A guide to George Town Festival 2013

Updated: 7 Jun 2013

There are over 10 events to choose from weekly from this annual arts festival here in George Town. So, just where do you begin when it comes to choosing which performance or exhibition to go see? Luckily, Su Aziz has a little guide here on the essentials that you shouldn’t miss from the tips she coaxed out of its tireless festival director.

This time, Joe Sidek, the one responsible for the three past George Town Festivals (GTF) and the one kicking off on June 6, had gone back to the drawing board to make sure GTF2013 is for the people. ‘I want it to belong to the people. To become a people’s festival, to open it up and make it accessible, interactive and community based,’ he says.

‘This year’s GTF has everything – world class chamber music down to kite flying that everyone can participate in. There’s even gold embroidery from Laos and DJs spinning current music for parties,’ he continues. The one thing he’s kept true to from year to year is to keep bringing in world class acts as exposure to the audience and mostly for the younger generation.

There’s certainly a lot to absorb from this month-long festival of arts. So, Joe, tell us, where do we begin? ‘The rule of thumb here is, is not to miss the first and fourth weekend of the festival,’ he instructs. And below are his recommendations on where you should start in terms of navigating around the festival’s fully loaded itinerary. ‘Treat it as if it’s a very good layer cake,’ Joe adds. ‘Just peel through the layers.’ And enjoy each layer, of course.

What Not To Miss
The major highlights throughout the month include Sutra on June 29 – 30, which is, according to Joe, ‘A top class act from a Belgian dance company showcasing movements by a Moroccan/Flemish choreographer and performed by Shaolin monks.’ Tickets are merely from RM60 and there’s a 50 per cent discount for senior citizens while student pay only RM20. To book your tickets for this performance, see website and for a sample of their performance, check this link.


Joe’s Picks of First Weekend Highlights, June 7 - 8
There’s I Musici on June 7, which is the opening night itself. This renowned Italian Chamber music group will serenade you with classical excerpts from Italy’s most famous composers including Antonio Vivaldi. Tickets are from RM60 and there’s a 50 per cent discount for senior citizens while student pay only RM20. For ticket bookings, see website.

Also, there’s the unveiling of Indonesian artist Joko Avianto’s Theatre of Ships on June 7. This is a structure that promises to be 15 metres tall and is made out of around 3,500 bamboo sticks. ‘With this project, we hope to inspire artists to not be afraid of scale or the largeness of a project and also not to be deterred by formalities such as council permission and the like,’ Joe explains. The structure that is currently being built is right between George Town’s most iconic buildings of the City Hall and Town Hall. ‘Truly, this is a labour of love,’ Joe adds. The structure is said to last between six and twelve months. This is a free event and weekly photo updates on the building of the structure is here.

I Musici

At noon on June 7 is the launching of Singapore House on Victoria Street. Here’s where it’s a fun shopping day because there are pop-up stores such as Books Actually, multi-brand designers and artisans, Ling Wu Bags, dresses from Priscilla Ong Shumugan, Carrie K jewellery and watches from Edypoi. Of course, there are plenty others but you’d just need to pop by and experience this free venue.

At the E&O’s Victory Annexe on June 7, Memories of Gold exhibition opens at 10am with its Laotian heritage of gold-thread embroidery. These pieces are from the personal collection of a direct descendant of the Laotian Royal House of Luan Prabang. This too is a free event. Log onto George Town Festival to find out when is their demonstrative workshop by an artist-embroider.

Memories of Gold

Perhaps the most charming of all is the Secret Gardens of Earthly Delights of public installations that capture the essence of Penang in 10 different sites by artists, gardeners and landscape architects. There’ll be an update on the walking trail and sites for this free event before it opens on June 7. Stay tuned to this website for them.

The one that marks the opening of GTF 2013 and promises most fun for all ages is Taking Off. It's a kite-flying event with a free kite-making workshop and you’d get to learn how to fly a kite as well on June 8 at noon.  You’ll need to register now for this workshop here.  The opening ceremony during this event begins at 3pm and this is also when you'll get to watch how the kite-flying experts do it!

Joe’s Picks of Fourth Weekend Highlights, June 28 - 29
On June 29, celebrate a street of George Town in street carnival style. In particular, Victoria Street where four of GTF2013’s venues are located. This event called Victoria Street Project is a 7-hour program starting at 5pm and dotted with art installation by Tim Cracker, contemporary dance performance called Bridges & Kaki Lima, an interactive treasure hunt called 101 Lost Kittens and heaps of food stalls, mime performances also an exhibition called Intriguing Instruments. The events featured here are mostly for free.

Victoria Street Project

You really don’t need to be a film buff to enjoy Tropfest Roughcut on June 28. In fact, you’ll be inspired by the clever and creative film conversations on cultivating outstanding storytelling on-screen by industry experts during this one day symposium. Tickets are RM30 and log onto their website for booking details.

For updates on GTF2013’s other events’ dates, venues, tickets and schedule, log onto George Town Festival daily.

Tags: Features