Singer Joanna Dong at last year's concert. Photo: inhershoes / Jean Loo
Some people prefer friends and family to offer toasts rather than tears when they die. But few have what actor Simon Wong's late loved wife, Peikie Ng, has – commemorative concerts and celebrations each year after her passing for the fourth year running now, and on a larger and larger scale, in an effort to prevent more cancer-related deaths.
Charming crinkle-eyed Simon Wong is a lucky guy in many ways – he's travelled several countries making a living from his passions of design and performing, finally dropping anchor in Singapore where he's a designer, television host and actor. In other ways, he seems less blessed: his beloved wife Peikie Ng was diagnosed with Stage 3 Stomach Cancer just six months after they'd purchased a private flat to live together in. She died the following year in 2008 at just 33 years of age.
Wong shut out the world for a long time, relying on meals left outside his door by neighbours. Finally, he decided that cancer would not claim his life too. In 2009, he created the ‘InHerShoes Art’& ‘Music Against Cancer’ initiative, as a one-evening event at the Arts House to raise money for cancer-related charities. The next year, he turned it into a one-night outdoor fest at Sculpture Square, which became a large-scale concert at Fort Canning Green in 2011.
This year, it's a weekend-long arts-and-music festival plus fun-run over three different venues, namely The Arts House, Singapore Management University Green and The Padang. The three-day fete is studded with Singapore stars doing everything from holding workshops, singing songs, rapping, dancing, doing stand-up comedy, and all to raise money for research against cancer.
Says Wong, “Many of the performers have personal connections with cancer. To name a few, rapper Shigga Shay lost his father, Jessica Irawan is fighting cancer, TV actor Nick Shen lost his mother.... And behind the scenes, our coordinator Fiona Phua's partner has Melanoma and our photographer Gary Ong passed away earlier last week from stomach cancer. Our team this year has grown from 50 or 60 from last year's event at Fort Canning to 216 at the last count - this is kicking cancer in the nuts! Caregivers, survivors, fighters, standing together utterly defiant, looking back in the face of cancer and saying: is that all you got? We will take cancer down.”
With 100 per cent of the ticket proceeds going to the National Cancer Centre Research Fund and 2.5 times of your ticket price in tax rebates, here are some of the diverse entertainments you can indulge in this weekend to help the team of “InHerShoes” take cancer down.
Joanna Dong singing various songs
Pretty, petite and prolific local jazz-singer Joanna Dong will be singing with celebrated Mandarin singer/songwriter/composer Kathryn Wong at the InHerShoes Open Air Concert. “This year, Kathryn and I chose to cover songs to commemorate two exceptional performers whose talents the world lost to cancer in the past year: Feng Fei Fei and Robin Gibb. I'll also perform the theme song for In Her Shoes titled “Sing me to Sleep” with composer Marcel Heijnen, written in memory of Simon’s wife. You can preview and download the song at https://soundcloud.com/marcelheijnen/sing-me-to-sleep. "
I'm extremely thankful that my nearest and dearest are in good health, but over the past few years, I feel like there's a circle closing in. First colleagues, family members of friends, then an ex-classmate and recently someone from my own extended family have succumbed to cancer. My greatest hope is that a cure, or even better, a reliable form of prevention is found soon...that's why funding cancer research is imperative."
Steve Lai holding TV presenting and scenework workshops
Suave and serious Channel News Asia presenter Steve Lai is no stranger to cancer. “My Dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was nine, but he's a fighter and turned 70 this year. Since his cancer was removed, he has had to use a colostomy bag. One end of his large intestine comes out through his abdominal wall, and stools moving through the intestine drain into a bag attached to his abdomen. It's uncomfortable and noticeable, but he gets on with it.”
“What my dad has taught me is that life can be tough, unfair and can knock you down. But you learn what’s important, adjust and you keep moving forward. Life might not be how you thought or how you planned. But whether you’re fighting, you’re a survivor or you’ve lost someone like Simon (Wong), life goes on.
For ‘InHerShoes’, I’m helping out with TV Presenting and Acting workshops, and give people a go at feeling what it’s like to be in front of a camera and an audience. Both are things that most people have seen at some point in their life and thought “I could do that” - I certainly did. But the first step is the scariest. Because first steps are where life begins.”
TV Presenting Workshop | 17 November 4.30-6.30pm | Play Den at The Arts House
Introduction to Scenework | 18 November 1030am-1230pm | Living Room, The Arts House
Rishi Budhrani and Sharul Channa performing standup comedy at ‘Laugh It Away’
Rishi Budhrani and Sharul Channa are laughter yoga teachers and a well-known standup-comedian couple in the comedy circuit, with impressive comic CVs in and out of Singapore, and both individually and together. Says Budhrani, “We invited a few of our colleagues from the comedy scene to get involved. There'll be seven comics in total. In addition to the stand-up, we'll be introducing a bit of Laughter Yoga.”
Channa chimes in, “Laughter can help you get through problems and has many health benefits. People should bring along all their problems and stress and laugh them away together. Keep happy and healthy and help those around you with cancer fight through it.”
“My aunty had womb cancer and had a very sad demise. I saw her when she was bed-ridden and motionless and thought to myself - What a terrible thing cancer is. Nobody should have to go through this. For many problems, there is a solution. For cancer, many people don't find one. The reason why I decided to get involved was so that money wouldn't be the reason people stop looking for that solution.”
18 November 8pm | Living Room at The Arts House
Sharda Harrison performing Movement Theatre Piece ‘Present’
Being a committed charity worker as well as an international-touring movement artist/actor, sensual Sharda Harrison has a deep respect for cancer sufferers.
“I helped out at Assisi Hospice, and my first charity event, ‘Skinned’, was an arts concert in Fort Canning Park against cancer. At that time, I would go to the children's day care centre to be with child cancer sufferers. Also, last year I organized a play for the colon cancer society at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, called ‘The Inside Story’, and got down one-on-one with people who cope with cancer. Cancer patients have moved me very much and made I believe they, and the people around them, are not just survivors, but warriors.”
For ‘InHerShoes’, Harrison performs in a movement piece called ‘Present’. “It's a short, simple and hopefully honest piece that invites us to appreciate the present and presents that we receive in life.”
17 November 6.45pm, Singapore Management University Green
Run For Hope
Run For Hope 2012 and Dash or Dunk
Don't feel like you can only sit back and spend for charity. Other than performances and workshops, there are also yoga classes, dance classes and finally, a mass charity run on the final day of ‘InHerShoes’ - an active and healthy event to reflect what ‘InHerShoes’ is about. “The key word for those affected and those supporting (Cancer victims), is sheer determination, and indomitable spirit to want to keep others healthy and happy,” says Simon Wong. Wong himself will be at the run to host, entertain and and give out prizes, together with Harrison, Budhrani, Channa, Lai, plus bestselling comedy writer Neil Humphreys.
At the open-air concert on 17 November, Wong will also host Dash or Dunk, where Humphreys will have to complete a number of tasks commensurate to funds raised, or be dunked into a bathtub. “There'll be a series of devious games devised by Steve (Lai) and myself,” laughs Wong evilly. “Nobody else has the heart to inflict suffering - in the name of charity - on Singapore's most beloved Ang Moh the way we do!”
Run for Hope | 18 November 6.30-11.30am | The Padang
Dash or Dunk during the Open-Air Concert at SMU Green | 17 November 7.30pm | Singapore Management University Green
Jo Tan is a professional freelancer whose cv includes wedding singing and selling fish. She actually likes salads and tofu, and doesn't eat chicken because she had two as pets (their names were Bubbles and Joveranter Cat.) However, she is not a hippie because she is bad at yoga and like most of Singapore, expects to slave her whole life to pay for her new HDB flat.