Trolleys, V&A Project. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.
Trolleys, V&A Project. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.

The George Town Festival (GTF) returns this year in August. Bringing together a host of amazing local and international acts, collaborations and initiatives, the festival is a vibrant tapestry of culture and art. With rave reviews it has attracted people from all over the world to George Town for a month of fun. Here are our top 14 picks for what to see from 1 – 31 August:

Circus Circus

1 – 3 August, 8.30pm – 9.45pm, Dewan Sri Pinang, tickets are RM20 -RM200.

Relive your childhood wonder of spectacular acrobatic acts and circus theatrics with these amazing international performing troupes. Presenting the Race Horse Company (Finland), Wrecking Crew Orchestra (Japan), Bunditpatansilpa Institute (Thailand) and Shanghai Starlight Acrobatic Troupe (China), these acclaimed performers integrate innovation and technology to create a contemporary circus experience that’s sure to thrill.

Konsert Kopitiam

1 – 30 August, 6pm – 8pm, various venues, free admission.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, a mini concert featuring an alternating lineup of musicians, poets, storytellers, magicians and comedians will be held at notable coffee shops within the heritage core zone of George Town. Ten concert at ten coffee shops: expect to see the likes of The Rozells, Anwar Fazal, William Scully, The Great Barrini and more performing!

Circus Circus. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.
Circus Circus. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.

Come Close

1 – 31 August, 12pm – 7pm, Hin Bus Depot Art Centre, free admission.

Contemporary artists Louise Low, Annabelle Ng, Ee Yan and Khing are a new, emerging wave of art practitioners who traverse the fringes of art and constantly explore new media as a medium. Come Close is an installation-based art exhibition at Hin Bus Depot, which is possibly George Town’s coolest art venue.

Lost & Found In George Town

1 – 31 August, all day, various venues, free admission.

Over the course of the festival, Penang-based artist Tanya Sierra will “lose” several pieces of small bronze sculptures across public areas in George Town. Each piece will be documented on the Lost and Found in George Town website. The idea is that the “finders” will be part of an interactive project where they can share the sculptures’ journeys.

Lost & Found In George Town. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.
Lost & Found In George Town. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.

George Town: A Liar’s Walk

6 – 8 August, 7pm – 8pm, Chai Diam Ma, RM10.

Inspired by the original idea of Holly Gramazio, participants will be taken on a tour around town and shown locations with site specific stories. The catch is, two stories will be told and it’s up to the participants to guess which is true and which is false. Beware if you guess incorrectly! There might be a penalty in store.

Hidup Ini Senget

7 – 9 August, 8.30pm – 10pm, Penang Performing Arts Centre (PENANGPAC), ticket price to be confirmed.

Following its successful debut at Short + Sweet Festival Malaysia 2013, this stunning integrated display of percussions, theatrical and physical movements returns for another run. Sights and sounds will be engaged as the performers attempt to narrate a collective of oral histories and tales passed on from older generations.

Hidup Ini Senget. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.
Hidup Ini Senget. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.

Fall Into The Sea To Become An Island / Jatuh Ke Dalam Laut Menjadi Pulau

9 – 31 August, 11am – 6pm, Run Amok Gallery, free admission.

With a title inspired by the Malay proverb “jika benih yang baik, jatuh ke dalam laut menjadi pulau”, this exhibition gathers the work of ten artists including chi too, Mun Kao, Minstrel Kuik, Anthony Pelchen and Andrew Rewald. The results comprise videos, paintings, sculptures, photography and installation works.

Obscura Festival Of Photography

11 – 20 August, all day, venue to be confirmed, free admission.

Celebrating the best of Asian and international photography talents, Obscura Festival comprises a series of 13 exhibitions, slideshows, workshops, talks and numerous other activities. With notable curators like YumiGoto of The Reminders Project (Japan) and instructors like Pulitzer Prize photographer Maggie Steber (USA), the festival is definitely setting the photographic bar high.

Ismail Hashim. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.
Ismail Hashim. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.

Transi(en)t Penang

20 – 30 August, all day, various venues, free admission except for workshops (RM 25/RM50 per pax).

A collaborative effort featuring artists and curators from The Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, this art project develops as it progresses. It comprises of an Open Studio whereby artists will engage with the community in public arenas, facilitated workshops for school children and college students and curated talks discussing regional contemporary art and its changing practices.

The Kitchen

22 – 23 August, 8.30pm – 9.45pm, Dewan Sri Pinang, tickets are RM20 – RM200.

Described as a multi-sensory feast, The Kitchen is helmed by reknown Indian theatre director, playwright and founder of the Indian Shakespeare Company, Roysten Abel. The production recounts the relationship between a husband and wife, as both prepare the traditional dessert payasam on-stage to the beat of of music by 12 mizhavu drummers from Kerala.

The Kitchen. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.
The Kitchen. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.

Unpack – Repack: A Tribute to Ismail Hashim (1940 – 2013)

23 – 31 August, 11am – 7pm, The Whiteaways Arcade, free admission.

A specially curated exhibition by prominent Malaysian artist/curator Wong Hoy Cheong, it features a comprehensive compilation of the late Ismail Hashim’s works. One of the highlights is a work-in-progress of the latter’s last known project, showcasing a series of time-lapse digital images of ants. There will also be several talks and workshops held in regards to his works, among them “In Ismail’s Shadow” by artist Yee I-Lann.

Hai Ki Xin Lor (You Mean The World To Me)

28 – 31 August, 8.30pm – 10pm, Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, tickets are RM20 – RM80.

Staged at one of Penang’s heritage landmarks, this play is an original Hokkien production centered around the significance of home. The play is directed by Saw Teong Hin and Jason Ong Han Yee and tells the story of Sunny, a film-maker haunted by his past who revisits his roots in Penang to uncover family secrets.

Teochew Opera. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.
Teochew Opera. Photo: George Town Festival 2014.

Teochew Opera at Penang Teochew Association

30 August, 8pm – 8.30pm, Teochew Opera & Puppet House, RM 50.

There is no better place to enjoy this esteemed traditional art form than in a intricately built Teochew temple. That is precisely what audiences will get to experience, alongside savouring Teochew desserts and tea. To learn more about Teochew culture and heritage, there are also talks, documentary screenings and an in-house museum tour on 29 July.

V&A Project

31 August, 4pm – 11pm, Lebuh Armenian, free admission.

Short for Victoria & Armenian Street Project, V&A Project encompasses the collective spirit of the festival. It will be held on the last day of the festival and features various public performances, workshops and retailers. Among them are Trolleys (a flashmob ensemble combining ballet and acrobatics), Mak Yong (a traditional ritualistic form of dance for healing purposes), Handmade Market (handmade items for sale) and many more!

Find more information on all festival events on the official George Town Festival website and Facebook page