Places of Entertainment in the Bras Basah Bugis and Civic District Areas
Curiocity: Places & Perspectives
Looking at Singapore today, it is easy to forget that it was once dotted with kampungs and plantations. And as we have changed, so has our cityscape. By spotlighting selected leisure and entertainment places in downtown Singapore as well as presenting fascinating histories hidden in plain sight, Curiocity gives us an opportunity to examine the evolution of our spaces and reflect on our relationship with them.
Accessible both in-person and online, Curiocity invites you to discover, learn and engage with our island’s history through the content and collections from the National Library Board and its partners. Presented in partnership with the Light to Night Festival 2022, Curiocity: Places & Perspectives is held at the National Library Building (3 January – 3 February 2022) and across several locations in the Civic District (14 January – 3 February 2022). Find out more about the showcase at https://curiocity.nlb.gov.sg/events/curiocity-showcase-2022.
This resource guide has been produced to complement the main showcase ‘Encore in the City’ at the National Library Building, exploring the thematic focus of ‘Places of Entertainment in the Bras Basah Bugis and Civic District areas’.
When it comes to entertainment today, we are spoilt for choice. We can visit a shopping mall, watch shows on our favourite streaming platforms, or scroll endlessly on social media sites like TikTok and Instagram. Singapore’s early immigrants and residents, however, had few activities to occupy themselves beyond vices (such as gambling) and larger organised forms of entertainment associated with religious events. It was only in the late 19th century that entertainment in Singapore started becoming consumptive, and specific indoor entertainment spaces emerged.1
Bras Basah.Bugis and the Civic District are two of Singapore’s oldest districts and are well-known for their concentration of heritage buildings and historic places of worship. These areas were once home to entertainment venues like cinemas and theatres and even a food street that came to life at night with drag queens, singing and other revelry. These places allowed society to gather and share in laughter and happiness with fellow leisure seekers, especially at the turn of the 20th century.
Yung, Sai Shing & Kwok Bun Chan. “Leisure, Pleasure and Consumption: Ways of entertaining oneself.” In Past Times: A social history of Singapore, edited by Chan, Kwok Bun & Chee Kiong Tong, 153-182. Singapore: Times Editions, 2003. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PAS -[HIS])