From across the road, the building is hard to miss. People’s Park Complex is a monolith in the skyline of Chinatown. Mustard gold in the sea of dull browns and greys, it is a piece of history in Singapore; the first shopping centre of its kind in Southeast Asia that set the pattern for retail developments later on.
I meandered around the ground floor shops trying to find the only elevator that would take me to the rooftop. After dodging massage parlour aunties, the peculiar smell of a mix of Szechuan cuisine and Axe oil, and salespeople with jewel-coloured talons, I was finally walking up the stairs to Lepark. A neon sign with a sleepy cat, some rustic wooden benches, and the sounds of music I would Shazam — I had arrived at my destination.
If you were to Google ‘Lepark’ back in February when they held the first of their successful Getai series of events, Getai Electronica — a showcase of local music with the communal spirit you will experience at a getai show — you’d find only event listings and hardly any information on the venue itself. A mention on its location, a blurb on how to get there — and that’s it.
Check back now, though, and coverage of Lepark is aplenty. From pictures of their rooftop gigs to even more event listings the place now hosts, Lepark must be doing something right to warrant so much online buzz. And all positive too.
“From a social media perspective, they get really excited because we’re very experimental in our approach to things,” co-owner Carmen Low said. She added, “You’re here today experiencing something, on Friday you’ll see a new crowd for DJ nights, and over the weekend it’s something new again. And I think it’s all about content. Content that gets social media buzzing.”
And indeed so. Since Getai Electronica in February, Lepark has hosted a car boot sale, several live music performances, a pet adoption drive, yoga sessions, film screenings and more. This weekend itself, Lepark will be screening ‘five uniquely Singaporean stories told through the lenses of local filmmakers in their maiden films for Discovery Channel’, along with an old school block party with nostalgic games. One thing’s for sure, Lepark sure know how to throw a party.
With art adorning every wall and corner of the space (also done specially for Lepark), Carmen explains that even the carpark is under the jusridiction of Lepark — a +10 when you have the reputation of hosting the best events in town. Part-indoor and part-outdoor, everyday is business as unusual for the gang.
Their offbeat and fresh approach is down to Carmen’s desire to have a creative hub to showcase and support the local arts scene from the ground up. And her first order of business was to make a place that was accessible and not intimidating for local talents to come, create and build their craft. “Normally an entertainment venue is all about looking good and putting on nice clothes, but we encourage people to keep it real. Come watch the DJs spin in your shorts and slippers, we welcome you! Here we care about the craft, the substance,” Carmen shared.
Curation is something the Lepark team takes seriously. Their myriad of diverse events are well thought-out and not something coincidental. From the lineup of artists to the material they showcase, everything has to fall in place together for a stellar event to happen.
“Before Lepark, I spent five years in China, pretty much cut off from what’s happening in Singapore. So you can imagine, when I came back it was a whole new landscape to me. In a a way, I think it’s an advantage to not have any ‘baggage’ before I started on Lepark,” Carmen said.
By ‘baggage’, she refers to hearsay and any prior experience to working with different parties and vendors in Singapore. “Sometimes you hear things about someone’s history when it comes to work or business reputation of companies — I wanted none of that. We figured things out from the scratch and learnt about things on our own.” Carmen added, “I grew up in Chinatown myself, so I was familiar with the people, the streets and lanes, the shops and happenings around the neighbourhood. When I started Lepark, I wanted to bring back that sense of community, and the vibes back to entertainment in Singapore.”
“With Lepark, it’s all about experiencing something new every time you return. You don’t get that anywhere else.”
During my time at Lepark we hunted down a group of people who had set up a cook-out (without the approval of Lepark) on the vast carpark space. “We’ve seen small picnics and people taking photos on the carpark, but I’ve never seen a proper stove being set-up here,” Carmen said. Minutes later, the to-be food party disbanded, and minutes later, it started pouring heavily. New experiences at Lepark? Positively definitely.