Holding Space Festival: Mental health advocacy through music and dance

The Holding Space Festival ended with a curtain call by the performers. (PHOTO: Photo IG / Rista Amelia)

The Holding Space Festival gathers people from different walks of life to celebrate and learn more about mental health.

The Holding Space Festival ended with a curtain call by the performers. (PHOTO: Photo IG / Rista Amelia)

It was no ordinary night when you have Alyssa Lie, Delvina See, Lim Kay Siu and Neo Swee Lin, as well as Yanni Ruth Chin appearing on the same stage at The Republic Cultural Centre (TRCC) on 28 Jan 2023.

These special guests were invited by a final-year project team from Republic Polytechnic’s School of Health and Leisure (SHL) in collaboration with School of Technology and the Arts (STA) to perform as part of Holding Space – A Mental Wellness Festival & Concert.

Mr Aaron Chen Angus, Programme Chair of the Common Sports and Health Programme, said: “They are all mental health advocates and have very positive personalities and also promote very positive messages through their music and their media.

“It is in this spirit that we hope we will be able to reach out better to youth and propagate more positive, kind and supportive messages to the youth via this event and through social media, so that we can motivate them to engage in mental health advocacy.”


According to Mr Tzang Merwyn Tong, award-winning filmmaker and film educator who conceptualised the festival, “holding space” refers to the act of providing an environment of acceptance and non-judgement for someone to express their thoughts and feelings.

It is a way of allowing someone the freedom to process their thoughts and emotions in their own way and at their own pace.

“As such, we felt that the term Holding Space is very well suited as the title for this event, as it creates a supportive and non-judgmental environment within which all of the participating artists (sports personalities, arts personalities, and music performers, social media personalities etc) can share their thoughts and feelings and the audience can participate without any fear of judgement, and this can serve as engagement touchpoints for our youth, and in preparation for the building of this supportive community,” adds Mr Tong.


Held for the first time, the one-day festival was funded by the Health Promotion Board (HPB). Besides the Holding Space Concert, the event also drew some crowds to the Holding Space Sports and Holding Space Arts Festival.

While the turnout was not as good as expected due in part to the rain, Mr Angus said he was happy to receive positive feedback from participants and performers, who said they enjoyed the experience and found it to be a meaningful event to be involved in. 

“We are also heartened to see how some of the concert audience have been positively impacted by the event,” said Mr Angus. 

The Republican Post brings you the highlights from the Holding Space Concert:


The elderly from Brahm Centre had an enjoyable time with the Green Drumming instructors, Arthur (left on the first row) and Benjamin (right on the first row). (PHOTO: Chew Xue Nee)

Mr Arthur Choo, 35, the founder of Beat’abox, shared that he wanted to convey his message of everyone deserves a second chance through their Green Drumming initiatives. He also aims to bring across the message of sustainability, where the drums were made from a “wasted” bucket into a valuable and beautiful instrument. 

The elderly were thrilled chatting with the founder. Some songs were played to accompany the rhythm of the drum, from the Malay folk song, Chan Mali Chan, to the English pop song, Rolling in the Deep, and also some festive Chinese songs.  


The stars of the Faeryville film, directed by Mr Tzang Merwyn Tong, made an appearance at the Holding Space Festival. (Photo: Tzang Merwyn Tong)

Faeryville is a 2015 indie dystopian film directed by Mr Tzang Merwyn Tong, 43, a lecturer from the School of Technology of the Arts (STA) in RP. Their main tagline, “Be afraid of what you fight for”, is accompanied by the story where a group of youth misfits find themselves and try to tell the world that they exist. 

A screening and discussion session were held during the festival. The speakers at the session included Mr Tong and Ms Esther Ng, the founder of the Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth (CABCY), during the festival regarding the feelings of suppression, uncertainty, and powerlessness of youths, which were captured in the film. 

During the discussion, an imaginary sewage hole was created on the floor, expressing the message that the movie is a difficult conversation that society wants to avoid, and it is looking for someone to sacrifice themselves and step into the conversation. 

“It is a love letter tribute to the misfits, the rebels, the dreamers, the outcasts and the nobodies,” shared Mr Tong.

Mr Tong (left) and the founder of CABCY, Ms Ng (right) discuss the themes explored in Faeryville on stage during the screening session. (PHOTO: Tzang Merwyn Tong)


The ambience was at an all-time high that evening as the melodic music performances flooded the ears of audiences at TRCC.

Alyssa Lie sang two of her original songs, Mend and Stay, as well as Flashlight by Jessie J, in an elegant neon green dress. (PHOTO: Photo IG / Austin)

Alyssa Lie started her singing journey at the Lasalle College of the Arts. The 28-year-old singer-songwriter was studying Musical Theatre, which consists of singing, acting and dancing in the curriculum and graduated in 2016. As her passion lies in singing, she has pursued it for the past six years.

One of her singles that she performed during the festival, Mend, was about how she wanted to write something different as her previous singles were in the heartbreak genre. She shared that she wanted to think about the positive side of a break-up instead of dwelling on the negativity. 

Delvina See performed Price Tag by Jessie J, and Glimpse of Us by Joji while engaging her audiences with her vibrant energy. (Photo: Photo IG / Jing Zhe)

Delvina See, is an alumna of the School of Infocomm’s Interactive and Digital Media. She reminisced about a time when her friends recorded her singing on a holographic video, which reminded her that even during her schooling days in RP, she had always adored singing. It is because of this devotion to singing that she has been busking since 2016. 

When asked about her experience during the starting point of her busking career, she said: “I felt nervous when I started busking, but it is important to step out of my comfort zone.” 

She explained that nerves will always be a factor that gets in the way of one’s interests and passions, so one must overcome it by stepping out of their comfort zone to pursue their dreams. 

“There were many times when I just wanted to move on from the creative world. However, because of all the love and support I’ve gotten, even if it is just one of them — it really kept me going to do what I love to do,” said Delvina.

Lim Kay Siu and Neo Swee Lin from NeoKeleLims sang songs they composed and festive Chinese songs for the TRCC audiences. (PHOTO: Photo IG / Rista Amelia)

Another exciting performance during the festival was a ukulele song-and-strum performance by Mr Lim Kay Siu, 63, and Madam Neo Swee Lin, 56, better known as NeoKeleLims.

They shared that they started their streaming career from scratch by streaming their ukulele jam sessions on the streaming platform, Twitch. Though it was created for the couple to have fun, the streaming soon became a daily affair, with their viewers hailing from all around the world.

The festival also highlighted some performances by the students, such as the Rhapsody (RP’s Acapella Interest Group), Beats Encore (RP’s Percussion Instruments Interest Group), Guts Cheerleading and a curtain call to end the night.