Declan Forde, ‘Supreme Overlord’ of Neon Lights Festival

Neon Lights Festival has quickly established itself as one of the most eagerly anticipated lifestyle events of the year for festival goers in Singapore. This is thanks to its promising lineup year after year, involvement with the local arts scene and simple commitment to making sure every festival-goer has a great time.

Singapore’s very own indie music and arts festival is back for its fourth edition this Nov 23 to 24 at Fort Canning Park, promising a line-up of international and local music acts, with a dynamic arts programme for festival-goers.

The three previous editions of the festival have attracted over 30,000 people featuring acts such as Damien Rice, Sigur Ros, Chic/Nile Rodgers, Foals, Interpol and Yuna.

Popspoken chats with the man behind Neon Lights himself, Declan Forde, to find out more about the past, present and future of Neon Lights Festival in Singapore.

POPSPOKEN: Hi Declan, introduce yourself! Which country are you based in, and what does a typical day-in-the-life look like?

DF: Hello. I am the Supreme Overlord of Neon Lights, I’m now based back in my native Ireland. When we started Neon Lights in 2015, I was mostly based in Australia and spending more time in South East Asia. Ireland is 7 hours behind of Singapore so my morning starts with catching up on emails and phone calls with the Singapore team, usually before I’ve even had breakfast. Later in the morning, when the Singaporean business day has finished, I spend more time on my Irish shows. 

POPSPOKEN: Why did you decide to make Neon Lights family-friendly, instead of the typical 18-and-above music festivals?

DF: I guess you want to end up creating events that you’d like to attend yourself and I’m one of those people who likes the idea that you don’t have to choose between family and festival: you can have both. Most of the events I’ve been involved in overseas have that element and we felt there wasn’t really a festival in Singapore offering that.

POPSPOKEN: Neon Lights took a one-year hiatus in 2017, which concerned a lot of Neon Lights fans. What was the main reason for the break?

DF: That was the year I moved from Australia back to Ireland. It proved too difficult that year to lead the Neon Lights project from the other side of the world, but we made sure to get a better team structure in place by 2018 so it became manageable.

POPSPOKEN: You’ve organised a lot of successful events and music festivals around the globe. What’s the most challenging part about organising Neon Lights in Singapore?

DF: The licensing process is quite cumbersome and unlike ones I’ve experienced in other countries, but also very transparent I must say – we did find it challenging in the first year or two. The climate is unique: for an Irishman it’s nice to be able to complain about it being too sunny! 

POPSPOKEN: Conversely, what’s the most rewarding part about organising Neon Lights in Singapore?

DF: Also the weather – it’s too sunny! Honestly, my favourite two things about Neon Lights now are the site – the unique and spectacular beauty of Fort Canning, and the brilliant team that we have built up over the years. They sweat blood every year for the cause!

POPSPOKEN: What would you always want Neon Lights to be known for?

DF: Quality, diversity, experience, atmosphere.

POPSPOKEN: What can we expect from Neon Lights 2019 this year?

DF: As we’re back on the larger Fort Green footprint this year, we’ve accordingly booked larger headline acts in Mumford & Sons, Halsey, Honne, Nick Murphy/Chet Faker etc.

Tickets to Neon Lights Festival 2019 are available at and SISTIC.


Creatives In The Lion City is a series hosted by Sheryl Teo on Popspoken. Read exclusive interviews with artisan souls in Singapore, as we get behind-the-scenes with the dreamers and doers in various artistic spheres and creative disciplines.

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