The.annual bonanza for bookworms is back! Singapore Writers Festival 2019 returns this November with the theme ‘A Language of Our Own’, celebrating the unique power of languages to hurt and heal, fracture and connect us. SWF 2019 has a star-studded cast of over 200 international and Singapore authors, including literary greats like Roxane Gay and Haresh Sharma.

With a diverse lineup of more than 260 programmes, from SingLit to Canadian writing to visual art, there’s something here for all readers. Whether you haven’t cracked a book in years or you’ve just blown a month’s paycheck at an indie bookstore, all are welcome at the festivities. Here’s our roundup of seven highlights that’ll get you lit.

In A Tiny Room With Marlon James & Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay, author of fiery bestsellers like Bad Feminist and Difficult Women (Image Credit: Jay Grabiec)

Two of our favourite things − books and booze − come together beautifully In A Tiny Room. On 2 November, Jamaican writer Marlon James will be doing an intimate reading of his Booker Prize-winning novels, while leading cultural critic and self-professed ‘bad feminist’ Roxane Gay will conduct a reading on 9 November. Readings take place over a cosy tipple at The Old Man Singapore, an aptly literary bar where all cocktails are named after Hemingway’s masterpieces.

In A Tiny Room With Marlon James is happening on 2 November 2019 from 6.30pm to 7.30pm at The Old Man Singapore, 55 Keong Saik Road, #01-04, Singapore 089158. Tickets are priced at S$58 via SISTIC.

In A Tiny Room With Roxane Gay is happening on 9 November 2019 from 6.30pm to 7.30pm at The Old Man Singapore, 55 Keong Saik Road, #01-04, Singapore 089158. Tickets are priced at S$58 via SISTIC.

A Bigger Party Than Expected

One of the interactive installations, RISK, by poet Cyril Wong

Eurasian Singaporean writer Rex Shelley takes centre stage as this year’s SWF Literary Pioneer, thanks to his powerful, moving depictions of Singapore’s Eurasian community. A Bigger Party Than Expected brings to life Shelley’s debut novel The Shrimp People, a colourful portrait of love and life in tumultous post-independence Singapore. Wander through The Arts House to experience a Eurasian wedding celebration as Shelley describes it, complete with traditional food, performances, and interactive installations.

A Bigger Party Than Expected is happening on 1 November 2019 from 8pm to 11pm at The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429. Tickets are priced at S$30 via SISTIC.

Festival Debate: This House Believes That Men Are Ruining Feminism

Arianna Pozzuoli, one of this year’s debaters (Image Credit: Ann Healey)

Talk about throwing the gauntlet down. One popular SWF highlight is a rousing debate on topics that get us hot and bothered, and this year’s is certainly explosive: This house believes that men are ruining feminism. Whether you’re yay or nay for male allies, head down for some pithy insights and sassy wit by the all-female lineup of debaters, including playwright Ovidia Yu and poet-performer Arianna Pozzuoli.

The Festival Debate is happening on 6 November 2019 from 8.30pm to 10pm at The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429. Entry requires purchase of the Festival Pass via SISTIC

Beyond Borders, Beyond Words

Travel writer Pico Iyer

Known for his lyrical prose and contemplative vignettes of different cultures, travel writer Pico Iyer offers reflections on his life in Japan in Beyond Borders, Beyond Words. In this lecture, the globe-trotting extraordinaire will ruminate on the concepts of nuance and silence, connection and belonging − experiences we all grapple with as nomads in a global world.

Beyond Borders, Beyond Words is happening on 2 November 2019 from 11.30am to 12.30pm at The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429. Tickets are priced at S$20 via SISTIC.

Epic Spoken Word Night

British Nigerian poet Theresa Lola (Image Credit: Hayley Madden)

Come hear five rising poets dish up some raw, bleeding truths at Epic Spoken Word Night. Singapore wordsmiths include Norah Lea and Singapore National Poetry Slam champion Shivram Gopinath, who will be slamming on love, identity, and ethnicity. From across the globe, Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola, Guildhall poetry professor Jacob Sam-La Rose, and queer American poet Danez Smith will also be tugging at your heartstrings.

Epic Spoken Word Night is happening on 9 November 2019 from 7pm to 9pm at The Arts House, Play Den, 1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429. Tickets are priced at S$15 via SISTIC.

Language in the Age of Dating Apps

Singaporean queer poet Marylyn Tan (Image Credit: Ethos Books)

Swiping right, catfishing, sliding into your DMs − thanks to apps like Tinder, the modern dating game has a wild new lexicon. Though we sling this slang about so naturally, it reflects fascinating shifts in our consciousness about romance. Writer-editor Daryl Qilin Yam and queer poet Marylyn Tan will be unpacking these shifts in a zany dialogue.

Language in the Age of Dating Apps is happening on 4 November 2019 from 8.30pm to 9.30pm at The Arts House, Blue Room, 1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429. Entry requires purchase of the Festival Pass via SISTIC

Words We Love

Christine Chia, one of the speakers for Words We Love

This mini-lecture series delves into four Singlish words we all love to use: dei, lepak, bo jio, and the ever-immortal lah. Snappy and colourful, each word is as rich with meaning as it is tough to explain (to non-locals, at least). Join four celebrated Singapore writers and poets, including Christine Chia and Gwee Li Sui, as they explore the nuances of these expressive syllables.

Words We Love: ‘Dei‘, ‘Lepak‘, ‘Bo Jio‘, and ‘Lah‘ is happening on 4, 5, 6, and 7 November 2019 respectively at The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429. Entry requires purchase of the Festival Pass via SISTIC


Singapore Writers Festival 2019 is happening from 1 to 10 November 2019 at various locations around the Civic District. Festival Passes are priced at S$25, while separately ticketed events range between S$10-S$60 via SISTIC. Check out the programmes lineup and ticketing guide for more details.

Top Image: Bani Haykal