Wednesday, March 4, 2015

SINGAPORE: the city that shines with sparkling glory and leads children to their dream adventures


According to old records, the LCAC was started in the year 1894 by a young girl named Jayathri. Its first members included her neighbours Sherlock Hong and Aisha. Their goal was to make new friends, exchange interesting stories and explore Singapore together. They often held their meetings in Jayathri's back garden, not far from River Valley Road.

In 1930, the Chief Adventurer was Gopal S., a student and volunteer librarian at St. Joseph's Institution. He grew the membership of the LCAC by merging it with the Bravo Circle, a theatre group made up of many interesting characters. From here on, the LCAC regularly put up plays and musical performances inspired by the stories of old Singapore.

From 1942 to 1946, when the Japanese army occupied Singapore during World War 2, Chief Adventurer Mei Song and many other LCAC members actively helped other children find food, medicine and missing family members.

In 1962, the LCAC had so many members that it split into two groups. One group was led by Mary Anson and her sister Shirley Anson, and they met around the Queenstown area. The other group was based in Katong, in the east, and this was led by Edward Low, with help from his English teacher Mrs. J. Fernandez.

In 1965, Edward Low's parents moved to Penang, and he left with them. The Anson sisters tried to merge the two groups, but they had little success because they soon got busy helping out at their father's furniture store.

In 1967, A. A. Hamid took as Chief Adventurer. He was a very talented and enthusiastic young man, and under his leadership the LCAC started publishing its official newsletter, Super Cool Adventures. His newsletter team included his neighbour Fook Siew Li and his classmate Selvakumar. Many years later Selvakumar would start the games company Blade Quest Industries, together with another classmate, Joseph Lee.

In 1976, Chester Chang took over as Chief Adventurer. He made a number of serious mistakes during this time, including trying to charge an annual membership fee of $100. Many long-time LCAC members were disappointed and left the group. By 1979, there were only three members left, including Chester himself. People still refer to this as the "dark ages" of the LCAC.

In 1982, Edward Low, former head of the Katong LCAC group, returned to Singapore after many years working in England. He teamed up with Selvakumar — or Uncle Selva, as everyone called him — and raised enough money to rent a meeting space for the LCAC along Newton Road. Janice De Cruz became the new Chief Adventurer.

Thanks to Janice, the LCAC newsletter was relaunched in 1983, and ran until 1994, when their landlord sold the building and they had to move out. Each issue of Super Cool Adventures featured lots of creative work from its many new members, including the young writer Don Bosco.

In 1999, Winifred Chong launched a website for the LCAC. Because of this, its membership grew very quickly. The LCAC started to share its resources and collaborate with other groups such as the Gung Ho Guild, The School of Heavenly Inventions, Madam White Cat Appreciation Society, the Bukuguru Book Club, School of Magical Stories, International Order of Young Seekers, and many others. Today, there are LCAC groups everywhere in Singapore. You can even gather your friends and start your own group too! May your adventures bring you great joy.



So how do you feel about this Lion City Adventuring Club? Does reading about them make your heart beat just a little faster? Does something inside you yearn to seek them out and join their excursions?

And the big question that you can't help asking: can something like this actually exist?

Short answer: yes.

But maybe the long answer works better.

I wrote the fictional history above as part of the conceptual background for our next book, LION CITY ADVENTURES. Which is published by Marshall Cavendish, and will be available in bookstores just before the June holidays this year.

LION CITY ADVENTURES is a hybrid reading experience, meaning it contains both non-fiction and fiction sections.

The book’s main bits take children on a learning tour of ten interesting locations around Singapore. They get to visit the places and complete some activities. This journey is packed with the kinds of cool things that children love: architectural oddities, yummy food, helpful local phrases to use, and so on.

There’s also a lot of fascinating local history, geography and culture to intrigue them. They visit the Singapore River and learn why it enchanted Sir Stamford Raffles so much that he had to start something here. They go to Chinatown, Little India, Geylang Serai, Arab Street, etc, and uncover stories about the early settlers and how they made their fortunes. And they also tour modern marvels like Gardens by the Bay, with its sci-fi-ish Supertrees.

At the same time, the readers follow a trail of stories inserted along the way, about this very old and proud organisation called the Lion City Adventuring Club, made up of brave children who explored Singapore and made astounding discoveries. At each location there are activities, puzzles and mysteries to be solved. And on top of all this, there are references to the characters and events from my other fiction worlds, like the Sherlock Hong series and the Time Talisman series.

This creates a rich reading experience for the young readers. As they learn to appreciate the neighbourhoods, they’re also stepping into an alternate reality story that they can eventually enjoy across different books, through local events, via apps, and so on. They feel like they’re taking part in something really epic and thrilling and authentic and local.

This project is our first collaboration with a major publisher. Before this we’ve been packaging and printing all our paperbacks and ebooks and story kits on our own. It’s great to work with the Marshall Cavendish editorial team on this, and see all our ideas come together on the colourful pages. There’s a lot of effort taken to bring the Lion City Adventuring Club to life, and deliver a great story experience for young readers. Complete with an official badge. Thanks to everyone involved, the LCAC is getting more real every day.

So it’s not just an ordinary book. Not just a bunch of facts and maps and anecdotes and illustrations. What we’re making is a deep story franchise, based on local legends and memorable characters and mystery challenges that children can engage with, that will grow on and on over time, across different media. Even with different writers and creative partners.

For helping to inspire this, I must thank my fellow transmedia enthusiasts at the StoryCode Singapore group, especially Marco Sparmberg and Jacqui Hocking. Our meetups in 2014 did a lot to inspire me, and gave me a platform to share and even prototype ideas for Super Cool Books. Marco was recently interviewed about our local transmedia developments in One Year In Now Media Vol IV by Simon Staffans.

I should confess something. When I finished writing the first draft of the LCAC history, the one you read above, for some reason I felt so moved that my chest ached. Strangely, it seemed as if I was just a humble researcher recording the exploits of these real-life young heroes. What an awesome organisation, this Lion City Adventuring Club. What great vision, what inspiring fellowship. What an outstanding legacy they created for the children of Singapore. And what a marvellous time the children will have as they join the club, follow the adventures and solve the mysteries.

So this has become our creative passion. To help young readers feel their imagination expanding, and give them a genuine sense of awe and loving connection to the great island.

Watch out for this. And feel free to get in touch if you'd like to get involved in any way.

— D