other notable writers attending include Jay Asher, author of smash-hit young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, as well as critically acclaimed American writer Junot Díaz, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008.

Author Jay Asher alongside his book, Thirteen Reasons Why, which has since been adapted into a controversial Netflix series.

As always, there is truly something for everyone at this year’s SWF, from writing clinics, to talks and panel discussions on serious topics like “Hope and Resistance in the Age of Dystopia” and even more lighthearted issues such as “Travel Writing in the Age of Instagram” and “The Enduring Allure of the Moomins”. If nothing particularly tickles your fancy, SWF’s highly anticipated closing debate is always a winner. The motion for this year’s debate is ‘This House Believes that Kiasuism Is a Good Singaporean Trait’.

Whether you’re looking to brush up your writing skills, meet your favourite authors, expose yourself to new literature, or just looking to have a good time, SWF is the place to be this November. For more information on the programme, check out the Advance Programme Brochure on the SWF website for more details on upcoming events.

Early-bird tickets are available from now till the 30th of September via SISTIC at All early bird tickets will be sold at a 20% discount, including the Festival pass at $20.00 (regularly priced at $25). For more information on ticketing, check out the Singapore Writers Festival Ticketing Guide, or the Facebook page at

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