Arts

S’pore arts website The Flying Inkpot closes shop after 19 years

Members of The Flying Inkpot team: (clockwise from left)) Kenneth Kwok, Karin Lai, Jocelyn Chng, Naeem Kapadia, Selina Chong and Matthew Lyon. Photo: Jason Ho.
The longest-running theatre and dance review website’s archives will stay up until end of the year
Published: 4:16 AM, June 1, 2015
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SINGAPORE — After 19 years, one of the arts scene’s respected institutions is closing shop. The country’s longest-running performing arts website, The Flying Inkpot Theatre & Dance (http://www.inkpotreviews.com), announced that it would stop uploading new reviews and cease to update its Facebook page from today.

While it has survived since 1996 as an independently funded operation for nearly two decades, the Inkpot’s editors — Kenneth Kwok, a public servant in the arts and culture sector, and Matthew Lyon, a teacher at the School Of The Arts — reckon The Flying Inkpot has hit a plateau in recent times.

At its peak, the number of reviews on the website averaged between 60 and 80 annually, but while there didn’t seem to be any lack of enthusiasm in reviewing shows, there were other considerations to think of.

Lyon said: “Internet technology, along with the public’s expectations of websites, has progressed greatly since The Inkpot started. We realised there is so much more we could be doing — for example, videos, podcasts, social media and feature articles. I get frustrated when I feel I’m not doing something to the best of my ability, and that’s the feeling I have with the site ... it can’t continue as it is.”

To take The Flying Inkpot, which is maintained on a purely voluntary basis, to the next level would entail professionalising its operations and financing, to develop the site and pay its reviewers and staff. Lyon said there had been initial discussions with the National Arts Council vis-a-vis funding, but both parties could not agree on an appropriate model.

“They didn’t want to provide 90-plus per cent of our funding and I didn’t think it was viable to come up with the shortfall their offer would result in,” said Lyon, adding that the website was not “a saleable product with which to generate cash”.

As for the idea of getting corporate sponsorship, its editors have consistently rejected this alternative. “We don’t believe The Inkpot should go corporate — it’s important that criticism be independent and neutral,” said Lyon.

A GROUP OF FRIENDS

Kwok said The Flying Inkpot started from a group of friends who wanted to tap on the Internet to provide a platform for people to engage with various aspects of the Singapore arts scene. “Over the years, more and more people who loved the arts — and wanted to write about the arts — came on board,” he said.

In its early years, The Flying Inkpot didn’t offer only theatre and dance reviews. It also included “offshoot” sections for poetry, film and classical

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