Stamford Arts Centre
Stamford Arts Centre appears to be a tranquil old building in the Waterloo Street/Middle Road district with worn rooftop tiles, striking red window grilles and faded green-tinted glass panes. Do not be fooled by the seemingly plain façade however for this is a building with history as rich as its contribution to the arts scene today.
Built in the 1920s by the Japanese, the building originally served as the Former Japanese National School Building. Between 1946 and 1951, the site was occupied by Gan Eng Seng School when it still functioned solely as a primary school. Stamford Girls’ School occupied the site from 1955 to 1984, before it combined with the adjacent Waterloo Girls’ School to form the co-ed Stamford Primary School in 1984. Stamford Primary School moved out in 1986 to its present site at 1 Victoria Lane. By then the building was left severely vandalized.
Under the National Arts Council’s Art Housing Scheme, the building was restored as Stamford Arts Centre in 1988. (The Art Housing Scheme identifies and converts old buildings into affordable and subsidised housing for arts use.)
Nine Chinese and Indian cultural groups became the first tenants at Stamford Arts Centre. They were the Practice Performing Art Centre Limited (PPACL), Chuan Lei Literature and Arts Association, Singapore Broadway Playhouse, Lee Howe Choral Society, Hsinghai Art Association, Tamil Representative Council, Nrityalaya Aesthetic Society, Narayana Gurukula and the Singapore Kiralee Kala Nilayam.
Today, Stamford Arts Centre continues to be the home to several arts and cultural groups. The Theatre Practice is the office and rehearsal space of the late Kuo Pao Kun. As one of the pioneers in Singapore theatre, he had contributed greatly to the arts scene as a playwright, director, and art activist. He also founded The Substation in 1990.
Stamford Arts Centre is located at 155 Waterloo Street.
A Life of Practice – Kuo Pao Kun
To mark the 10th anniversary of his passing, National Museum of Singapore is holding a special exhibition on Kuo Pao Kun’s life of theatre from 15 September 2012 to 24 February 2013. For more information, click here.