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The journey to realising the All In! Young Writers Festival

21 Feb 2017 // Filed under Events / Literacy / Literature

For someone with a teaching background, it was challenging to make the transition from academia to project management. I was grateful that my media background came in handy when I joined NBDCS, and especially when I was tasked to manage the All In! Young Writers Festival, immediately after its run in 2014.

Inarguably, it was daunting to manage a festival of such scale and reach, largely because I knew only a few contacts within the industry and among practitioners at that time, given that my previous work involved mostly talking to parents, teaching creative writing to young children, and auditing pre-schools. That, and running a children’s magazine.

To start planning, I was advised to follow a template, which had seminars, panel discussions and plenary sessions on Day 1, and workshops on Day 2. The upstart in me wanted to rebel and demanded to be heard, but mastery never came from bullish temperament, and so I decided to follow the directors’ advice to replicate what has already been proven effective in recent editions of the festival.

Managing All In! was de javú for me.

In 2012, I replaced my boss in a panel with NY author Fran Lebowitz at All In! held at Rendezvous Hotel. Two years later, I was project-managing the very same festival. Although more anecdotal than providential, it was interesting to be at both sides of the proverbial All In! fence at some point of my involvement with it. As a speaker, I observed how the festival was run from an outsider’s point of view, and now as its manager, I’ve taken those observations and used them to hopefully improve All In!, one edition at a time.

After being run for some time at another venue, I heard that the library@orchard then was well on its way to reopening its branch at Orchard Gateway mall along Somerset Road. I realised that if I could not explore too much on programming, it would be interesting to play around with logistics for the festival.


After discussions with the library@orchard, All In! 2015 welcomed a few firsts:

  • An international speaker from Bangkok, who flew in and out on the same day;
  • Public fringe activities were conducted in communal areas of the library;
  • Free publicity courtesy of library@orchard’s video wall and the glass wall panels that separated the rooms from the rest of the library;
  • Tote bags were supported by Orchard Gateway and a few of its tenants, and
  • Modestly better ticket sales than previous years, with lesser complimentary tickets given out.

Although organising the festival at a new venue provided some challenges, All In! 2015 proved that the festival had massive potential and had left a lasting mark on its target audience.

By 2016, All In! took a bigger leap and introduced other innovations in both programming and logistics:

  • It introduced new untapped genres like game writing, music and academic writing;
  • It increased concurrent sessions to 3, from the previous 2 sessions, since it had more rooms to use;
  • It introduced student-panellists and moderators, which proved to be popular among delegates;
  • It actively involved more students not just as delegates, but as student-journalists, photographers, videographers and social media writers; and,

All In! produced three programme segments on music, essays and films, with support from the National Youth Council, as well as a masterclass for older learners under then the Media Development Authority.

This year, I am both anxious and excited that All In! is moving to *SCAPE as its new venue!

​Both a space and a statement in itself, I feel that being housed there will prove to be pivotal for the festival, both in delivery and in programming potential.

This year’s run has a few firsts as well:

  • Seven films directed and/or produced by 13-25 year-old students will be screened as part of a film exhibition supported by the National Youth Council;
  • Close to 20 sessions, masterclasses and workshops at All In! 2017 are parked programmes by partners such as Puttnam School of Film (LaSalle), Singapore Writers Festival, BananaMana Films, Kobo Rakuten and many others, enriching programming even more;
  • A conference is parked within the conference, through a partnership with AIESEC Singapore, a youth-led organisation whose history and ideals of social change through youth empowerment is a refreshing welcome to All In!; and
  • A book of insightful essays from YOUTHspeak 2016 will be launched, and is All In!’s first festival publications

The festival is also celebrating its 10th anniversary next year, and although it has the history to boot, what I like about it is how fresh it still feels even after a decade of bringing industry and young writers together, to interact and learn from each other’s experience.

I can only wonder what the future holds for the festival. Regardless of whether I’d still be around to see it celebrate its 25th year or beyond, I am grateful that I was given such a fun project to work on.

See you all at the All In! Young Writers Festival 2017!  Don't forget to check out the full programme line-up at

- Carlo Venson Peña ([email protected]


Anshu wrote on 13 Jul 2017:

Congrats…you had done great work. Handling event is not only interesting but it’s challenging one. When it comes to encourage youngsters, its not that much easy. Is there anything special for young writers in coming next year festival?

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