2020 & US

Words cannot sufficiently describe the 2020-21 season. It was the strangest year ever. Here are some statistics instead to start:

• There were 3 lockdowns in which we stayed away from the office and each other
• We spent a total of 7 months working from home as a result
• Our workload jumped 100% at least salvaging programmes, Zooming and contingency planning
• The team proactively took over 50 online courses
• We researched over 1,000 sites locally & internationally
• Only 33% of live theatre productions were rescued 
• Together, we managed to save 80% of classes/workshops using a hybrid format of online & live workshops when conditions allowed
• Over 5,000 teachers and students from 13 schools joined our pilot digiAFTEC™ online programmes during lockdown
• Words repeated non-stop were COVID-19, masks, pandemic and Zoom fatigue
• My vision deteriorated by 20% due to computer eyeballs, did yours?

Once, we were used to routines. Being upended by the pandemic was a wake-up call.

Once, we were cosseted by a relative order of things. Disorder tested our collective resilience.

This meant that the traditional ways of doing things have been radically altered at AFTEC. Led by our Artistic Director, Dr Vicki Ooi, the Survival is Not Enough internal think tank was created overnight. From February 2020, the company as a team regularly met to research, discuss, debate findings, and then embarked on its first digital endeavour with nothing more than a fierce determination to move forward, learning as we went, and collectively gained ground inch by inch.

I would particularly like to thank the Board of Directors for being ever supportive during the storm, to donors and sponsors who came unasked and unsought and, most importantly, to colleagues who rose to the occasion and together steered the ship in a different direction.

It was a year of living disruptively.

Lynn Yau
• Training: Literature & Education


Meet some of our colleagues who were with us during the 2020-21 season. These are extracts from their year’s reflections, specifically their work at AFTEC. Although they were trained differently, they were drawn together by the arts & creative learning. The power of the arts supported them through these tumultuous times. Passion matters.

All good artistic directors are driven to achieve their work of conceiving, developing, and implementing the artistic vision and focus of the organisation. COVID-19 struck and changed everything in the performing arts. First, we built up resilience to survive but survival, we quickly found, was not enough. We had to think ahead by working out each crisis to learn to change to the next unknown stage. Risk taking at short notice became the norm and 2020 became the life of living one step at a time.

Dr Vicki Ooi
• Artistic Director
• Training: Theatre

The balance of live and online elements is a question for the entire arts sector. On the one hand, the importance of the human touch in the arts is undeniable. On the other hand, there is no turning back and we have to embrace technology in the creation of the arts. Nevertheless, I think all of us at AFTEC have gained knowledge and experience from 2020-21, and more importantly, grown mentally to prepare for the challenges ahead.

Calvin Co
• Senior Manager (Theatre Projects)
• Training: Accounting

In the past year, it has been easy to succumb to negativity and self-doubt. Yet interestingly, public cries of encouragement to tackle the seemingly impossible have been louder than ever.

Valerie Ho
• Arts Education Manager
• Training: Religious Studies

AFTEC did not wait around but initiated change and enhanced past practices. The digiAFTEC™ team was born and a new online platform was created, a brand new start from ground zero. Some of us worked together in research, experimented, ran trials and failed because of technical limitations. It was tough yet challenging and exciting.

Jessica Cheung
• Senior Project Officer
• Training: Visual Arts

The unexpected and unforeseeable impact of COVID meant that there were no immediate answers. But a problem without a solution is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed it is a challenge, a chance, an opportunity. Where there are no precedents, it is time to create one. I seized the chance to create and experiment in every possible way with team members, irrespective of whether it worked or not. 

Ebona Yeung
• Head of Creative Learning
• Training: Stage Management

The past 1.5 years have taught me that we simply have no control over things. What we need to do is equip ourselves to cope with all eventualities. Opportunities will arise for those who are prepared. 

Teresa Wong
• Administration Manager
• Training: Merchandising

Imagination and creativity are what we have to help us through uncertain times. I gained courage from witnessing the resilience around me at AFTEC and took on new challenges and responsibilities.

Eleanor Lam
• Senior Project Officer
• Training: Biochemistry

Through exploring and researching other arts organisations and in discussion, multiple new doors were opened in my thinking which also led me in new directions during this period of uncertainty and beyond.

Emma Wong
• Assistant Manager (Theatre Projects)
• Training: Music

Despite the uncertainties of the pandemic, my deepest impression during Zoom classes came from observing the interactions between teachers and tutors with their students – when to step in, when to let go. I learned valuable lessons in class management from the reflections on student performance and areas of improvement with the teachers. 

Henry Chu
• Project Officer
• Training: Music

To be honest at the beginning I sometimes felt discouraged. But with every change my ability to adapt and problem solve gradually improved and each time I discovered there was growth and gain. With this attitude, I began to view every change as a challenge and opportunity for growth. 

Christie Yam
• Project Officer
• Training: Cultural and Heritage Management


During COVID, even though there was little contact between people and the office was quiet, it was business as usual in the accountancy department. My attitude is one of keeping steady in the face of change and adversity and not allowing chaos to reign. 

James Wong
• Accountant
• Training: Accounting

The most excellent learning in 2020 was learning. I learned to stretch myself to manage time, projects, and the team to cope with the challenges from the pandemic. I managed to learn, persevere, think deep and wide, and reflect. The introduction to the growth mindset, rediscovery of the power of arts, and lifelong learning through arts were the keys to help me to be a better arts administrator and a better person. 

Natalie Ting
• Head of Theatre Projects
• Training: Communications & Cultural Management