Program Highlights of George Town Festival 2017

Photographer Jimmy Nelson (By Vera de Kok - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Photographer Jimmy Nelson (By Vera de Kok - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

George Town Festival (GTF) is back for the 8th year with world-class programmes and more exciting events. Dedicated to George Town’s inauguration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, GTF is a celebration of the arts, culture, heritage and community. “It is growing into a major Asian arts event,” as quoted by International New York Times.

The annual festival will run from 28 July to 3 September this year, together with its satellite event Butterworth Fringe Festival (BFF) on 12 August and 13 August. Making a comeback for the third year, BFF is a two-day street festival consisting of local and international acts.

“With this year’s edition primarily oriented towards the youth, community and women, the Festival will host more than 100 shows; out of which 60% focuses on local content. The programmes vary from art, design, photography, film, music, dance to drama. GTF will transform George Town into a universal stage where different arts from traditional to contemporary, local to international converge,” stated Festival Director Joe Sidek.

GTF will open with a weekend of ASEAN flavours, art, design and sounds. As Penang is widely known as heaven for street food, the festival will feature more than 20 types of Laksa from Southeast Asia at the Laksa of the Region (LOTR); part of the bigger Macam-Macam ASEAN market.

Svara ASEAN is a musical tribute to Southeast Asian artists including Madrigal Singers from the Philippines, Gus Teja from Indonesia, the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra, local artists Adibah Noor and Sean Ghazi, and Mezzo-soprano Anchee from Thailand.

Award-winning Indian theatre director Roysten Abel is returning with The Manganiyar Classroom since his maiden performance in Penang back in 2012 titled The Manganiyar Seduction and 2014’s The Kitchen. The former was a widely acclaimed production at the Perth International Arts Festival and WOMADelaide. The Manganiyar Classroom showcases 35 village children as young as eight on a four-row bench terrace on stage, spontaneously singing and dancing to their schooling days.

A group of handpicked ordinary Penangnites varying from generations and backgrounds will take on the stage in the form of a dance routine. Directed by French choreographer Jérôme Bel, Gala showcases the beauty of diversity, united through the passion of dance. The show has been performed over 55 times worldwide in the past year.

Australian acrobatics ensemble, Gravity & Other Myths presents A Simple Space, where seven acrobats push their physical limits and beyond, leaving the audiences holding their breath.
Beijing-based acclaimed choreographer Tao Ye brings two of his “Straight Line Trilogy” series, 6 and 8 to GTF. The mesmerising dances study the logic of movement and discovers the full potential of human bodies, albeit all kinds of limitations.

Anthar Agni, led by 2011 Young Artist Award recipient Nawaz Mirajkar from the Temple of Fine Arts Singapore, is a music and dance tribute to the sacred fire. The show celebrates the deep spiritual significance of integration of various cultures.

Another highlight, Hakanai by Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne, is a solo choreographic performance that unfolds through a series of images in motion. It portrays the human existence and condition between dreams and reality.

Director Naohika Umewaka and choreographer Aida Redza presents a dance-theatre, The Italian Restaurant. The story emerges from a chance meeting of a woman and a man in a restaurant. Destinies are forged and hearts are entwined.

For the first time, Singapore-based the TENG Ensemble will bring their unique brand of music to Penang for TENG @ George Town. Bridging Eastern and Western sounds in a contemporary blend, the band revisits music of the past and reimagines them in the present.

There are several kid-friendly shows, appealing to families alike. They include The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik about deep ocean exploration; Chorus a monumental installation of giant kinetic sculptures and a celestial choir of spinning sound machines; COSMICOMIC Toyscape Workshop consisting of six life-sized toys; and CELL with its Asia premiere in GTF.

Week on Women (WOW) is dedicated to women who have contributed to the artistic scene. Curated in collaboration with ZafigoX, a website founded by Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, the week’s line up consists of talks, workshops and a bazaar.

Other highlights of GTF 2017 include a talk, exhibition and workshop by Jimmy Nelson, the author of ‘Before They Pass Away’. Macallum Theatre will host special shows including a performance by gamelan ensemble Rhythm in Bronze; In The Amorphous Beings choreographed by Ong Tze Shen and Christy Ma; and The Memories by Orang Orang Drum Theatre.
Tickets are on sale at and at selected outlets. For a programme update, head over to or follow GTF on social media.

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