11 January 2018

True Colours Festival features several inclusive firsts

Source: True Colours Festival website. Some of the featured performers.
Source: True Colours Festival website. Some of the featured performers.

Twenty artistes/troupes will converge in Singapore this March for what will be the first and largest gathering of artistes with disabilities to perform in an event in the Asia Pacific region. From 22-25 March 2018, Singapore will play host to True Colours Festival – the Asia Pacific Celebration of Artistes with Disabilities. 
True Colours is presented by UNESCO and The Nippon Foundation (TNF), two international organisations which champion the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs). It is produced by Very Special Arts Singapore (VSA) and supported by partners such as Platinum Partner DBS, Venue Partner Singapore Sports Hub and the Asia Pacific Development Centre on Disability (APCD).

The festival comprises a ticketed multimedia indoor concert experience at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, a free admission outdoor festival village nearby, and an international conference on arts and disability. The momentum generated at True Colours this March will pave the way for a global festival event timed to coincide with the Tokyo Paralympics 2020.

Multimedia indoor concert experience 

The concert will take place on three evenings, and presents musicians, singers and dancers from the Asia Pacific, along with guest artistes from Canada, the UK, the US and Chile. They will perform to a total estimated audience of more than 12,000 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. 

Specially commissioned for True Colours performances are new works by contemporary inclusive dance troupe DAZZLE from Japan; wheelchair dancer Rodney Bell from New Zealand, a collaborative theatre production by Singapore’s Very Special Theatrics and Australia’s No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability. Japanese contemporary dancers Kazuyo Morita and Natsumi Sadayuki will also perform a special festival commission on the outdoor Festival Village stage while No Strings Attached will carry out the world premiere of its new work, I Forgot to Remember to Forget.
Among the other highlights are Canadian virtuoso violinist Adrian Anantawan; crooner Tony Dee from Australia, star of the 2016 Rio Paralympics trailer We’re the Superhumans; multinational crew ILL-Abilities, considered one of the world’s most talented street dance crews; Drake Music Scotland’s Digital Orchestra; and Alienette Coldfire from the Philippines, second runner-up in France’s Got Talent 2016. Ma Li and Zhai Xiao Wei, the first pair of dancers with disabilities ever to enter China’s CCTV national dance competition, will also make an appearance. They won the silver medal and the audience popular vote in 2007. 

True Colours Festival Village 

This free admission outdoor festival runs from 23-25 March 2018 and comprises a wide range of activities to appeal to many tastes and ages. Besides interactive experiences that allow visitors to experience and learn about various kinds of disability, the village will also offer up screenings of short films about disability, theatre performances, Paralympic Sports tryouts, an exhibition and sale of art, merchandise, food and drink. 

The Arts and Disability International Conference 2018, jointly organised by the National Arts Council (NAC) and Very Special Arts (VSA) Singapore, takes place on 22 and 23 March at Marina Bay Sands & Enabling Village. The conference aims to provide insights on innovative ways to increase arts accessibility and facilitate sharing of best practices. Featuring a lineup of international and local guest speakers and arts groups from Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Japan, Singapore and UK, they will address some 400 conference participants from comprising social service professionals, disabled and able-bodied artists and policy makers. (Visit URL  for more information).

Said Ichiro Kabasawa, Executive Director of TNF: “Our foundation has been supporting people with disabilities in Japan and around the world for more than 50 years. As the global population increases, including those ageing, we will all need to work harder to eliminate barriers and ensure accessibility, so that everyone is respected and able to play an active role.”
UNESCO’s Dr Indrajit Banerjee, Director of the Knowledge Societies Division in the communication and information sector said: “Government policies, legislation and development planning help create more inclusiveness and opportunity but the arts have a power all their own. Performing arts celebrations such as True Colours Festival play an important role in effecting change in the social and cultural spheres of society too.”

Sim S. Lim, Group Executive and Country Head, DBS Singapore said that being part of the True Colours Festival is part of the bank’s vision to shape a better future for Asia with a focus on building a more inclusive society. “We believe that the True Colours Festival celebrates the strength of the human spirit. Through the medium of performing arts, DBS can help draw people across the region closer together as one community, bound by an appreciation of the resilience and depth of strength that lies within each of us. By supporting these exceptionally talented artistes, we are enabling the community to live their dreams and also nurture the next generation’s mindset when interacting with persons with disabilities among us,” Lim said.

The True Colours Festival will also present other inclusive ‘firsts’, such as:

• A more inclusive seating plan. Ground level seats at the indoor concert will be configured to allow wheelchair users to be seated with or as close to their friends and loved ones as possible.

• A ticket sales campaign called MyTreat in which individuals and companies can purchase concert tickets via the True Colours website. These MyTreat tickets will go into a pool which will be distributed (via disability organisations) to persons with disabilities who cannot afford a ticket.

• A festival website that is screen reader-friendly to people with visual impairment, accessible to those with extreme mobility impairment, to the deaf and hard-of-hearing via closed captions and/or English subtitles for video content, and to the elderly and others with moderate visual impairment via customisable font sizes and colour contrast for easy reading of website information.

“VSA is exceedingly proud to be hosting and producing this historic event. The magnitude and scope of this Festival is unprecedented in the Asia Pacific and its successful outcome will help begin a new narrative about ability before disability in Singapore and the Asia Pacific,“ said Andrew Liew, Chairman of VSA.