Enlivening arts, one alleyway at a time

By Bras Basah Bugis on Dec 2016



Sign leading the public to Bras.Basah Bugis’ Art Sprawl event, held at the alleyway between DECK and NAFA.

Image source: Bras Basah.Bugis


Five months after the successful second edition of Bras Basah.Bugis’ Arts Sprawl held in June, the art event returned last month with the theme, “Alley-vate”. Starting with the alleyway between DECK and NAFA, the two-day event held over 18 and 19 November 2016 helped to exhibit the potential to create pop-up urban experiences for visitors with a simple transformation and refurbishment of historic alleys.

Kicking off the event on Friday night, local graffiti artists Bridget Tay, Yan Asan, Kamil Bin Masoud took to creating the specially commissioned mural artwork for Alley-vate. While visitors were also encouraged to participate and leave their mark on the murals, many were more than content to admire the artists bring colour and life to the blank canvas walls.



Local graffiti artist hard at work, adding colour to the second mural wall for Alley-vate.

Image source: Bras Basah.Bugis


In line with the district’s celebration of arts, heritage and design, there was an eclectic assemblage of vendors.

One which stood out was Autocutt, a single chair barbershop operating out of a vintage VW automobile. A quaint reminder of the past when street barbers were a more common sight in Singapore’s back alleys, its owner Chris Seow, 42 related that he started the business in 2013 firstly as a space to sell his popular hair pomade, O boy. It was only later when business expanded, did he pick up his hairdressing skills in Thailand.



 Autocutt owner and head barber, Chris Seow giving a customer a haircut at his single-chair Auto-barbershop.

Image source: Bras Basah.Bugis

On the single-chair barbershop concept, he shared: “If you look at the history of the barber culture, it started from a single chair. This keeps the experience between the customer and barber personal. In a salon, you may not feel comfortable to engage in a conversation because there are many people and someone else may hear you. This privacy is important, especially for the guys.”

A first-time partner with Bras Basah.Bugis, Alley-vate appealed to him with its street style, crafting and gentlemen theme. “Initially I had my doubts, but now, I think it was a good event and we had pretty good response from the public.”



Visitors taking a seat at the pop-up mobile library and cafe, conceptualised to look like a bus stop.

Image source: Bras Basah.Bugis


For a literary respite, visitors took to the pop-up mobile library and cafe, which was conceptualised to look like a bus stop that would allow people to sit down and read. Besides the books collected from friends and the public, visitors were incentivised to donate their old titles in exchange for a cuppa from local cafe Hungry Bazterdz. While the space was small, the titles carried were diverse, spanning across the classics like The Great Gatsby to local titles Following the wrong God home to popular fiction like The Hunger Games.

Spotted at the mobile pop-up library was Dhivya Rani, 24, who managed to exchange an old title for a cup of coffee. What appealed to her was the event’s ‘pop-up’ concept, and remarked “I like that they cater to different things like art, books, food and at night there’s the dance going on, so that’s good for Singapore where you don’t get much of such events. It’s nice to see people involved in creating the workshops, as well as participating in them.”



Local perfume designer, Faridah Yusuf, 32, is a familiar face at artisan markets like Alleyvate’s Gentlemen’s market.

Image source: Bras Basah.Bugis

Among the Gentlemen's market was the familiar face of Faridah Yusuf, the 32-year-old perfume designer. The two-year-old brand reflects her partnership with her father in its name, “The ‘D’ in Freda D actually stands for Daddy, so it’s both my story, as well as my dad’s.” Having participated in Bras Basah.Bugis’ previous events like the annual Singapore Night Festival, she has managed to build up a loyal following.

To her credit, her blends, available for both him and her, are known to last in the humidity of Singapore’s climate. The affable lady boss also holds DIY workshops - during which participants can choose over 20 from the list of 160 raw ingredients to create a customised blend, suited to one's body scent.


Participants of the art jamming programme held at Alley-vate.

Image source: Bras Basah.Bugis

Early birds also got the opportunity to build their own camera obscura and paint landscapes at the interactive craft workshops. Open to both kids and adults of all levels, participants were able to get tips and step-by-step guidance by local artist Yan Asan on creating the perfect landscape with a wide variety of media such as acrylic, oil and charcoal.


Visitors watching the screening of local films at Alley-vate.

Image source: Bras Basah.Bugis

As the sun set, craft tables and mobile stores made way for the audience of the screening of local films such as ‘My Father After Dinner’ and ‘Ying & Summer’. To conclude the successful event, both nights closed on a high with party goers raving to popular tunes spun by local disc jockeys DJ Andrew Chow, DJ Caden and DJ D-Liberate.

If alleyways were previously viewed with any indifference, the interesting mix of programmes and activities held at the Art Sprawl has definitely helped to elevate its image. Who says a historic alley can’t be just as fun and modern as its neighbours on the main street?