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Support local because it’s good: Creative industry leaders discusses local arts scene in Y-Talk

The local arts and culture scene was thrust into the spotlight in the second episode of Y-Talk.

Jeremy Na

Just like that Khalid song, Young, dumb and broke. Ok maybe not dumb but definitely the other two.

Published: 15 January 2021, 12:24 PM

If there was a reason to support local talents in the art scene, it should be because they are good and not purely because they are local. 

That was a point brought up by Zendyll Music founder and Singapore artiste Jon Chua in the second episode of Y-Talk, Youthopia’s signature video series where we meet outspoken and driven youths to discuss what they’re passionate about.

Jon was joined by 2019 recipient of the National Arts Council Arts Scholarship, writer Jemimah James Wei, and Sinema.SG co-founder Nicholas Chee, as they discussed the Singapore arts and culture scene. 

The half-hour long discussion touched on key topics such as COVID-19’s impact on the industry, how the arts and culture scene has progressed over the years and what they feel is vital for the industry’s success.



The pandemic meant that most events and networking sessions in the arts and culture scene have moved online. 

Jemimah felt that the digitalisation of the writing scene has helped the local literary scene close the gap between it and the international literary scene. The difference between both used to lie in its interactivity. 

But now that most networking events are held online, the divide between them is no longer as noticeable.


With a background in hosting and blogging, Jemimah Wei recently made her entry into the Singaporean literary scene about one and a half years ago. PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@JEMMAWEI


Unfortunately for the music industry, Jon feels like it is still going through a tough time as performances and studio productions have been hit hard by the pandemic.

For those heavily invested in the local film industry, Nicholas has some uplifting news. He feels that the film industry is finally starting to pick up after taking a hit during the circuit breaker. 

Recovery seems to be well on its way although concerns remain regarding the limitations placed on cinemas as a result of the pandemic.

“At the end of the day, tickets need to be sold and people need to recoup their investment so more films can be made,” said Nicholas.

However, Nicholas feels that as a result of the pandemic, there will be more strong youths who are able to face future disasters and situations. 

“We are coming out of the darkness. Everybody should come together to see what we can do together,” he said.


Jemimah felt that the writing community is now stronger as there is less divide between a trained writer and those just entering the industry due to improved communication.

“When I was growing up I didn’t have the opportunity to look at someone and think to myself that ‘this is what they’re doing, they’re from a similar class background to me, this is how they made it work’. I didn’t have that. But now that everything’s online, it’s so much easier to reach out to someone,” said Jemimah.

For Jon, he realised that over the last decade, many people who work in the arts and culture industry tend to go overseas for experience. He felt that studying how it is done overseas and bringing it back to Singapore will go a long way to improve the local arts infrastructure.

“Sometimes the solution is so simple but we can never think about it until we actually see someone else in another country do it,” said Jon.


As the lead guitarist for one of Singapore’s biggest bands, The Sam Willows, Jon has also started his own music and culture agency, Zendyll Productions. PHOTO CREDIT:@JONCHUAJX


In regards to the film industry, Nicholas feels that over the last five years, youths have had it good in terms of recognition for the industry in terms of the public and the government.

In the early days of the industry the focus was always more on directors but these days, the focus has also shifted to writers and producers as they are just as important to the production of any film.


To allow our arts and culture scene to thrive, the Government has also announced additional relief measures for the arts and culture sector. 

This new grant is part of the $55 million Arts and Culture Resilience package to support the arts and culture sector amid the pandemic. More than 300 key arts and culture organisations will get a one-off operating grant of $50,000 or $75,000 depending on their size. 

The National Arts Council’s Arts Resource Hub (ARH) will also ramp up efforts to support freelancers, providing holistic support across the areas of job facilitation, capability development, legal and financial knowledge, and digitalisation.

For Jemma, the ARH is a fantastic place to get started. When she first started as a freelancer, she had no idea about the more pragmatic side of things such as legal rights, calculating rates and drafting invoices. 

Partly due to Singapore’s more conservative culture, she found it difficult to get information about these topics due to how private people tend to be about them.

Nicholas also believes that the grant would work well as it is structured in a way where the money goes to the people who form the backbone of the industry, such as producers, band managers and literary agents. To him, this is key to facilitating a faster recovery.


A pioneer in the Singaporean film industry, Nicholas Chee is the co-founder of Sinema.SG, Singapore’s first independent theatre. PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@_NICHOLASCHEE_


For Jon, he feels that the next step for our arts and culture scene is to find out how we can elevate it to where it holds a higher value, where people don’t support local just because it’s local but because it’s good.

To him, it is a mentality that has to change.

“People shouldn’t support local [talents] just because it’s local. Support it because it’s good,” urged Jon.

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