“What’s the password?” a petite female magician dressed in elaborate costume whispered to you at the entrance to Attic, the aptly named location for tonight’s event celebrating Mass Communication’s 25th anniversary (MCM 25). You fumbled mouthing the password (14 by the way) while the magician did her best to channel the fat lady guarding the Gryffindor’s common room in Harry Potter.
The black curtains parted to reveal a walkway lit with lanterns and filled with smoke billowing from dry ice boxes, conjuring images of Hogwarts’s end-of-year Christmas dinner.
In case you haven’t figured out by now, the theme for the school’s quarter-of-a-decade birthday party was Harry Potter, which saw a good 500 ‘muggles’ comprising esteemed alumni, old headmasters (or known as school directors), lecturers past and present, reporting for class.
A Magical Affair
You stepped into the Attic and couldn’t help but marvel at the beautiful setup, complete with photo walls depicting scenes from Harry Potter such as the glowing maze at the Triwizard Tournament, a fire-breathing dragon, and the Hogwarts castle. Sure, it wasn’t the Great Hall but the backdrops, including wanted posters for lecturers and alumni, charmed the crowd.
Like any social or reunion event, MCM 25 was simply a golden chance for old friends to reconnect, graduates to catch up with lecturers, and fellow media professionals to network.
Mass Communication is 1 of the 4 courses offered by the School of Film & Media Studies (FMS) in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and the intention was to draw parallelisms between the school and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter books.
According to Mr Robin Yee, Deputy Director of External Relations and chief organizer of the event, FMS encompasses “elements such as imagination, creativity, and great power to do the extraordinary in the work we do as media practitioners”.
He added: “Since we were bringing everyone back to school for our 25th anniversary, it makes good sense to set the theme in a magic school.”
A History Lesson
As the first media course offered in tertiary education, MCM has since progressed and evolved to become the most established diploma programme and the authority on any media-related subjects in Singapore.
25 years ago, MCM was a programme initiated by ex-director Dr Victor Valbuena in 1989. Dr Victor, who flew back from the Philippines just for the celebration, felt great to be able to catch up with his old colleagues. “I really made the effort to come back, because 25 years don’t come too often.”
As the directors took turns to address everyone in their speech, Dr Valbuena nodded to the past in his speech: “I’m very happy to be here tonight, particularly in seeing a lot of my former students who are now married to each other.” That drew laughter from the floor as many knew he was referring to an alumni couple who happened to be performing that night.
Ms Anita Kuan, the current school director, took to the stage. “The only headmistress so far, hopefully not the last,” she joked.
While sharing her list of 10 favorite things about MCM, she added, “My favorite part is bumping into alumni in every corner of Singapore, even beyond Singapore. And hearing them say, ‘Ms Kuan! I always remember your brownies and you still look the same after so many years!’ What can I say? The mirrors and the weighing scale don’t lie, but it feels good to be remembered anyway!”
Class of Fabulousness
The night belonged to the alumni mostly in their 30s and 40s. Like good old students they once were, most of them made the effort to dress up according to the theme.
1 such goody-two-shoes was Jason Koh, MCM alumnus and Account Director of The Neo Tokyo Project, who stood out with his costume of a buttoned grey coat and refined blocked hat. Complete with a black cane in hand, Jason revealed that he handmade his costume.
“Creating this costume was more of an organic and collaborative process that took about 2 weeks,” he expressed. “I drafted the design, sourced the fabrics and built the accessories.”
There were alumni who dressed up as students from the different houses at Hogwarts. Lynn Yuxin, a current MCM student, was 1 out of 4 nominees for the ‘Best Dressed’ category. She dressed the part of a Slytherin, choosing to accessorize with an over-sized cloak and an emerald-green scarf.
Yuxin shared that her outfit was easy to put together as it was made up of items from her wardrobe. “It’s just a plain white shirt, skater skirt and leggings. Even the wand was made from simple materials like hot glue, wires and a chopstick,” said the self-professed ‘Potterhead’.
Beyond the Classroom
Alumni who were living outside of Singapore weren’t missed either. A video recording featuring short compilations of birthday wishes was presented.
The lovebirds previously mentioned by Dr Valbuena, Lionel Koh and Lisa Tan-Koh, performed on stage an acoustic arrangement of evergreen classics. While Lionel strummed the guitar, Lisa charmed the audience with her sweet voice.
This was followed by another vocal performance by Duane Ho, a graduate and previous Singapore Idol finalist with his own arranged version of the latest hit, “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. Needless to say, Duane got the younger crowd hopping and cheering.
As MCM25 came to an end, many took the opportunity to snap wefies against the Harry Potter themed backdrop. It was indeed a heartwarming sight as ex-classmates and lecturers relieved good memories and pulled funny faces at the camera, proving the simple theory that time does not change anything.
“I was really looking forward to meeting up with my first batch of students. It was truly a very magical time,” expressed Mushalwah Ridwan, an ex-lecturer who taught Photo Journalism.
MCM 25 turned out to be a fittingly magical and nostalgic night where old and new friends established contact, acquaintances became friends with a sleight of the wand, and conversations (and the occasional gossip) revolved around who wore what best, just like the good old days and what all Mass Communication students do best – making magic.