From head-scratching to hottest ticket in town

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am


As executive director of event promoters Singapore GP and the Lushington Entertainment group, Michael Roche has a unique insight into not only the running of the grand prix itself but all the action that swirls around it.

He can remember - clearly - the excitement as it built from 2007 onwards once the decision to host the event had been made. And he can also remember the confusion within the international entertainment industry when word spread that Singapore was looking to add the talents of a collection of the world's top artists to the event.

Initially, at least, the concept took some explaining. But what a difference a little time makes - and a great deal of success.

'There was some head-scratching in the beginning,' says Roche. 'Some of the agents I had dealt with before were not sure how their clients were going to perform - and where - when there was a grand prix going on. But five years on, and now some of the greatest artists on the planet want to come out here and play during the grand prix. Word has got out this is a hot ticket.'

It's a bold statement but one that is backed up by the artists at this year's event.

American sensation Katy Perry will be joined by British singer-songwriter Noel Gallagher - once of the hit-machine that was Oasis and now taking to stages across the globe fronting Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - on a programme that also include Taiwan's Jay Chou, multi-award winners Maroon 5 and 1980s favourites Bananarama, Pretenders and The Proclaimers.

There will be 46 acts spread across six stages over three days, plus the grand prix's roving street entertainers, coupled with an array of food and beverage centres and corporate entertainment options.

The Marina Bay Street Circuit park hosts the entertainment over the three days and is split into four zones, covering 686,609 square metres. General tickets top out at S$2,288 (HK$14,000) for a turn 3 premier grandstand ticket to S$58 'walkabout' tickets for Friday's activities only.

The idea, says Roche, is to have all the bases covered. This year's '80s programme, for example, builds on the success of the 2011 edition which saw the likes of Rick Astley and Boy George take older members of the crowd on a trip back through the hits.

'It was a huge success,' says Roche. 'And, as we found last year, these acts from the '80s are a perfect complement to the overall programme which just gets better and better every year.'

As a city-wide celebration, both the locals and the visitors have over the past four editions of the grand prix taken advantage of the festive atmosphere to enjoy all of Singapore's entertainment options, from Sentosa to Marina Bay and on throughout the city.

'The event allows everyone to make full use of all the city's attractions,' says Roche. 'Families can come to the integrated resorts, the theme parks, couples can go shopping and eat at our famous restaurants and then there are the concerts which attract all these international acts and are - again - catering for every taste.'

It also an event that involves people, says Roche, and had to involve the public if it was to have any chance of success. The street entertainers and the outdoor food stalls encourage people to walk around the entire circuit, to mingle and to soak up the atmosphere in Singapore's great outdoors.

'We involve tens of thousands of people at the circuit alone as well as those working in hotels, bars, restaurants and everything else the city has to offer. It really is an event full of passion and pride and you can sense that as you walk around over the weekend,' says Roche.

'It's so multi-sensory and so broad it is a mass of experiences - from the food, the bars, the clubs and the roving acts. It has been such a massive learning curve for everyone involved and it has been exciting for everyone involved.

'For a street night race there was no manual. We had to learn and create this event as we went along and we are really proud of what this event has become.'

And everything leads to the big race on Sunday, the focus point of a party that rolls on for three days and nights. One of the greatest pleasures for Roche each year is simply walking around the circuit and taking it all in.

'Obviously the pinnacle is the Formula One on the Sunday,' says Roche. 'It really is something for everyone and you can see this fabulous mix of people all through the weekend, from inside the corporate suites to out on the streets. It really is something special.'