Swing Singapore

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala

Swing Singapore began as a street party in 1988 and continued as a part of the National Day celebrations until 1992 when variations of the event were starting to be held.1 For example, the Millennium Swing Singapore in 1999 made the annual street party a New Year’s countdown celebration instead.2 Similarly, Orchard Road had been the main venue for Swing Singapore when it first started. But, this has since moved to other locations such as the Padang and the Singapore Expo.

About 250,000 people attended Swing Singapore in August 1988 on Orchard Road to dance to music blasted from huge loudspeakers by popular singers and disc jockeys. Orchard Road was turned into a kaleidoscope of lights for the event, which was organised by Singapore Armed Forces Reservists’ Association (SAFRA), and sponsored and produced by Fraser & Neave (F&N).3

The event was planned in 17 days. A telephone survey was conducted to find out the estimated number of attendees and a traffic-build up chart was drawn up based on the survey findings. Nine working committees with a total of 411 people were set up. Organisers used enough sound systems to power 50 discos, emp lighting to light up 400 HDB flats, 13,000 m of cables and 1.2 km of cloth to become the largest outdoor party ever held in Singapore.4 Around 500,000 MRT trips were made between Saturday, 27 August and the wee hours of Sunday, 28 August for the party.5 Swing Singapore became an annual event incorporated into the National Day celebrations due to its huge success.

1989 and 1990 National Day celebrations
The inaugural National Day celebrations, held on 19 August 1989, included members of the Handicap Welfare Association and student trumpeters from six schools.6 A new dance called Orchard Swing, specially choreographed for the event, was featured at the opening ceremony.7 Around 300,000 people from different backgrounds attended the event.

The 1990 celebrations featured a two huge video screens and eight smaller ones along Orchard Road. A crowd of nearly 500,000 danced to the tunes spun by popular disc jockeys. Laser shows, fireworks and a release of 25,000 balloons made the 1990 event a more memorable one. The 1990 event was organised by the Singapore Joint Civil Defence Forces (SJCDF) and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and co-sponsored by Yeo Hiap Seng Singapore Ltd and Commercial and Industrial Security Corporation (CISCO) as a countdown event to the National Day celebrations.8

Despite being a phenomenal success, Swing Singapore was discontinued in 1992. It was replaced by the Padang Campfire as a countdown to the National Day celebrations. The replacement was chosen as the organisers wanted to come up with something new in which whole families could take part.9 Nevertheless, Swing Singapore continues to be held intermittently, though not as a part of National Day celebrations. The Millennium Swing Singapore party was held on 31 December 1999 as a countdown to year 2000 at Orchard Road.10 On 16 November 2002, SAFRA held the Swing Singapore party indoors at the Singapore Expo.11


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Swing Singapore. (1988, August 29). The Straits Times, p. 17; Swing Singapore out, Padang campfire in. (1992, July 23). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Tan, K. T. (1999, December 28). “Good, clean fun” at Dec 31 street partiesThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Swing Singapore, swing on Aug 27. (1988, August 13). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Ong, L. (1988, August 31). How the party was planned in 17 daysThe Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Swing Singapore. (1988, August 29). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Chua, M. (1989, September 2). Handicapped thank Safra for swinging timeThe Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Fanfare to kick off Swing Singapore. (1989, August 11). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
8. Fireworks, lasers at Swing Singapore; Grand midnight countdown to Aug 9. (1990, July 18). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Swing Singapore out, Padang campfire in. (1992, July 23). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tan, K. T. (1999, December 28). “Good, clean fun” at Dec 31 street partiesThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Safra to host biggest party indoors. (2002, October 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The information in this article is valid as at 2018 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Events>>National Celebrations
People and communities>>Social interaction
National celebrations
National Day (Singapore)