By Matthew Loh and Osmond Chia
Underneath a tent outside the Quad, students and fans swarmed to the front of the stage as The Sam Willows performed their latest hits. Some were piggybacked by their friends to get a better view, while others near the front row stood on benches.
At this year’s NTU Fest, the open sky and massive stage were swapped out for a more intimate, tented setting. The smaller scale of this year’s festival was deliberate, said the planning committee.
The full-day carnival is held annually to kick-start the academic year, and this year’s event was scaled back to focus on fostering school spirit among NTU students, said the co-chairman of the NTU Fest Committee, Soh Wei Fong, 24, a final-year student from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
This year, the event was held at the School of Biological Sciences. The space was about one-third the size of a football field and almost four times smaller than the Sports and Recreational Centre, where last year’s event was held.
This is the fourth iteration of NTU Fest since its inauguration in 2014. It took a one-year hiatus in 2016 to review its operations, following declining student participation from 2014 to 2015.
Scaling down the event helped the planning committee put together a festival that was more focused on the university community, said Student Union vice-president Victor Chia, 23. He graduated from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering this year, but returned to help to organise the event.
At previous events, the festivities included music and dance performances by international stars and Mediacorp artistes. But all 17 acts this year were by students and alumni of the University.
This was to showcase local talent that students could identify with, said Farhan Juraimi, 27, concert director of the NTU Fest committee.
“We hope this encourages NTU students when they see people from the school doing what they love,” the final-year School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences student added.
The carnival was also held on a weekday to make it more convenient for NTU students to attend the event, said co-chairman Soh. Entry was also free for attendees in a bid to create a more inclusive atmosphere.
“The vision of NTU Fest is to make all members of the NTU community, especially our freshmen, feel welcome,” said Soh.
The committee was successful in attracting students like Jansen Lawrence, 22, a second-year student from Electronic and Electrical Engineering, who said he attended the event because it was free and convenient.
“If I had to pay, I probably would not have come. I also would not have gone down to the SRC if it was held there either, because it is too out of the way from my school and my hall,” he said.
But despite these perks, the organisers said only about 4,500 participants turned up, compared to last year’s crowd of 5,000.
Aaron Ong, a second-year student from the School of Social Sciences, said he did not attend the event because he was not interested in the lineup of local acts.
“I wouldn’t go down to support a school band unless it was from my hall, or if my friends were performing,” said the 24-year-old.
But other students, like Amirah Ahmad, 20, enjoyed the event. The first-year School of Social Sciences student particularly liked the light effects and the quality of the event’s sound system.
Some attendees, however, felt the the venue was too crowded.
Final-year Computer Science and Engineering student Keagan Sng, 27, said: “The food and games booths were crammed. People were also packed in the main tent, so there was very little space for a lot of people.”
Tamilmani Manisha, 21, a third-year student from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, added: “We couldn’t see anything during the Sam Willows performance even though we were just standing a few rows away from the stage.”
While the venue for next year’s event is still undecided, the next planning committee will take the feedback from this year’s event into consideration, said Chia.
Co-chairman Soh also hopes to see more creative and eye-catching ideas in the upcoming years. He said: “Students can expect to see more attractions that will make the event even more exciting.”