Taking flight from Old Kallang Airport

5 04 2011

No, it wasn’t flights of fancy that one might associate with the idealistic pursuit of expression that artists are sometimes inclined to have that took off from what was Singapore’s first civil airport, Old Kallang Airport. The former airport, still with us in the form of its iconic terminal building and control tower, along with a few auxiliary buildings around it, isn’t of course capable of hosting flying machines – something that we have not seen in the shadows of the simple terminal building for over half a century, with its runway and much of the land it occupied given to other uses.

The light is shinning on Old Kallnag Airport for the Singapore Biennale 2011.

One that certainly did not take to the skies .... parked where a flying machine might have been seen over half a century ago.

It wasn't just the flying of an imaginary flag up a flag pole that Old Kallang Airport saw on Sunday.

What did take off from the old airport were some of the simpler pursuits we once indulged in during our childhoods, something that both young and old were able to participate in – the flying of simple light paper and bamboo framed kites. It was a simple yet brilliant idea that provided a welcome distraction to many of the younger and otherwise bored visitors at Singapore Biennale Open House, which hasn’t really taken Singapore by storm as it should really have done. The kite flying was part of the craft activities that reached out to the young that included terrarium making, badge making, and paper aeroplane making. Children were allowed to decorate their own kites, have tails fixed on, and with a kite string on a small reel, the kites were ready to go.

The lack of a runway did not deter flights from taking off from Kallang Airport.

A child running with a kite ...

Even the older "kids" had a ball of a time.

Flights from Kallang Airport ...

A kite seen through a dangling cable.

The activities are all part of the Beinnale’s Family Day Out aimed at reaching out to members of the public offering not just a host of activities, but also free admission to all venues on Sundays and Public Holidays in April and May right up to the Beinnale’s last day on 15 May. For more information on the activities and the Family Day Out, do visit the Singapore Biennale 2011’s website at this link.

Despite the manifesto for bad music ....

... there was some good music in store for visitors to Old Kallang Airport with an enjoyable performance by Ling Kai.

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Go fly kite and jump into the harbour!

6 10 2010

The NTUC Income Kite Festival Singapore 2010 over the 18/19 September weekend saw many descend on what was once the sea … a reclaimed piece of land part of what was the Inner Roads of the Singapore Harbour, on what is now the Promontory @ Marina Bay. The Inner Roads had then extended to the Detached Mole – a breakwater where the piece of land on which Marina Bay Sands has been constructed on. The festival was organised with “the aim to rekindle the old kampong spirit and celebrate the kite as a symbol of grace, cultural diversity and scientific achievements”, certainly attracted a large crowd, and was perhaps a little too crowded for any serious kite flying. What was nice to see certainly, was the level of interest that Singapore has in what was once considered a schoolboy’s past time.

The Inner Roads with Clifford Pier in the foreground and the Detach Mole at the top in the 1960s - the area beyond where the cluster of ships on the top right of the photograph is the general area where the Promontory @ Marina Bay is today (source: http://www.singas.co.uk).

A night time view of what used to be the Inner Roads from the Promontory @ Marina Bay.

Kite flying as an activity has certainly evolved over the years. My first brush with kite flying was seeing boys preparing kite strings that had been coated with a mix of starch and crushed glass, stringing the strings around the trunks of trees to allow the starch to dry in the Mata Ikan area of Singapore. I would watch them later loft their simple kites made of paper and bamboo high into the skies – with the aim to “fight” with their kites – this would be achieved by trying to entangle one’s glass lined sting against the opponent’s and cutting the opponent’s string. The kites were similar to those I would have seen hanging outside the provision and mama shops, two of which would have gone for an affordable five cents. Many of the boys would have made their own kites however, something which wasn’t really difficult to do – and something that I myself did on occasion, initially with the help of my father who often spoke of his exploits fighting kites in the Farrer Park area in his childhood. I did also try my hand at kite-fighting, something that I never really mastered, using strings that a neighbour in Toa Payoh helped me with. Somehow for me, my kites seemed to behave in the same way that Charlie Brown’s kites often did … and it wasn’t long before I turned to playing football with the neighbourhood kids.

Crowds descended on the Promontory @ Marina Bay for the Kite Festival.

I did get to fly kites again … and by the time I got to do that, kite flying had evolved into larger kites made of fabric or plastic mounted on wooden frames that could collapse for portability. This was an activity that I enjoyed with my parents over at an open strip of land just east of the swimming lagoon at East Coast Park, which was a very popular spot for kite flying back in the late 1970s. The kites were of course heavier and more costly, and fighting wasn’t the objective anymore. The kite strings we used were also thicker and this we either wind around a can or a fishing reel. By that time I had also somehow managed to learn to keep the kite up in the air and we spent a few hours every Sunday evening for maybe a period of two years doing that. There was an occasion that I became so engrossed in the activity that I left a bag that was in my care behind – one that contained my parents camera …

Kites soaring above the Promontory @ Marina Bay.

Kite flying in SIngapore has evolved from a schoolboy activity into a weekend pursuit involving kites that cost a lot more that the simple kites in the old days.

That was more that thirty years ago … and I have not flown a kite since, despite on being told to “Go Fly Kite” on many occasions. I had noticed of late that there is still quite a lot of interest in kite flying still – seeing kites soaring high over the open field along Woodlands Avenue 12 just by the Seletar Expressway, but never realised the extent of this level of interest until my recent encounter with the NTUC Income Kite Festival Singapore 2010. Perhaps the next time I am told “Go Fly Kite”, I might just think about doing it!

Kite soaring where tall buildings now soar above what were the Inner Roads.

More views around the Promontory @ Marina Bay … there were other activities as well …