Few places have made as much effort to overturn stereotypes about their city as Singapore.
Once regarded as an island that enforced stultifying uniformity, Singapore has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in venues for the performing arts, supported concerts and festivals by internationally renowned performers and encouraged local artists to break the mould.
On the other hand, one facet of Singapore’s image that has never suffered from negative perceptions is food. Top-class cuisine has always been one of Singapore’s attractions although today that means that you are as likely to experience a Michelin-starred French restaurant or enjoy an exclusive Japanese izakaya, as it is to tuck into some Hainanese chicken rice at a hawker centre.
In truth, Singapore has slowly but surely added more elements of international sophistication that sit with an island-state whose economy and infrastructure have long set the pace of development in Asia.
The Sun Festival condensed these elements in a programme that was both ambitious and headspinning in its variety.
Held from October 3-12, 2009, the Singapore Sun Festival gathered under the theme “The Art of Living Well”, this year’s festival packed in a programme of varied events in the fields of music, the virtual arts, literature, film, wine, cuisine and wellness.
Musical highlights included concerts by icons such as Elvis Costello at one end of the spectrum and classical flautist James Galway at the other. Joan Chen, who shot to international stardom with her role in The Last Emperor, hosted film nights and a private sponsored dinner party with SG Private Banking Group. There were dancers from the Bolshoi, performances by the opera diva Angela Gheorghiu and public discussions with Nobel-prize winning writer Wole Soyinka among others.
Standard Chartered sponsored a reception with spiritual guru Deepak Chopra and the festival included a Sun Yoga Conference, where top teachers hoped to stretch minds as well as muscles.
Aside from this bulging programme, the Sun Festival was also showcasing Singapore itself. The Fullerton Hotel, the island’s former main post office and now an iconic deluxe property, hosted many of the stars and some of the events such as private dinners. The hotel’s Straits Room hosted culinary luminaries such as Art Smith from the US and Thierry Marx from Paris.
The Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay was one of the main venues providing both indoor space with its concert hall as well as its outdoor theatre for concerts.
Events were also held at a number of Singapore’s museums and galleries, showing off not only some unique venues but allowing a Singaporean cultural backdrop. The Peranakan Museum, for example, which houses a history of the Straits Chinese also known as Babas and Nonyas, held a “Baba Bling” evening. The cocktail event was sponsored by a local jewel company that specialises in premium jewellery in the ornate Peranakan style.
On the banks of the Singapore River, a special hospitality tent was set up catering to VIPs, corporate sponsors and international media. The Sun Tent was decorated with a strong Arabic theme with carpets from a local carpet gallery and catering and bar service from Harry’s, a legendary Singaporean pub on Boat Quay that has now spawned a chain across the island.
Naturally, the event draws a number of top-flight sponsors, such as Mercedes-Benz (see box, right), SG Private Banking Group, Standard Chartered, The Fullerton Hotel and Singapore Airlines. The festival also provided plenty of opportunities for corporate hospitality (see box, below).
Such has been the success of the festival, now in its third year, that its 2008 programme was recently awarded Leisure Event of the Year by Singapore Tourism Board’s Singapore Experience Awards.
Helfried Scharf is head of external affairs and communications for Daimler South East Asia, whose Mercedes-Benz marque was one of the Sun Festival’s major sponsors
“As a premium brand, we obviously feel that the festival’s ‘Living Well’ slogan fits perfectly with what Mercedes-Benz represents to our customers and potential customers. We are a brand that people aspire to and value for excellence in making their lives better and more comfortable.
“We assist the organisers in various ways. The most obvious is that the VIP performers have chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz cars at their disposal. Of course, this also reinforces the idea of exclusivity and that those who ride in Mercedes-Benz vehicles are special.
“As a major sponsor, our name and Mercedes-Benz logo is seen everywhere within the festival’s promotional literature and clearly that has recognition value.
“However, I would stress that our sponsorship of arts projects is also part of how we feel our company should work with local communities, with young people and so on. Our sponsorship of the Sun Festival is also an expression of how much Mercedes-Benz values the importance of arts and culture in people’s lives and we are happy to be associated with it.”
Be my guest
Corporate hospitality packages are a key part of any major event. The Sun Festival’s organisers offered a Premium Corporate Hospitality Package. There was a required minimum booking of 20 tickets and those booking 50 tickets or more were given an exclusive branded reception area.
Among the offerings were:
• Premium seats for invited guests or clients
• Glass of champagne on arrival in a specially reserved VIP area
• Premium wine and canapés at receptions prior to the concerts, during intervals and after the concert
• Opportunities to meet VIP guest celebrities and performers in an intimate setting
• Souvenir concert programmes or CDs