The Youthful Face of Chingay
Kenneth Wong has been part of the People’s Association Youth Movement (PAYM) contingent at Chingay since 2008. Over the years, he has played various roles in the contingent and has even nurtured the dreams and creative passions of his young performers beyond Chingay.
The Padang Awe
Kenneth Wong, 37, shares a first with the People’s Association Youth Movement (PAYM). 2008 was the first time the PAYM had a contingent at Chingay and also Kenneth’s first participation at Chingay. He was 23 then.
Kenneth still has very fond memories of his first Chingay. His contingent performed a dance item. He recalls that he was “sorely without any dancing background” and “had to lead a group of participants in the dance!” he chuckled. Unfazed and undaunted, Kenneth diligently recorded the dance steps and music so he could practise at home.
With nostalgia, Kenneth shares that practices were held at the old People’s Association Headquarters and they performed at the Padang that year. “For a first-timer, the feeling is simply unforgettable”, Kenneth recounts with an air of awe.
Creating memorable experiences
Kenneth has participated at every Chingay parade since then. From being a performer, he had, over the years, taken on more roles and responsibilities including Chairperson of the PAYM contingent in 2011, 2015 and 2018.
From administration, logistics, volunteer recruitment to costumes and make up, he had competently managed each of these roles. Whatever the role or function, Kenneth feels that ultimately, it is about managing people and human dynamics. “Realistically, you can never please every single person”, he said. Hence, when he has to make tough decisions, his guiding principle is to ask himself what he could do to create a memorable volunteering experience for the PAYM performers.
Hopping over obstacles
Kenneth’s volunteer-centric approach may explain why PAYM participants at Chingay have become “a family” over the years, with members returning to volunteer each year. Yet, this does not stop PAYM from reaching out constantly to stakeholders in schools, dance studios and various youth organisations to inject new blood and attract a variety of different talents each year to be part of the contingent.
Over time, their shared passion and strong ties built have also led the youths to form interest groups so that they could develop their interests together beyond Chingay. Noteworthy among these is the Hopstacles Hip Hop Interest Group that has come into its own and performed in events such as the President’s Challenge.
“Love all! Care for all!”
For Kenneth, each performance is unique and special, but two have left a lasting impression on him. The first was in 2011 when PAYM sent the largest performing contingent in the history of Chingay – a total of 2,000 youths performing hip hop in front of the F1 Pit Building. It was also PAYM’s 40th anniversary and Kenneth was the Chairperson of the contingent.
The size and scale of the performance was “very memorable” for Kenneth. Added to that was the finale, titled “大传灯” (passing on the lamp) which involved 4,250 performers, including PAYM youths and featured Singapore’s very own “Mother Teresa”, well-regarded centenarian, Ms. Teresa Hsu. For Kenneth, the finale’s symbolism of imparting wisdom and knowledge to the younger generation was very meaningful and impactful. There, Ms. Hsu shared her wish for Singapore – “Love all! Care for all!” she exhorted.
Creating trees of hope
Another Chingay performance that is still vivid in Kenneth’s mind was PAYM’s “Trees of Hope” in 2015. The scale of involvement for this performance was also very striking and meaningful. Youths and students across different parts of Singapore were involved in creating “Trees of Hope” for the performance using recycled materials. These symbolised their youthful hopes and aspirations for the future.
Hope and dreams for Chingay
Kenneth hopes that Chingay will continue to hold its own as a local event and develop an international appeal. He hopes multiculturalism and diversity will continue to be the hallmark of Chingay performances while it continues to innovate and incorporate the latest trends and technologies to extend its creative attraction.