The Straits Times : Tiong Bahru, the movie

The Straits Times
Life!
Apr 29, 2010
By Magdalen Ng

London-based film-makers Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy were shocked during their first visit to Tiong Bahru Market when their order of carrot cake arrived.

Lawlor and Molloy decided on Tiong Bahru for their film project as it was one of the oldest Housing Board (sic) estates. They are now familiar with the popular food stalls at the market. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

'It looked nothing like the carrot cake that we were used to. But it's quite good, actually,' says Lawlor in a recent interview with Life! at the Tiong Bahru Market.

Now he and his wife are no longer strangers to the market and even know which hawker stalls are the most popular.

They have been speaking to store owners and visitors to the area as part of their research for the next short film that they are making.

Set in and around the Tiong Bahru estate, the movie is part of Civic Life: Tiong Bahru, a community arts project exploring identity, memory, architecture, a sense of place and civic space that will take place in the second half of this year.

The project is a collaboration between the British Council and the National Museum of Singapore with support from the Singapore International Foundation. There will also be an online film competition for Singaporeans.

'The British Council is a cultural relations agency whose aim is to create meaningful discussions around the ideas of creativity, culture and education. This project involves close collaboration with our Singaporean partners and a rich engagement between Singaporean and British artists,' says Mr Dan Prichard, director of programmes of the British Council in Singapore.

He adds: 'Joe and Christine's films are beautiful, but it is their commitment to the community and their engagement with the community at all levels in the project that make the Civic Life films so special.'

Lawlor and Molloy's movie, as yet untitled, is the third in a series of short films involving communities that they are making.

The first two Civic Life films were set in Dublin, Ireland, the duo's hometown. Moore Street was filmed along the iconic street where many migrant communities settle, while Leisure Centre focused on the leisure centre situated on Main Street Ballymun, which has long been associated with crime and poverty in the media. Both films were praised at various international film festivals.

For their Singapore film, they surveyed other places including Bedok before deciding on Tiong Bahru, because it is one of the oldest estates in Singapore, and is a place rich with history and culture. Also, almost every Singaporean they encountered seemed to have an opinion about Tiong Bahru Market.

'Some of the people we spoke to used to live here and have since moved away. But they still come back week after week to eat their favourite food,' says Lawlor.

Molloy adds: 'But there are others who refuse to come back after the refurbishment of the market, because they feel it's no longer the same place they remember.'

While filming is slated to take place in June, they are still working on the plot and script after three visits to Singapore. They plan to develop the script gleaned from conversations with residents and visitors in the area.

They are also inviting people to contribute their memories of the place to the project at the website, http://www.civiclife.sg./

'There are certain things that we will definitely include, but we don't know exactly what we want to do yet,' says Lawlor.

songyuan@sph.com.sg

Submit your memories of Tiong Bahru for this project at www.civiclife.sg

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