One of the most time consuming and tiring tasks of Chingay seems deceivingly small – the elaborate costumes.
"My happiest and most satisfying moment is when I see dancers wearing the costumes I had sourced and tailored," reminisced People's Association's (PA) senior manager for Arts Project under PA’s SCENE, Mr Lim Geok Boon. The 60-year-old Mr Lim has been working behind the scenes since Chingay 1980. Taking care of the costumes, the sound system, props and other equipment that choreographers require for the various performances, he has seen it flourish from a simple procession to the grand street parade we know today.
Given that his team is small and comprises only three full-time staff members, their work is immense. The minute the Chingay's production group hands the concept art plan over, the team begins work. They have to source for supplies, purchase materials, outsource the tailoring of the costumes, oversee the making of the props and much more. Without their efforts, there can be no beautiful costumes, no amazing props.
As Chingay evolves to showcase Singapore's multicultural and cosmopolitan diversity, the costumes have to reflect this change. Travelling abroad to source for good and cheap materials has become part of Mr Lim's job. Starting in 2009, he has travelled extensively to Malaysia, Thailand, China and even as far as Brazil. His mission is to source costumes that can dazzle and charm for Chingay.
He acknowledges that treasure hunting is not easy and there could be pitfalls. "What matters is the end result. As long as I can meet the needs of the Parade and find materials to our liking, I think it is well worth the effort."
In preparation for Chingay 2010, Mr Lim made a field trip to Brazil's Samba Carnival in 2009. He was thoroughly impressed and wanted to buy a set of costumes for reference however the organisers refused to sell any to him. He was dejected but not for long. By a stroke of good luck, he found a discarded costume by the roadside. It was a massive costume and weighed over 10kg. Mr Lim was not to be stopped, the costume was going back to Singapore with him.
Producing similar costumes with modification was no easy matter. Despite approaching many suppliers, no one in Singapore seemed able to come up with suitable materials, nor were they able to provide craftsmen for the work. He had to look overseas. He brought the giant costume to Guangzhou and Bangkok. Finally, he succeeded — with the help of three suppliers from two different cities.
Adapted from: Tales of Chingay – Celebrating 40 Years of Chingay
Written by: Wang Qian
Translated by: Ong Hui Fang