A Festival at Your Doorstep

George Town Festival's various shows.

It’s a bonanza of local and international acts as George Town Festival (GTF) returns for its 10th year on July 13-28.

The 16-day festival features 150 programmes, including visual arts, theatre, music, dance, comedy, film and photography; some 70% of events at GTF are free to attend; and 60% of the festival is earmarked for local artists to showcase their talents. Over 500 performers from 20 countries are slated to take part in the festival.

Yeoh Soon Hin, state Tourism Development, Arts, Culture and Heritage committee chairman, says that the festival is kicking off its 16-day artistic adventure with When Night Falls on July 13 and 14, followed by Art in the City from July 20 to 21 and The Extravaganza on July 28, carried out in and around the George Town World Heritage site.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow adds that the festival is curated for people from all walks of life, from the arts community to the general public. “Festivalgoers looking for artistic indulgence can check out the 14 specially curated ticketed shows covering dance, theatre, forum, talk, fashion, music, comedy and film. For those with keener interest in in-depth conversations about arts and branding, there are symposiums such as the Great New World – From Free Port to World Heritage Site and Isle to Isle: Design Forum.

Embracing this year’s theme, “A Festival for Everyone”, GTF takes the festival away from traditional arts venues and into other community spaces for certain events, exposing new arts and cultural experiences to communities that might otherwise not engage with the festival.

Macam Macam Macallum, happening July 24 and 25 at the Macallum area, delivers a diverse range of performances covering music, theatre, potehi (traditional glove puppetry) and dance by local and international artists.

Cham Cham Fun, happening July 24, features legendary Nanyang songbird Yudi Yap, who will be accompanied by WVC Malaysian Jazz Ensemble for an unforgettable night of classic Chinese oldies with a touch of jazz. Those looking to experience the rare art of potehi can do so at Flag of Pearls and A House Filled with Wealth and Prosperity by the Beng Geok Hong Puppet Theatre Troupe.

(Left to right) Nisa Mukhtar (TLM), Aleex Quah (TLM), Yeoh Soon Hin, Chow Kon Yeow, Jack Wong, Josephine Jalleh (GTWHI) and Amy Goh (GTWHI) at the George Town Festival press conference in June.

There will also be a pre-event workshop for the Macallum community focusing on a key yet often neglected demographic – women and homemakers. The three-day free-to-participate workshop will be conducted by Sun Son Theatre from Taiwan, where participants will be taught a series of choreographed, physical movements, one of the programme highlights on July 25.

Meanwhile, Macam Macam Berapit’s rhythmic drums,  spellbinding dance performances and a street circus are set to draw the crowd to Berapit Market on July 7.

“We are delivering the festival straight to the doorsteps of the people in Macallum Street Ghaut and Berapit. Hopefully, we will see more community engagement programmes like this in the future,” says Chow.

“George Town Festival has an incredible legacy,” says TLM Event managing director Jack Wong, adding that he wants to move the festival forward by adding more cultural elements and a hefty dose of local flavour. The events management company takes over the mantle from former festival director Joe Sidek this year. TLM Event has planned, organised and delivered over 500 events, gathering over five million visitors to date.

With so much to see and do, GTF 2019 is set to further stimulate Penang’s diverse artistic and cultural landscape.

Emilia Ismail is a freelance writer who has a love-hate relationship with the weighing scale.

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