Kamini Ramachandran brings storytelling to the outdoors with Story Walk in Singapore

Stories began to be formed long before humans even developed spoken language. The first stories were, perhaps, those told through drawings on cave walls. Over millennia, storytelling has evolved alongside human society — the media have changed, the manner of storytelling has changed, and the subjects and morals of the stories have changed. But stories have persisted.

Kamini Ramachandran sits on one of the art benches strategically placed along the Story Walk route. Photo courtesy: StoryFest Singapore

Innovating with the art of storytelling, Kamini Ramachandran, Creative Producer of StoryFest, the annual Singapore event, has introduced this year the new element of “Story Walk”.

Two “Story Walk” sessions — one hour per session — will be held each day on October 6 and 7, with the morning session (11am-12 noon) suitable for families with children (ages 6-8 years) and the evening session (7pm-8pm) tailored for general audiences. A digital iteration of the programme will also be available next January as part of the Light to Night Festival 2024.

Story Walk tickets are priced at SGD10 each, with limited slots available per session. Visit storywalk.peatix.com for ticket purchase. The venue for Story Walk is The Arts House, No 1 Old Parliament Lane.

In an interview with Connected to India, Kamini Ramachandran speaks about the evolution of StoryFest Singapore and the aims of Story Walk.

How has StoryFest Singapore evolved? And what is Story Walk all about?

Co-organised by Arts House Limited (AHL), a not-for-profit organisation that manages several art spaces, and The Storytelling Centre Limited (TSCL), a non-profit organisation, StoryFest Singapore has come a long way since its beginnings in 2017, and has evolved amidst the growing arts and storytelling landscape.

The festival continues to celebrate and showcase a variety of storytelling forms, repertoires, and presentations, and also serves as a platform for the featuring of both Singaporean and international storytellers. Over the years, we saw that it has attracted a growing audience eager to engage with the art of storytelling.

For its 7th edition this year, StoryFest will return in an exciting new format with Story Walk.

Story Walk is an outdoor storytelling experience that takes the oral tradition away from the typical theatre settings and into the outdoors as a means to bring back the intimate experience of being close to the storyteller.

What kind of stories will be told as the walk takes place?

Story Walk is an exciting outdoor storytelling experience that offers participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of storytelling while exploring the Civic District of Singapore. Its unique format combines art, history, and storytelling in an enchanting and educational way.

During Story Walk, participants will embark on a stroll along the riverside, with the experience punctuated by three art benches strategically placed along the route.

Storyteller Laura Kee is one of three narrators to lead Story Walk sessions. Photo courtesy: StoryFest Singapore

These benches are not just places to sit, but are pieces of art as well, reflecting Singapore’s rich arts, culture and history, as part of the Civic District’s public art trail initiative known as ‘Benchmarks’, commissioned by the Civic District Alliance.

The stories shared during the walk have been carefully crafted to bring to life the rich history of the precinct, its surroundings, and even the art benches themselves. These stories are a blend of historical facts and elements of fictional tales, skillfully woven together by local veteran author Verena Tay, and the experience will be led by talented Singaporean storytellers, including Wesley Leon Aroozoo, Laura Kee, and Hafiz Rashid.

Participants can expect a diverse range of stories, from humorous escapades that took place in rice godowns to tales of seafarers who made the waters their home.

The stories will transport participants back in time when the Singapore River welcomed ships from distant lands and invite them to rediscover Singapore’s heritage. In essence, Story Walk combines exciting narratives that match each location with general stories to provide an enriching experience for all participants.

What, in your view, is the place that stories have in human culture?

As human beings, we are hardwired from birth to receive narratives. As a species, telling stories and listening to stories have been a matter of survival — to communicate our messages in memorable ways to ensure the continuity and future of our communities.

We understand the world around us through the tales we hear as children. From cautionary stories to pourquoi tales (a narrative that explains something), we have navigated life with the wisdom within these tales.

Storyteller Hafiz Rashid on an art bench. Photo courtesy: StoryFest Singapore

Do you think that the distractions of the digital age are displacing the importance of stories in our lives? Or do you think that only the media of storytelling have changed, e.g. movies and shows instead of books and stage plays?

In today’s digital age, we continue the tradition of telling and listening to stories using a variety of modalities. There are more options for storytellers to choose from to have their stories shared — be it the silver screen or the pages of a book. Likewise, the audience also has a choice of engaging with these stories based on their own preferences.

Storytelling will always remain relevant and vital in society. Every year, our StoryFest programmes sell out quickly and we reach new audiences who want the experience of oral storytelling.

As we grow our arts scene, it is important to present traditional forms like oral storytelling alongside other genres. In this way, we continue to provide audiences with exposure to the art of listening, hence growing future audiences for storytelling.

Storyteller Wesley Leon Aroozoo on the Story Walk route. Photo courtesy: StoryFest Singapore

How can one reconnect deeply with stories? Are there any daily practices you recommend?

The best way to remain connected to stories is to share your stories as a daily practice. This can be in the form of conversations and recounting of events, or even drawing them as visual stories. Personal stories are a great way to start storytelling with friends and family.

Reading stories and listening to audio books or podcasts are easily integrated into our daily schedules. No matter how busy we are, it is important to allow ourselves these moments to suspend disbelief and to be whisked away into the realm of the imagination.