The Great Christmas Eve Street Party

Bringing the sights, atmosphere and emotions of Singapore's first-ever Christmas Eve street party to life

Bringing the sights, atmosphere and emotions of Singapore’s first-ever Christmas Eve street party to life

Orchard Road Business Association
Orchard Road Business Association

Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) was formed by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to oversee Orchard Road. Over the years, Orchard Road has evolved into one of the most recognisable shopping and lifestyle destinations in the world. A key highlight is the annual Christmas light-up, which first illuminated Orchard Road in 1983 and helped attract over 4 million visitors during the 2022 Christmas season.

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Singapore's first-ever Christmas Eve street party came alive, led by a focus on local communities and the thoughtful use of AV solutions

A flurry of Yule decorations, once again, unfolded across Orchard Road as the 2023 Christmas season rolled around. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Christmas light-up, ORBA announced that it was throwing the first-ever Christmas Eve street party – officially dubbed The Great Christmas Eve Street Party – on Orchard Road.

The party began to take shape at 6pm on 24 Dec 2023, when the 400m stretch of Orchard Road between the Paterson and Bideford Road junctions was cordoned off to make way for the stalls, food trucks, performers and stage that would host the finale: a boisterous countdown to Christmas.

As the Official Production Partner, we were proud to help bring the remarkable sights, atmosphere and emotions of The Great Christmas Eve Street Party to more than 130,000 party-goers. Join us behind the scenes to find out how we did it.

We enacted a three-pronged crowd control strategy to keep party-goers and pedestrians safe

We dedicated considerable resources to security and empowered emergency responders to react swifty

We gave party-goers lots to discover and love with a Christmas market centred on homegrown brands and live performances led by local communities

We championed the party as a platform for local talents, who regaled party-goers in the lead-up to Christmas Day

Our expertise in sound engineering enhanced audibility for all party-goers

Our stage setup added excitement to stage activities and performances

SAFETY

The Great Christmas Eve Street Party road closure map

A 400m stretch of Orchard Road between the Paterson and Bideford Road junctions was closed to traffic from 6pm on 24 Dec 2023 to 2am on 25 Dec 2023. (3D map: Google Maps)

The safety of party-goers was vital to the smooth execution of The Great Christmas Eve Street Party. Upholding it meant we had to contend with a unique set of challenges, since the party was held at a major intersection of Orchard Road. Working in close coordination with different stakeholders such as the Singapore Police Force (SPF), LTA and SMRT, we drew up plans that would enable us to react swiftly to any incident at the party while minimising disruptions to the traffic and the pedestrians in the vicinity.

Our timely engagement with motorists was key to pre-empting the impact on their travel plans

Traffic advisory signs

Traffic advisory signs like the ones above were erected along popular roadways to Orchard Road in the weeks leading up to The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

Workers lay down barricades to isolate the leftmost lane of Orchard Road. It would be designated as an emergency lane during The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

Closing off the stretch of Orchard Road between the Paterson and Bideford road junctions called for more than just barricades. In addition to being a thoroughfare to downtown Singapore, it’s lined with a complex of shopping malls and condominiums. It was therefore necessary to announce the road closure beforehand.

To reach out to motorists, we earmarked the announcement for broadcast on radio over a week before the party. The information, which was drafted in consultation with LTA, aimed to help motorists plan alternative routes to their destinations. We also targeted the roads that motorists popularly use to get to Orchard Road, such as Bukit Timah Road and Devonshire Road, with traffic advisory signs.

Engaging the management offices of the shopping malls and the MCSTs of the condominiums along Orchard Road was another priority. They played an integral role in disseminating information on the road closure to their tenants and residents respectively and even helped erect road closure signs in the car parks of their properties.

Above all, we paid consideration to the nearby Mount Elizabeth Hospital. To ensure emergency responders could continue to rely on Orchard Road as a gateway to the hospital, we kept the leftmost lane of the four-lane street open as an emergency lane. Additionally, we mapped out alternative routes to and from Mount Elizabeth Hospital and provided a hotline to the hospital’s operations team.

We enacted a three-pronged crowd control strategy to keep both party-goers and pedestrians safe

Entry into The Great Christmas Eve Street Party

The entrances to The Great Christmas Eve Street Party open at 8pm on 24 Dec 2023.

Public dancing at The Great Christmas Eve Street Party

A mother and her daughter break out into a dance on Orchard Road during The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

Flanked by alleys wedged between shopping malls and more than a few MRT station exits, the stretch of Orchard Road between the Paterson and Bideford road junctions is marked by bottlenecks that could get overwhelmed easily by a larger-than-expected crowd. A crowd crush could ensue if there isn’t any crowd control. The former occurred at the 2022 Halloween celebrations in Itaewon in Seoul, South Korea, claiming over 300 victims.

To avoid a repeat of the tragedy, we invested in a three-pronged crowd control strategy. This consisted of regulating access to the party, managing the flow of people into the areas surrounding the party and dispersing both party-goers and pedestrians after the party. In total, we deployed over 60 auxiliary police officers (APOs) and security officers (SOs) to support our safety operations.

How we regulated access to the party

Although The Great Christmas Eve Street Party was a non-ticketed event, we decided early on that it would be gated with stipulated entrances on one side of Orchard Road and exits on the other side. APOs and SOs were assigned to each passageway to ensure those entering the party didn’t encroach onto the paths of those exiting the party and vice versa. They were also authorised to close all entrances if the party reached 80% of its capacity.

Entrance and exit management

A security officer stops party-goers from using an exit to enter The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

How we managed the flow of people into the areas surrounding the party

With a network of underpasses continuously ferrying hundreds of pedestrians from Orchard MRT station, ION Orchard, Wheelock Place, Shaw House, Tang Plaza, Wisma Atria and Lucky Plaza onto Orchard Road, we needed to be extra vigilant against congestion in the party’s vicinity. Guided by recommendations from SPF, we designated teams of APOs and SOs to patrol the underpasses.

We also sought the help of mall management to suspend operations of upward-riding escalators and turn away pedestrians from them should Orchard Road get overly crowded. Key to the effectiveness of the combined effort was a shared communication channel, which allowed us to anticipate a crowd crush and tackle the threat of one quickly.

ION Orchard Link exit

Security officers keep a watchful eye on one of the exits of ION Orchard Link, which is one of the several underpasses ferrying pedestrians from Orchard MRT station onto Orchard Road.

How we dispersed both party-goers and pedestrians after the party

Most party-goers stayed on for the finale of The Great Christmas Eve Street Party, and rightfully so. At the stroke of midnight on Christmas Day, the stage between Mandarin Gallery and The Heeren burst into a hive of special effects and Christmas choruses. Pedestrians also glimpsed the theatrics from the sidelines. Needless to say, if both groups of people had made a beeline for the nearest entrances to Orchard MRT station once the party ended, a crowd crush could happen.

Luckily, those who wanted to leave could depend on a live map of the area, which relayed real-time updates on crowd levels across Orchard. By scanning a QR code printed on signboards that were found throughout the party, users could access the map via a web browser on their phones. The information, which was provided by SPF, allowed people to navigate their way out of Orchard smoothly.

Prior communication of our crowd dispersal plan with SMRT also ensured that ushers from SMRT, along with APOs and SOs, were on hand to guide the crowd. Those who wanted to leave were advised to head for the nearby Somerset MRT station or the Thomson-East Coast Line entrance of Orchard MRT station, which is farther from Orchard Road but less crowded.

To prevent station platforms from being overcrowded, SMRT allowed people to enter in batches. Some were held at fare gates until those on the platforms had boarded their trains. Other crowd dispersal measures implemented by SMRT included keeping fare gates open to smoothen the flow of people and increasing the frequency of trains to cope with the extra passengers.

Live map of Orchard

An impression of SPF’s ‘Crowd@OrchardRoad’ live map, which party-goers and pedestrians could access by scanning a QR code printed on signboards throughout The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

We dedicated resources to be on high alert throughout the party and respond to any emergency at a moment’s notice

SPF watch tower

A makeshift watch tower at the centre of the party served as a great vantage point for SPF officers.

Ambulance in emergency lane

Paramedics in an ambulance on the emergency lane stand by to respond to any emergency at The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

When emergency responders tried to get to the victims of the 2022 Halloween crowd crush in Itaewon, they were impeded by a packed street. With sections of the crowd still unaware of the accident, people continued celebrating. For us, the lessons were clear: we needed to be on the pulse of the party and effectively enact an emergency plan if an incident occurred.

To better manage the safety operations of the party, we segregated it into three sections. Each section was policed by a dedicated team of APOs and SOs, while a makeshift watch tower at the centre of the party allowed SPF to maintain a bird’s-eye view.

Any incident would be met by an announcement from the emcee and a siren to break up crowds near the emergency lane. The latter was crucial in enabling emergency responders to arrive at any area within the party quickly. If an incident proved difficult to isolate, we were prepared to convert the entrances into exits and evacuate all party-goers.

PROGRAMME

Swing Singapore 1988

Swing Singapore, Singapore’s first-ever recorded street party, was held on Orchard Road on 27 August 1988 as part of the National Day celebrations that year. (Photo: Facebook/irememberSG)

Crowd at The Great Christmas Eve Street Party

Party-goers gather around the stage on Orchard Road during The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

On 27 August 1988, as part of the National Day celebrations, Orchard Road was transformed into a party haven. About 250,000 party-goers descended on the 1.7km stretch between Scotts Road and Killiney Road to sing, clap and dance to covers of hit songs by local bands, while DJs belted out tunes throughout the night. As far as records go, the street party – better known as Swing Singapore – was the first of its kind in Singapore.

Although The Great Christmas Eve Street Party was envisaged as a way to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Christmas light-up on Orchard Road, we saw it as an opportunity to pay homage to an equally significant moment in Singapore’s history. The goal was to create a street party that centred on local communities as much as it brought everyone together to rejoice in the Christmas spirit.

We spotlighted homegrown brands at the Christmas market

Local artisan

Local artisans and other sellers of small-batch merchandise line Orchard Road during The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

SG Food Truck, which dishes out bites such as burgers, nachos and hotdogs, was one of the three local F&B pop-ups at The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

One of the highlights of the street party was the Christmas market, which consisted of 50 stalls lining both sides of the street. From the outset, we wanted to avoid commodifying these spaces. Instead, we partnered with Invade to launch outreach efforts to local artisans and other sellers of small-batch merchandise. Their participation helped preserve the value of the Christmas market as a showcase for homegrown brands.

We gave party-goers lots to discover and love with a community-led showcase

Buskers, including those who regularly perform on Orchard Road, entertain party-goers during The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

NCC Command Band march in

The NCC Command Band from Swiss Cottage Secondary School marches down Orchard Road during The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

Party-goers were also treated to a host of live performances along the whole stretch. These were delivered not by celebrities but by a cadre of buskers, including those who already ply Orchard Road and are ingrained in its culture. Joining the buskers were Christmas mascots, who were popular with both kids and those looking for photo opportunities.

By the time the NCC Command Band from Swiss Cottage Secondary School – affectionately dubbed toy soldiers – marched down Orchard Road at 9.45pm, the party was in full swing. But the 30-strong ensemble, unsurprisingly, turned heads as their Christmas choruses reverberated through the party.

Local talents regaled party-goers in the lead-up to midnight on Christmas Day

Stage performance by Danz People

Young emerging dancers from dance studio Danz People perform for party-goers during The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

Dancing couple

A couple dances on Orchard Road in the lead-up to midnight on Christmas Day.

In curating the stage entertainment, we wanted to mirror this support for the local communities and champion The Great Christmas Eve Street Party as a platform for the music of local talents. Among those who took to the stage: young emerging dancers from dance studio Danz People and acoustic duo The Rad Emu.

We also tapped on the local scene in our search for DJs, who coaxed party-goers into a waltz in the lead-up to midnight on Christmas Day. As the clock struck 12, we conjured the finale on the stage. Helped by a combination of spark effects, vapour and spot lighting that escaped into the night sky, the spectacle was as vivid as it was entrancing.

We wrapped the party at 12.15am, and by 2am, Orchard Road was reopened to traffic.

TECHNOLOGY

The Great Christmas Eve Street Party required 5km of cables to power.

A DJ performs amidst vapour and spot lighting.

As much as the programme was designed to deliver a meaningful and memorable experience to party-goers, it wouldn’t have been possible without a bevy of solutions in audio and video. In total, we set up enough speakers to power at least half a dozen night clubs and laid 5km of cables equivalent to more than 17 times the height of Guoco Tower, the tallest building in Singapore.

To add to the challenge of equipping Orchard Road for the party, we needed to achieve these feats within 2 hours, or from the time the road was closed to the time the party started. Thankfully, as the party was held under the year’s Christmas light-up, we could call on it to complement the festive mood.

We blanketed the whole party in clearly audible sound (despite the huge area it occupied)

Line-array speakers

A worker deploys line-array speakers on the edge of the stage on Orchard Road in preparation for The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

Passive speaker sound system

We deployed a modular sound system for The Great Christmas Eve Street Party. The former relied on a strategic network of passive speakers (one pictured above) to enhance audibility for party-goers throughout the party.

As with many other street parties, The Great Christmas Eve Street Party was characterised by activities and performances unfurling across a linear space. Owing to space constraints and safety considerations, we could only house the stage near the edge of the party before Bideford Road junction – hardly ideal for what was the landmark of the party.

This led us to arm the stage with concert-grade line-array speakers. The latter is more capable of distributing sound evenly across a large area than conventional point-source speakers are, enhancing audibility for party-goers who were farther from the stage. Since the emcee guided the festivities and made safety announcements from the stage, ensuring that all party-goers could hear the emcee was key for us.

The line-array speakers, however, couldn’t combat all 400m of the party on their own. With such an expansive distance to cover, speaker placement became an important consideration. Turning to a sound system that relied on passive speakers, we were able to easily experiment with different speaker configurations in advance and even optimise audibility on demand.

Our stage setup added excitement to the activities and performances

Stage setup

Workers build the stage on Orchard Road in preparation for The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.

We showcase multi-screen support for the LED video wall on the stage during The Great Christmas Eve Street Party.