Sending a little love to arts and F&B this week

Issue 99

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Singapore is now moving closer to a lockdown situation, with the most stringent measures yet being put in place. Bars and entertainment venues are going to be closed until at least the end of April, and gatherings outside of work and school are limited to 10 people and under at any time. There will also be additional social distancing measures, such as reducing operating capacity in places like malls.

There’s been more local cases of COVID-19 in Singapore—there were 49 new cases reported last night, and only 22 were imported—so there’s reason for this increased care. But this is going to be hitting local businesses and groups really hard.

This crisis has highlighted the power differential between landlords and tenants, and many workers in the F&B industry, as well as the arts and culture industry (and more besides!) are going to be facing some really tough times ahead. (Psst, if you have a DBS Home Loan, they have a payment relief scheme in the light of COVID-19 that you can apply for here.)

Therefore, in this week’s issue, I’m going to be highlighting some ways we can send some love to our friends who have worked so hard to feed and entertain and nourish us in more ways than one.

Chope and Save

Chope and Save is a website that collates shops and restaurants that have gift card programmes. At a time when people aren’t going to go out very much and businesses can’t rely on foot traffic or in-person transactions, gift cards could go a long way to helping them maintain cash flow.

If you run a business that offers gift cards, please submit to get yourself listed! If you’re a patron, please consider buying some gift cards!

The Projector

You’ve got to love The Projector. An independent cinema in Golden Mile Tower, it’s a cherished space for civil society and film buffs alike, with the loveliest old-school, laid-back vibe. They don’t take any government grants and have hosted lots of amazing film festivals. They’ve had to close because of the COVID-19 measures, which is going to be really tough—they need over S$100,000 a month to keep running. They’ve got lots of gift options on their website.

Singapore Symphony Orchestra

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra has had to cancel the rest of its season. They’re working on getting livestreams up, but in the meantime you can listen to recordings here (clicks get the orchestra a bit of income!) or make a donation. (I’m personally listening to The Butterfly Lovers concerto right now 💘.) Scroll right to the bottom of their website to sign up for their newsletter and get updates.

Theatre groups

Theatres have had to close too, which means the cancellation or postponement of some amazing shows. Freelance workers are going to be losing out on months of work, but theatre companies themselves are also going to be in a tight spot with salaries and rents to pay. I wish I could list them all, but here are just some: WILD RICE, Drama Box, The Necessary Stage, Teater Ekamatra, Nine Years Theatre, The Finger Players.

SingLit Station

Please support SingLit Station, a very lovely space for Singaporean writers (including me).

That’s it for this week. Once again, I know it’s not a comprehensive list, and I wish I could help more. I think about all the people who might see their income dwindle and I feel really helpless—but I’m not sure what I can do, especially when I’m not particularly confident about my own income (so it’s not like I can send money all over the place). But if there’s some way that I can help, please know that I’m here, and reply to this email or leave a comment to let me know what I can do!


A contribution from Emmy Charissa:

Regional and international organisations of users and survivors of psychiatry, persons with psychosocial disabilities, and psychosocially diverse people from across the world have issued a joint statement about the increased vulnerability of our constituency to COVID-19 and increased violations of our human rights during the pandemic. We call on governments to implement urgent measures to address these vulnerabilities and violations. This post by local group We Who Witness discusses what these measures would look like in the Singapore context.


In other news

The International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, CIVICUS and Human Rights Watch have issued a joint statement calling on the Singapore government to drop the contempt of court investigation into Terry Xu of The Online Citizen, human rights lawyer M Ravi, Mohan Rajangam (the subject of TOC’s articles) and TOC writer Danisha Hakeem.

Election talk continues, even though calling one now seems more and more ridiculous to me. Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said no decision has been made about the date yet, but also said that it would be unconstitutional to extend the government’s term beyond its current limit. The idea of forming a caretaker government was also pooh-poohed. Tan Jee Say of Singaporeans First has disagreed on this point, but I feel like all this talk of extending the current term is a bit of a red herring at this moment, given that the end of the current term is still a year away (April 21, 2021). And only the PAP is talking about needing a mandate to govern during this time—no one else raised it as an issue before Lee Hsien Loong brought it up.

If this were January 2021 with the virus outbreak still raging, sure, we should talk about the possibility of extraordinary measures at extraordinary times. But we’re not at that point yet. We still have a year to see how things go, to learn more about COVID-19 and how to fight it, to develop clear mitigation measures for holding an election during an outbreak that can (and this is important) be communicated early and clearly to all parties, including the public, so that everyone has time to adjust their plans and their expectations. What we should be focusing on is whether we’re going to be having elections now, because that’s what I would call “Bad Idea Bears”.

This past week a 20-year-old was called in by the police for investigation after a photo of him holding up a placard saying “SG IS BETTER THAN OIL @fridays4futuresg” was shared on social media. He was kept for questioning for hours. They also went to his home and seized his laptop, plus the placard. His phone was also seized.

I’m working on a special issue of this newsletter covering what it’s like to get investigated by the police (from the civil society/activist perspective), which will be emailed out to Milo Peng Funders, then made available to everyone else, as soon as possible. Given these recent investigations, it’s become even more timely and necessary. If you have any questions that you’d like me to cover (or try to cover), reply or leave a comment.


Here’s A Nice Thing

Nick Heath is a sports commentator and journalist. As you can imagine, it’s pretty tough being a sports journo when there are no sports (shout-out to my sports journo father-in-law there), so Nick has been making the best of it by providing #LifeCommentary for all sorts of things, from dog chases to bargain-hunting:

If you’ve enjoyed this, you can consider giving Nick a tip. Many thanks to my mother for sending me these Nice Things.


And that’s all from me for this week’s round-up. I’d like to continue highlighting groups, campaigns, grassroots efforts, etc. in need of help and support in future issues of this newsletter, so if you know of a group that should get a little more attention right now, please reply or leave a comment.

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