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Keep Somerset youth district as it is, but upgrading and publicity are key, the young say

SINGAPORE — The Government’s announcement of the revamp of the Somerset Youth Belt, the stretch of Somerset Road that encompasses spaces such as *Scape, The Red Box and a skate park, has received mostly positive responses from Singaporean youth.

The Somerset Youth Belt will be redesigned and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth will engage young people for ideas on how best to do this.

The Somerset Youth Belt will be redesigned and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth will engage young people for ideas on how best to do this.

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SINGAPORE — The Government’s announcement of the revamp of the Somerset Youth Belt, the stretch of Somerset Road that encompasses spaces such as *Scape, The Red Box and a skate park, has received mostly positive responses from Singaporean youth who spoke to TODAY.

They said that it was a good idea to have a youth district that supports the aspirations of young people in the arts, culture, dance, music and other areas such as entrepreneurship.

While some were already happy with what the zone now offers, they said that publicity of the revamped district and events will have to be ramped up to attract young people there.

On Friday (March 8), the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said that the Somerset Youth Belt will be redesigned and it will engage youth for ideas on how best to do this.

REVAMP AND UPGRADE

Mr Oh Jun Rui, a dancer at MJ Hip-Hop Club from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), said: “*Scape is a usual hangout place for dancers. It has a very nice atmosphere. Dancers have been practising there for a long time.”

The 24-year-old hopes that the revamp will not sterilise the street-dancing culture by introducing “troublesome” indoor dance studios with rules that require dancers to sign in and out.

“I feel that what we have at *Scape now is quite good, people are generally happy… there is some form of sentimental feeling towards that area. If that is gone, many of dancers will be very sad,” he added.

Mr Malcolm Neo, 22, an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS), said that younger Singaporeans do not have any complaints about the lack of activities or services available along the Youth Belt.

“What’s done for the youth is already there. All they have to do is upgrade the facilities and make it modern."

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Claire Merrow-Smith En, 19, a second-year NUS undergraduate, is supportive of the revamp, but said that it will only be effective if there is sufficient publicity for events held there in the future.

Aside from putting word out on social media, schools could partner organisations at the Youth Belt to host or promote events there, she suggested.

On Friday, the MCCY also said that it will support the creation of an SG Youth Action Plan that will articulate the vision of the youth here for Singapore in 2025.

A panel will be formed to identify opportunities for the young to provide recommendations on policies and create partnership projects with the Government, communities, non-profit organisations and businesses.

SAFE SPACES FOR YOUTH

Mr Kyle Malinda-White, 26, co-founder of youth culture publication Popspoken, said that he had problems getting people to attend his events at *Scape in the past due to its label as a youth centre.

“It was tough persuading people to come to *Scape because they would say, 'Oh, *Scape is just for young people’,” the undergraduate at NTU said.

He feels that the space could be marketed instead as a place for “ideas and co-creation”.

Ms Carmen Low, 32, co-founder of restaurant and lifestyle businesses Lepark and Afterglow, said that the Youth Belt should firstly offer a safe space for youth to “find their own voices and pursue their passions”.

Ms Low, who is a council member of the 15th National Youth Council, said: “Once they find a space safe and a community they can trust, they will be willing to share their thoughts and views on issues that they are concerned about.” 

However, Mr Malinda-White is of the opinion that a truly safe space could be created there only if it was truly independent.

“The very fact that *Scape is under the purview of government agencies like the National Youth Council may make some people feel uneasy,” he said.

“I think the Government coming in is fantastic because it ensures that the concerns of the youth are heard, but these sorts of civil engagements need to be held in partnership with (independent) youth groups,” he added.

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