Love Thy Neighbourhood

Interview by Caitlin de Laure
Photographs courtesy of PTT Family

For a short stretch near the Central Business Area, Keong Saik Road is home to a disproportionate array of contemporary and traditional establishments. Potato Head Folk, resident of the iconic building at the intersection of Keong Saik and Teck Lim Road, chose one sweltering Saturday to breathe unparalleled exuberance into the peaceful neighbourhood. Themed “Old Street, New Treats”, Keong Saik Carnival was strategically concealed by surrounding buildings; only at the turn of a road did it confront you in its bustling entirety.

Throughout the day, visitors milled around, undeterred by the heat. As night progressed, both local and international music acts enjoyed captive audiences, from people sitting on the road listening to The Observatory, to dancefloors forming and dissolving at the Caribbean Block Party and Teepee Stage.

An assortment of vendors selling food, drinks, and even haircuts lined the street, ensuring everyone was spoilt for choice. Supplies & Co., purveyors of accessories and homeware, commented that seeing artisanal products at a carnival was new to some as they expected the usual inexpensive knick-knacks. Nonetheless, bespoke florist Triceratops enjoyed a good reception as people started buying flowers for each other at whim.

The collision of cultures, old and new, local and foreign, culminated in a heady environment of juxtapositions—lion dance performances made way for Afro-Caribbean drum sequences, while the DJ stage took its place barely a minute away from the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple. Aquila Morris-Alleyne, marketing manager of Lime House, explained: “We were really excited when Potato Head Folk approached us to create a Caribbean Block Party because Lime House originated in the Caribbean where there are so many carnivals. It’s wonderful to see the neighbourhood coming together…in such a historically significant place.”

For insight on what went down behind-the-scenes, we speak to Potato Head Folk’s creative director Earn Chen, who explains the conception and execution of this celebration.

Love Thy Neighbourhood keong saik potato head

What prompted Potato Head Folk to organise this event?

It started when the Singapore Tourism Board approached us to curate an event to bring awareness to Keong Saik Road and its history and culture. We came up with the idea of a carnival to showcase this historic area with a modern twist, the result of an 11-month long planning process.

What is Potato Head Folk’s vision for the neighbourhood?

Located in a historical building that was built in 1939, Potato Head Folk’s vision is to create an appreciation for the area without compromising its values or heritage. The Keong Saik Carnival enabled us to bridge the gap between generations and cultures, with the discovery of shared experiences through music and the arts. We saw younger carnival goers and expats appreciating traditional programmes like the Lion Dance performance, and the young-at-heart dancing in front of the DJ stage. That for us was the most rewarding.

Love Thy Neighbourhood keong saik potato head

Read more in The U Press N˚12 (Singapore edition).