Substation event gets police nod after civil society groups excluded

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Zul Othman
Wednesday • September 26, 2007

THE police have turned down a request by The Substation to organise an outdoor flea market that would have included booths run by 19 civil society groups.

The flea market was supposed to be part of a six-hour event, The Tunnel Party, last Saturday to mark the 17th anniversary of The Substation, Singapore's first independent, non-profit, multi-disciplinary arts centre founded by late theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun.

It was to have been held next to the Fort Canning Tunnel and also feature music and arts shows.

A police spokesperson said: "In the Substation's initial application for the event, the police noted it would include outdoor booths for civil society groups to promote their cause."

The groups included the Vegetarian Society, the Cat Welfare Society and two gay support groups Pelangi Pride Centre and Women Who Love Women.

"(We) informed the organisers of our position of not allowing outdoor events assessed to be contrary to public interest," the police spokesperson added.

Rather than call off the show, the organisers decided to rebrand it as the SeptFest Gig and moved it to the pavement area behind the Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Law and School of Accountancy.

The change was met with approval by the authorities.

The organisers "have done away with the outdoor booths for civil society groups. As such, the police have approved the application for SeptFest", said the police spokesperson.

The SeptFest Gig had some 23 outdoor booths, ranging from flea markets vendors to stalls peddling homemade jewellery. It attracted some 700 visitors.

The Substation's artistic co-director Lee Weng Choy told Today "it was important for us to continue with the event … because we see it as part of a large process".

The group deems such events as important because if these gatherings are successful, it said, it sets a positive precedent for engagement between the arts, civil society and the authorities.

Mr Lee said: "Some of our stakeholders, such as the bands, the commercial flea market groups and the public, might lose faith in The Substation if we cancelled an event again."

Last year, the police turned down its application to close down Armenian Street for a street party, also a collaboration with artists, arts groups and civil society groups.