When Penang native Joe Sidek was chosen to run the first George Town Festival back in 2009, he wanted to call it a “series of events”. To him, terming the nascent project – short on time and support – a festival struck him as presumptuous.
Today, its title of festival is well-deserved. Now in its eighth year, it has grown to include over 80 shows, exhibits and activities. Last year’s edition drew an estimated 250,000 people, and GTF 2017 (Jul 29 to Sep 3) looks set to top that.
Sidek’s soft-spoken manner belies his boundless energy. As if running GTF and two other festivals (the Rainforest Fringe and Butterworth Fringe Festivals) wasn’t enough, he’ll soon be making his debut as a theatre director. At this year’s festival, he’ll be staging Jean Cocteau’s The Human Voice – a tale of love, pain and loneliness that has haunted him ever since he first saw it on television 40 years ago. Here, the creative visionary shares his thoughts on the arts and travel.
What do you love about GTF?
GTF is a layered cake: big shows, site-specific work and shared stories, spaces and experiences. It’s about making art accessible and touching the lives of people.
Tell us about Arts for Humanity [a GTF initiative that funds ASEAN artists through public one-dollar donations].
I really believe that the arts should be supported by the community, because we’re programming for the community. It’s a connection I want to build.
What would you be doing if you weren’t programming festivals?
I’m not a movie director, but I have two films in my head. Do you know how many colourful characters I’ve met in my life? I just want to put them all together in a film!
What are your favourite travel destinations?
New York. You can feel its energy, because everything is going, going, going. I’d also visit Chiang Mai because of its creative scene. I love travelling, I love seeing shows and I love festivals. I get so excited by ideas.
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine