by: Max Yam, a prominent alumnus of King Edward VII Hall
It has come to this time of the year again for KE, a new leader is going to be chosen by the residents. I applaud the change of the election system to just have formal election for the President and Vice-President. In the past we had to get all the positions of the JCRC to go through election. Since this change has taken place we have seen (probably) unprecedented level of active participation of hall residents, both as candidates and voters.
Changes do happen in the long history of KE, which is still in making. However certain things are so essential that they become the essence of KE. Say the JCRC. The new going-to-be-chosen leader will lead the 54th JCRC. From the title you know this system has existed for 53 years. Actually I’m not very sure about the number, but what is sure is that the hall was officially formed iin 1957, since then the system of JCRC has been in placed. (The fact that KE is over 90 years old is because we normally add in the pre-KE years i.e. when KE was not called KE, just like NUS is over 100 years old, but the current name and structure of the university are formed in the 1980s.)
Ya, KE is this old. During this period of considering the options and making decision, many residents would think what KE is all about, what is important to KE, what KE need, “KE is so old… so what?”… etc etc.
When KE celebrated her 90th birthday a few years ago, I am honoured to be given a chance to be involved in a team to produce a book for this special occasion. It is not a yearbook. It does not feature the events, activities, accomplishments and every residents’ passport-size photos. This book is called “KEEP”.
The editorial team which is made up of alumni did not have a format for this book. The only requirement given by Master is, it must contain a lot of photos. That’s it. We started by digging out photos (literally digging out the hardcopies! and there wasn’t a systematic way to store the digital photos as well!), approaching the previous masters, looking for prominent ex-Keviians and office staffs… hoping to tell a story of KE that is special, complete and interesting.
During the research process, we had lunch with alumni who sabo-ed the ex-Prime Minister of Malaysia when he was studying medicine here; we tasted the same breakfast that Keviians had 30 years ago, using the same cutlery, prepared by the same canteen uncle who served for almost 40 years; we saw residence of previous Masters that is so far away from the residents’ rooms which explains why they were a lot naughtier back then… All these experiences lead us to structuring the book into seven chapters, namely Places, People, Activities, Life, Moments, Emotions, and The Past & The Present. This is how we see KE, in a systematic way.
Yes, originally KE is merely a hostel, that had been destroyed during World War II, rebuilt at the same place, renamed to King Edward VII Hall, moved from SGH campus to the current slope on Kent Ridge, with unrivaled sea view. Going through all these changes, including the diminishing sea view because of PGP, KE still stands still on this slope. But without the people, KE is just an empty hostel.
Over the years, there has been drastic changes in the proportions of the people’s nationalities, field of study and even gender. KE started as an all-male hall solely for medicine students. Now, we all know how the mix is like. Freshmen, KEWOCs, Floaters, seniors, blockmates, heads, vice-heads, JCRCs of both genders, from all kinds of background form a big chunk of the people in KE. Each possesses different talents and skills and plays different roles. Together, with the office staff, RFs and Master, form an integrated community of people, that work with each other, play with each other, rely on each other, learn from each other, grow with each other. There is always ONLY ONE people of KE.
The people of KE join many different kinds of activities. Almost everyone started off with the orientation, a must-have event which in the past, features endless ‘sabo’s served by the seniors, specially for the freshmen; and now handled by a group of friendly and dedicated seniors with only one aim in heart: to make sure the freshmen bond with the rest of the people and become ONE people as fast as possible, in a way that is as fun, exciting, and memorable as possible. With a group of juniors with a strong sense of belonging and spirit in KE, a variety of activities starts with careful planning and passionate execution. From a 36-year old Hall Play to a baby KE Titans, each has its own history, aim, agenda and style, together they contribute to a vibrant hall life that is filled with ideas, creativity, determination, knowledge, experience, sweat and blood of the KE people from year one to the alumni. Some activities just fade away, such as bodybuilding and fencing, but new ones are also born to fill in the space to continue uplifting the name and status of KE among the six halls and in the campus.
The life in hall has also gone through changes. In the past Keviians could enjoy alcohol openly in the canteen (not sure if it’s legal..); now there is always reasons for suppers: ROCKE supper, welcoming supper, Hall Play supper, block suppers, East Wing supper, West Wing supper, welfare supper, exam supper……….. (whew..). Personally I couldn’t forget walking down to NUH at 1am to have a bowl of nice mango sunrise after debriefing, and witness the latest couples cultivating their relationships there. Hall life is everything about fun. Fun with a big group of people, the people of KE.
There are moments that hugely affects KE and her people in various ways. Some say the new University Town will hugely affect KE’s status. But KE has been through events that are no less significant. World War II killed 11 residents, the hall was given a new name and a new governing system, admission of females and non-medical students, a big move of the hall to Kent Ridge, physically joining the university community, the introduction of PGP that instantly increased number of students staying in campus by 100 percent… All of these are tsunamis at their times of existence. But none has effectively affected KE and her people’s belief in themselves and determination to strive forward in making a history that continuously becomes more glorious than ever.
Activities, hall life and moments bring emotions to the people. Being Keviians is not just about having fun. When our badminton players won a long-awaited gold medal in IHG, all of us smiled and felt proud. The next year we couldn’t as we lost again. When we lost in Rag Day, freshmen, floaters, seniors and alumni cried together. A few years later we fought back and got the biggest award. When the stage curtain closed after a show has ended, the whole Hall Play family shouted and hugged with joy of satisfaction. There is certainly a lot more different emotions that occur in Keviians’ experience. And it’s this unique mix of emotions that makes KE so special and even irreplaceable, and every Keviian’s experience has got to be so memorable and unforgettable.
The last chapter of the book is “The Past & The Present”. I’m not going to talk much about this chapter. Everyone who are reading this now will become the past in a few years time. Everyone is making the history of KE in one way or another. There is alumnus who was JCRC President in the past and became SCRC member now. There is couple who met in KE, got married, and sent their children to KE. You are going to decide for yourself how you want to be included in KE’s history.
You might wonder why this book is called KEEP. Certainly we want everyone who got the book will KEEP it nicely. But the more important reason is: It is made up of KE and EP. I don’t think there’s a need to explain KE. And EP means extended play, which is a record or CD that contains more music than a single but shorter than an LP/full album. It symbolizes the quite-long-but-not-long-enough period of 90 years of KE, which further brings out the significance of the current and future generations of Keviians in forever writing the history. On one side, KE is an old hall with rich heritage; on the other side, EP is the spirit of ‘still-not-enough’ that drives Keviians to strive, to seek, to serve.
I thank you for reading until this part. And with this long explanation of KEEP, I urge you to choose a leader who can live up to the expectations. The expectations of KE and EP.
*If you are interested to read KEEP, there are some copies in the JCRC room, you may ask for it from the JCRC to have a look. Or you may view the digital version here: http://k-e-e-p.blogspot.com/.