Owls Well presents: Living Clay/Studio Asobi

So, during the June school holidays this year, I wrote about our experience at a pottery workshop with Studio Asobi. Well, our pieces have been glazed and fired by Huiwen from Studio Asobi, and they are so much prettier than we ever expected!

Here’s a little video I made of our time at the pottery wheel – and the results of our labour!

Here are some thing I learned about the glazing and firing process:

  1. Applying the glaze will add layers to your final piece, so the walls of your clay piece will appear much thicker than your original creation, and any scratches and marks made on the surface will be more shallow.
  2. The firing process dries the clay out as it hardens, and the final product will be at least one-third smaller in size. So if you want to make a dainty teacup, your original creation may have to be as big as a mug!
  3. Be brave about experimenting with glazes! As you can see from the video, different glaze combinations can have startlingly different results. I regret not taking a bigger risk with my glaze selections…but now I know that I can be braver next time around!

Studio Asobi welcomes back participants of previous workshops with a markedly reduced fee and as always, 20% of their profits are donated to The Mercy Centre’s Trolley Ministry for Singapore’s homeless population. I would love to work with them again!

 

Living Clay: A pottery workshop with Studio Asobi

Last weekend, we joined a clay workshop with Studio Asobi, a local pottery studio run by ceramic artists, Huiwen and Kenneth.

I had been wanting to attend one of their clay workshops for a very long time, ever since some of my friends showed me some cups and bowls that their kids had made under the couple’s tutelage last year. Each piece was entirely unique to the child who made it, and with the process of glazing and firing, had been turned into beautiful and useful works of art. To me, this meant that Huiwen and Kenneth were able to engage each student individually, and guide them in bringing their imagination to life.

This is why when my own extended family expressed an interest in attending a holiday workshop together, I was very quick to volunteer to recommend and organise a session with Studio Asobi!

We were a little late arriving that home studio in Hougang, but we were just in time to hear about how Huiwen – who had no artistic training – had taken a sabbatical from her corporate job to explore Japanese ceramics at a year-long stay-in programme in the old pottery town of Taijimi. After her return, she decided to pursue pottery-making full-time, and eventually, her husband Kenneth, gave up his career in architecture to devote his time to ceramic sculpture. Together, their works are seen all over the world, from local ceramic installations to Belgian pottery expos to Australian restaurants. They also use their art to benefit social causes that work with poor and needy, as well as pledging 20% of all their profits to support the Mercy Centre’s Trolley Ministry, which works with the homeless in Singapore.

Afterwards, Kenneth and Huiwen showed us the electric kilns in the house, and demonstrated how we start off shaping and moulding the clay using our hands. We were then each given equally sized clay balls, as well as some tools and sat down to start working.

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Beginning to shape each ball of clay

As each of us slowly worked our clay, Huiwen went round and checked our work, advising us on how to smooth out cracks and even out surfaces, showing us how to use the different tools available to make patterns and create textures.

We also had a chance to have a quick tutorial on the pottery wheel. Kenneth gave us a quick demonstration and some pointers on how to use the wheel, and then he guided each of us as we tried our hand at throwing a simple ceramic cup.

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Kenneth of Studio Asobi showing us how to use the pottery wheel

Both J and Little E seemed to really enjoy using the wheel, but it was much more difficult that Kenneth made it seem.

When it was my turn, I could feel the clay moving under my hands as if it were alive. Slowly, I shaped the clay into a little saucer.

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Debs G attempts to throw a ceramic cup on the pottery wheel

It all seemed to be going very well, until a sound from inside the house broke my concentration and I looked up for a split second, losing control of the clay and turning it back into a formless lump!

Oh well!

The Barn Owl was able to manage the clay quite well and with his delicate touch, was even able to get the walls of the little cup to be thin and even. It was amazing to watch him, as I could see on the Barn Owl’s face that a serene peacefulness settled on him whilst he was shaping the clay. It is unsurprising that working with pottery is can be very therapeutic!

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The Barn Owl reaching a meditative state and making a tiny dish

After giving the potters wheel a go, all of us went back to put the final touches on our little clay creations. Huiwen and Kenneth showed us how to add little decorations, handles or feet to the outside of our handiwork. We then etched a symbol or initial on the bottom of our pieces so that they could be easily identified.

Then it was time to decide on the glaze or glaze combination would look the best on our works – Huiwen would apply the glazes for us once the clay dried fully before firing them in the electric kilns (you can see the kilns in the picture below).

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With Huiwen of Studio Asobi

In the end, Little E made a mug, J fashioned a soup bowl, the Barn Owl moulded a bud vase and I made a dish. It is so amazing the number of different objects that we each made out of the same lumps of clay!

I can hardly wait to see how our little clay pots and cups will turn out in three week’s time!

(Update: Check out our finished ceramics here!)

For more information about Studio Asobi click here

For more information about family, group or corporate workshops with Studio Asobi click here

Painting myself a lovely world (with a Dottieshop Watercolour Kit)

Although I am fairly handy at crafty things, I don’t actually have much skill in drawing and painting. Especially painting with watercolours. My own experience of watercolour painting as a child has been less than stellar. I always associated it with muddy faint colours and stiff bristled brushes that splayed out into stars. In short, I’m not very good at it and I’ve always felt that it’s a messy activity.

That is, until I started university and came across this daytime television programme called ‘Watercolour Challenge‘.

In ‘Watercolour Challenge‘, three amateur painters were given four hours to render a particular landscape in watercolours. I was always amazed at how neat and tidy the painters looked during the whole affair. None of them wore smocks to protect their clothes or required sheets of newspaper to catch stray drips. At the end, they rendered vividly coloured paintings, some in very intricate detail.

A few years ago, I tried learning watercolours on my own, with very little success. I simply did not have any clue what tools or paints I needed, nor how to go about applying brush to paper.

This is why I count myself very lucky to be one of the testers of the ‘Hello Spring’ watercolour kit from Dottieshop! Thanks so much for letting me try out the kit, Dot!

The ‘Hello Spring’ watercolour kit comes with instructions for painting some gorgeous spring flowers (cherry blossoms, roses and anemones), a set of good quality watercolour paints prepared in a palette, special watercolour paper and a water brush. This all fits into a neat little pink folder, which makes the whole set very portable!

What I particularly liked about the kit were the precise and clear instructions on how to use the brush and the watercolours, as well as the step-by-step guides on painting different flower blossoms. I found the thoughtfully written painting guides especially helpful, and within my first attempt I was able to produce a rather decent looking cherry blossom!

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My first attempt at watercolours using the ‘Hello Spring’ kit

I was very pleased with how the flowers turned out, after following the Dottieshop instructions! The Barn Owl was pretty impressed too, and that means a lot coming from him – he took Art as an ‘A’ level subject.

Best of all, there was hardly any clean up or mess involved. In fact, I have since realised that the kit is so complete that I don’t need to use anything else other than a clean, dry rag for wiping off my paint brush in between changing colours.

I do have to be rather careful in keeping and transporting the paint palette, however, as the watercolour paints grow brittle as they dry and sometimes little flakes may chip off if the palette gets jostled about, so I try to keep the paint set lying flat when it is not in use.

It wasn’t too difficult to use the brush techniques from the Dottieshop kit and extend that to paint other types of flowers and foliage.

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My watercolour studies of flowers and leaves

Since trying out the kit, I have found myself stealing a few minutes here and there during the day to do a little watercolour sketch. It really does refresh a tired mind!

Apart from the Hello Spring Watercolour Kit (which I think is a true bargain at SGD46), Dottieshop also has a Floral Illustration Kit (SGD36) as well as a Brush Calligraphy Beginners Kit (SGD33). These are great starter kits for beginners and would also make lovely gifts! Dot also runs workshops at Artify Studio – which I really hope to be able to attend some day.

P.S. To order one of the Dottieshop kits, just email dottieshop@gmail.com or leave her a message on Facebook or Instagram

Contemporary Art for Kids – National Gallery Singapore

Last year, when J was attending a holiday creative writing camp at the Arts House, I decided to take Little E to visit the nearby National Gallery Singapore.

The National Gallery Singapore is housed in the former Supreme Court and City Hall, and is home to the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia, with a special interest in showcasing local and Southeast Asian artists.

Within the National Gallery is the Keppel Centre for Art Education, which is a dedicated art facility designed to inspire children and encourage creativity. Within each room are art pieces which the children can interact with or observe in detail, as well as related activities to fuel their imagination.

In one of the Project Galleries is a massive, highly detailed cityscape created from clay and acrylic, painstakingly built in great detail by teen artist Xandyr Quek when he was 13 years old.

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Little E is inspired by City In The Works (2015), Xandyr Quek

Xandyr, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, is fascinated by maps and street directories, and would ask his parents to take him to certain roads and streets so that he could spend time memorising the buildings and other public infrastructure. At home, he built many clay sculptures based on his observations. He conceptualised and created this tiny city modelled on northern Singapore which is now housed in a protective glass case (as he doesn’t like his work being handled or touched).

After spending a few moments looking at the tiny city, Little E then spent a happy half hour drawing and populating her own small city. Whilst she was doing this, I noticed that there were other activity sheets available in the room which would suit a variety of learning levels and interests, so there would be something to inspire every child.

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Home-a-Sapiens by Tan Wee Lit

In another project gallery, the ceiling and walls are covered in fantastical future dwelling spaces. A nomadic bus with laundry on bamboo poles floats alongside a series of airy blimps, while the walls have models of underground houses built beneath the roots of trees, even some of the shelves and cupboards were disguised to look like houses.

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Designing her underground living space

Little E was inspired by the underground homes and she decided to make her own cone-shaped house to add to the installation. There were also some very nice pre-fabricated craft kits available (for a suggested donation of SGD$4) which would make a great take-home souvenir.

Little E also liked the Who’s In The Woods interactive area, where she could create and customise her own forest creature using digital painting, then see it come alive on the wall and play with other animals in the forest! That was pretty cool!

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Little E’s found a new friend in the woods

By far the most exciting area was the Art Playscape, which is a labyrinth and playhouse that is literally covered from floor to ceiling in elaborate, intricate drawings, so that you really feel like you have entered a painting into a magical realm.

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The Enchanted Tree House by Sandra Lee

In this room, Fynn the Fish-On-Sticks and his forest friends wander the world in search of adventure, encountering all sorts of familiar creatures from fairy-tales and nursery rhymes. Little E had fun running all over the room trying to find Fynn, and identifying all the storybook characters (and finding familiar mystical creatures like our Merlion hiding in plain sight).

Mummy tip #1: The floor in the Art Playscape has a very smooth finish, so bring along non-slip socks if you have a wobbly toddler or a clumsy child!

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Taking a break with Fynn the Fish-On-Sticks

I liked the Keppel Centre for Art Education so much, that we returned during the mid-year holidays this year, as soon as Thumper was able to walk around on his own.

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Building together

I was very pleased to see that some of the interactive activities had changed!

There was room filled with different types of building blocks for making giant fortresses and tabletop sculptures. There was also a wall filled with magnetic shapes which Thumper enjoyed messing around with.

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Playing with the walls

Within the National Gallery itself were huge wall murals and freestanding art pieces which visitors could pose with and become part of the artwork as well.

We also had the opportunity to go on a free guided tour which took us through the gallery, giving us some insight into the design and architecture of the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings as well as some of its the history and hidden secrets!

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On the Building Highlights Tour – held at 11am and 3pm daily

The docent who took us around was very knowledgeable and was able to engage both children and adults during the tour. The docent even thoughtfully changed her route to accommodate our stroller so that we could use lifts instead of stairs and escalators – although we felt really bad slowing the whole group down!

Mummy Tip #2: If you’re planning to take your kids on the guided tour, park your stroller at the visitor’s desk and bring out your baby carrier instead.

National Gallery Singapore
1 St. Andrew’s Rd, Singapore 178957

Opening Hours: 
Sun–Thu and Public Holidays: 10am–7pm
Fri–Sat, Eve of Public Holidays: 10am–10pm

Admission is free for Singaporeans and PRs, as well as for students, teachers, children under 6 years old, persons with disabilities and their carers.

For more information about the National Gallery Singapore click here

For more information about the free guided tours click here

For more information about Keppel Centre for Art Education click here

Contemporary Art for Kids – Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea

Over the weekend, the kids and I were invited to attend the opening of the Singapore Art Museum’s annual contemporary art exhibition for children, Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea. This is the sixth edition of the children’s season over at SAM at 8Q, and we always look forward to the many beautiful, thought-provoking and inventive art installations on display each year.

During our exploration of Imaginarium, we were very privileged to have the opportunity to meet with the artists (you can see some of them in the picture below) and find out more about their creative process.

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The exhibition is very thoughtfully curated this time to provide a fully immersive experience. As we were moving from one level to the next, it actually felt as if we were deep sea divers swimming from the bottom of the ocean to the surface!

We started out in a room full of kooky and colourful sea creatures knitted out of yarn, floating over a crocheted seascape. This was definitely Thumper’s favourite room as he was free to crawl around and over all the soft sculptures and play with the hanging mobile fish and octopi.

The installation, entitled Dimana Mogus? or Where is Mogus? is created by the Indonesian artist Mulyana. Mogus, according to the description of the artwork, is an imaginary octopus who is exploring the underwater dreamscape with his friends. When I asked Mulyana which of the sea creatures present in the room was actually Mogus, he cheekily replied that ‘Mogus’ is represented by anyone playing inside the room and experiencing the different textures and colours. “Mogus is me, Mogus is you, Mogus is everybody in the room playing together,” Mulyana said quietly, with a soft smile.

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Dimana Mogus? by Mulyana, and ADA by Karina Smigla-Bobinski

J’s favourite piece was definitely ADA by Karina Smigla-Bobinski, who designed and built what she lovingly referred to as an ‘Art Making Machine’ inspired by bioluminescent deep sea creatures. Karina also told me that the phosphorescent flickering reminded her of the LEDs on electronic devices turning on and off in a darkened room which is how she sees ADA, a giant glowing helium balloon studded with charcoal spikes, bobbing about, leaving long black lines on the walls, floor and ceiling in her wake.

The children loved chasing ADA around the room – although it was sometimes hard to tell if ADA was actually the one chasing them – and at the end of it they emerged from ADA’s lair with charcoal smudged hands and faces like little chimneysweeps!

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Damien, I’m Famished (After Damien Hirst), Bryde’s Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp), and Surrealism Spiced (After Salvador Dali) by Krit Ngamson

The next room we visited had these cheeky kinetic sculptures by Kris Ngamson, a Thai artist who combines elements from iconic surrealist artworks into his work to demonstrate the juxtaposition between the rural and urban societies in Thailand.

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Plastic Ocean by Tan Zi Xi

Our favourite installation is definitely the Plastic Ocean by homegrown artist, Tan Zi Xi. This was an amazing maze of tunnels made entirely of over 14000 pieces of non-biodegrable waste products suspended in a room dimly lit from above. Zi Xi explained to me that this was a recreation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an island made entirely out of nearly 300000 tons of plastic debris adrift in the Pacific Ocean, and it only took her a month to amass this quantity of items from her circle of friends and interns. Yikes!

Underneath the sea of plastic garbage are a few wooden blocks for undersea explorers to rest upon and contemplate the impact of all this trash upon marine life.

J and Little E were most impressed by this installation, as well as by the accompanying series of art prints that show our puny efforts to try to clean up the ocean.

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An Effort Most Futile by Tan Zi Yi

Afterwards, Little E remarked upon the importance of recycling plastic and reducing waste whilst J was appalled by how much light was blocked by just a few layers of plastic.

Suara Muara (The Sounds of the Estuary) by Papermoon Puppet Theatre from Indonesia was definitely a room that provoked a visceral reaction in me. The installation tells the story of Lasem, a tiny town that used to be an important port, where old secrets hide beneath the everyday surface.

I was both intrigued and repulsed by the completely immersive experience that the room provided, with each sculpture accompanied by gentle tinkling music and the quiet roar of the waves. Watching the cloth sea billowing and listening to the recorded sounds through the headphones made me feel as if there was a whole secret history that I was somehow missing.

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Suara Muara (The Sounds of the Estuary) by Papermoon Puppet Theatre

In one piece, an elderly man and a woman sit quietly in their house surrounded by old photographs, whilst behind them, a small man peers out at them from the inside of a porcelain vase. I asked one of the Papermoon artists who the creepy vase man was, and he replied, ‘Oh, that’s their neighbour.’

I had a cold shiver up my spine.

To round off our visit, we spent some time in the Submaroom, which features periscope stations and origami folding consoles as well as some beautiful paper origami sea creatures on display in shadow boxes.Submaroom-origami-Imaginarium

We weren’t able to visit every one of the installations in one morning, but we will definitely be back for another visit. We might try to see if we can take part in the artist-led workshops, storytelling sessions, or perhaps join Imaginarium Curator, Andrea Fam, on a special family night museum tour! See you there!

Mummy Tip: There are no covered walkways from the busstops, MRT stations or carparks surrounding SAM at 8Q, so bring your umbrella with you! We learned this the hard (and soaking wet) way.

Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea is open at SAM at 8Q (8 Queen Street, Singapore 188535) from 14 May 2016 – 28 August 2016. 

Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday 10am – 7pm, Fridays from 10am – 9pm. Admission is free for children under 6 as well as for Singaporean Citizens and PRs.

  • Family Night at the Museum with Andrea Fam: Wed, 1 June, 7-8pm
  • Edible Art Workshop with Janice Wong: Sat, 11 June, 2-4pm
  • Storytelling with Rosemarie Somaiah: Fri and Sat, 17-18 June, 11-11:45am
  • Knots Workshop for Junior Explorers: Sat 23 July 1-3pm
  • Illustration Workshop with Zi Xi: Sat 30 July from 2-3:30pm, Tues 9 August from 10.30am -12pm

Bonding over colouring pencils

School holidays started a few days early for Little E, but poor weather conditions have kept us all indoors during the morning when J is still in school.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t get a chance to really spend a lot of time alone with Little E in the recent months, as I am either tending to Thumper or helping J revise for his end-of-year tests. However, Little E has been a very supportive sister to her two brothers and just does her own thing, playing nicely by herself. Part of this is because of her own independent nature, but I often feel that she has learned to entertain herself out of necessity.

This morning, Thumper was feeling very tired, so I put him down for a nap early, which meant that I had some extra time. Instead of using this time to catch up on household paperwork, I decided to sit with Little E and do some colouring, which is one of her favourite activities.

I went online and printed out some colouring pages for us to colour together. I decided not to use the usual kids colouring pages that I normally find, but one of the ‘colouring for adults’ pages. Johanna Basford, who started off this adult colouring craze with her book, ‘Secret Garden’, has a few sample pages from her book available as a free printable so I printed those off. (If you like, you can scroll to the bottom of the page for the links).

I personally have never really enjoyed colouring, which I always viewed as a tedious school activity meant to train children to focus and to develop fine motor skills. However, sitting down and colouring with Little E for an hour was a very different experience altogether.

First of all, there is that sense of achievement as you fill a small area with a colour of your choosing. Additionally, as you focus on the simplicity of the action, which is to create something of beauty, it is incredibly relaxing.

One of my friends once told me that having a kid meant that she had an excuse to buy colouring books for herself. At the time, I remember laughing at her quirkiness, but as Little E and I worked on a colouring page together, I began to see how therapeutic it might be. I can now understand why there are colouring books for adults now!

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Secondly, it was nice to be able to collaborate on a small art project with Little E and it was interesting to see how organic the collaboration became, especially when I didn’t try to dictate her actions or give her any advice or feedback other than ‘That’s really good! I like that!’.

We started out by colouring in separate corners of the page, but after a while, I began to notice how Little E liked to mix colours within a space, and she noticed how I liked to colour in small areas in one colour before changing colour pencils. We then started to copy each other’s style, but adding our own touch to it by varying the colour choices – Little E tended towards high-contrast colour-combinations, whilst I chose complementary colours. By the end of the hour, we were each colouring over the whole page filling in tiny portions that the other might have missed.
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Lastly, Little E didn’t stop singing, humming or chatting to me for the entire hour so I learned a lot about the things that she was learning in school, and about her friends in class. She told stories about the owl that we were colouring, and made up a little song about it, and was generally very entertaining. It was so much fun, I am looking forward to our next colouring session together!

In preparation for that, I’ve found a ton of great colouring resources online, which are free to print with permission from the artist! You can even print them out to make your own mini colouring activity book – so great for long plane journeys, waiting rooms and wedding dinners!

Free Printable Colouring Pages (featuring a large number of owl colouring pages of course) just click on the links to download and print:

Secret Garden by Johanna Basford: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5

Enchanted Forest/Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford: Page 1-3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6

Animal Kingdom by Millie Marotta: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8

Steampunk Designs by Marty Noble: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4

Words to Live By by Dawn Nicole Designs: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Bookmarks

Easy Peasy and Fun by Andrea Vucajnk: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5-6 Page 7 Page 8-9

Made by Joel: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7

Rachel Beyer: Page 1-3 Page 4

By the way, many of the independent artists who host free printable colouring pages on their websites are very dependant on views and clickthroughs in order to keep those pages free-to-download on their sites. If you have used and enjoyed any colouring pages from the links above, please do take some time to explore each independent artist’s main page by clicking on their names (underlined in bold).

I promise that you won’t be disappointed – I’ve taken great pains in to find artists who do beautiful work and who share many other family-friendly creative projects on their websites. Not only will you also find more free colouring pages on each site that I have not included in the links above, you’ll also be supporting a starving artist, whilst keeping the colouring pages free-to-download for everybody. That’s three good things for the low, low price of one click!

An SG50 Playlist

In preparation for the upcoming SG50 celebrations, here’s a little playlist of my favourite bits of music on youtube which I feel are most representative of what Singapore means to me.

In this playlist there’s a little complaining song (about a home that you love), a tamil song played on a traditional chinese instrument by a malay boy, a malay song played by a chinese orchestra, a song showing how far our public healthcare system has come, a song about home by people living in various care homes, and a song about a legacy.

Enjoy!

P.S. Let me know in the comments which was your favourite song in the playlist, or if you have a favourite National Day song!