In August 1988, just one week before the general elections that year, what was to become Singapore’s biggest street party then was launched.
Named “Swing Singapore”, the party was an opportunity for Singaporeans to let their hang down and party the night away.
That year, a new electoral concept – the group representation constituency (GRC) – was introduced for the first time. It was also the year after the arrests of 22 alleged “Marxist conspirators” in May 1987 which hogged the spotlight for several months then.
The street party then was seen as an effort to override these concerns and was slammed by opposition party members for being a PAP political ploy.
According to the National Library website, the event “was seen as a political rallying point intending to popularise and ensure the ruling party retained its power.”
There was even a Singapore Swing dance developed and introduced.
The inaugural street party attracted about 250,000 people who danced to music blasted from huge loudspeakers by popular singers and disc jockeys who were perched up nine metres on mobile cranes.
“Orchard Road was turned into a kaleidoscope of lights for the event,” the NLB said. “The event was organised by Singapore Armed Forces Reservists’ Association (SAFRA) and sponsored and produced by Fraser & Neave (F&N).”
The event went on for another 3 years during the month of August as part of the National Day celebrations, before it was cancelled in 1992.
It was replaced with the Padang Campfire as a countdown to the National Day celebrations, and appeared intermittently through the years in different forms.
Orchard Road has also been closed for events such as fashion shows and Christmas celebrations.
If you missed the events in the ‘80s and ‘90s, fret not. A similar event is being organised.
On 4 October, a section of Orchard Road will be closed for the inaugural Pedestrian Night.
A stretch of 660m from Ion Orchard to Ngee Ann City will be closed to all vehicles on the first Saturday of each month to breathe new life into Singapore’s most famous shopping district.
Shoppers and pedestrians will be able to walk and stroll around freely without having to worry about traffic.
To make it even more interesting, there will be various activities planned to coincide with the closure.
On 4 October, for example, there will be street tennis and street performances. For subsequent ones, mass yoga sessions and a Christmas carnival are in the pipeline.
It is unclear however if there will be mass dancing as seen in the Swing Singapore events.
Closing roads for pedestrian traffic is nothing new around the world.
“It’s about creating new social spaces for people,” the assistant chief executive of the Singapore Toursim Board, Melissa Ow, said. “Pedestrianisation has become something commonplace. There is greater familiarity and confidence that this is something which will take off.”
The Orchard Road Business Association is behind the six-month trial of Pedestrian Night, and it hopes that the initiative will revitalise Orchard Road which has been facing increasing competition from other shopping areas in Singapore.
For those wondering if there might be any political ulterior motives for closing Orchard Road again, well the next general elections must be called by January 2017.