Keep politics and the arts separate, George Town Festival organiser says

George Town Festival’s director Joe Sidek has appealed to the people to keep politics out of the arts. — File picture by KE Ooi
George Town Festival’s director Joe Sidek has appealed to the people to keep politics out of the arts. — File picture by KE Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Jan 26 — George Town Festival’s (GTF) Joe Sidek has appealed to the people to keep politics out of the arts and the festival.

The festival director, who has been attacked a few times for his role in running the annual festival in Penang, said he is only doing this for the arts.

“Even though I am not a politician, some politicians have attacked me, saying I’m not fit for this job, so I would like to ask everyone to keep politics out of the arts,” he said in a press conference announcing the dates for this year’s GTF.

Joe said he has worked on the festival for eight years and is going into the ninth year now.

“I have delivered nine years of branding, promoted local cultures through GTF and made it an international festival all these years,” he said.

He said the festival had attracted more than 800,000 people in the past eight years.

Joe said GTF has become such a success story that he was invited to other international festivals to share how the festival became a global brand.

In the last four months, Joe was invited to Melbourne, Taipei, Singapore, New York and next month, Brisbane to talk about GTF.

“I was invited to Melbourne to discuss partnership programmes with them but I couldn’t commit as my contract ends this year,” he said.

He said China has also approached him for partnerships to develop programmes for GTF.

“I feel that these international partnerships are important to promote the culture and arts further in the international front,” he said.

Last year, GTF had 110 programmes and 150 events, out of which, 103 are Malaysian events while 47 are international.

Joe said the PR value of last year’s GTF jumped to RM33.6 million from RM20 million in 2016.

“The media value also increased from RM4 million to RM11 million last year,” he said.

He gave a rundown on the evolution of the festival, in which the first five years was all about building and branding the festival.

“The last three years, it was to expand the brand of GTF and to showcase local performances and international collaborations,” he said during a joint press conference with the Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in the latter’s office today.

Between 2014 and 2017, GTF has showcased more than 15 Asean and SEA premieres.

Joe said the state government allocated RM4 million for GTF last year and the festival spent RM6 million on local performers, local services and contractors.

He thanked Lim and the state government for their support for the arts.

Earlier, Lim said the state decided to reappoint Joe Sidek Productions to oversee the management of the festival this year due to Joe’s track record.

“Joe is a creative man who has built the festival over the last eight years and we are proud of our homegrown George Town Festival,” he said.

This year, GTF 2018 will be held from August 4 to September 2.

GTF has opened call for proposals since October 20 last year and the closing date to submit is on January 31.

Joe said he had received 35 interesting proposals in Kuala Lumpur during the festival’s proposal clinics last weekend.

“We received very interesting Malay content which we don’t get many of in Penang so I hope those who have any ideas to propose, to come to our proposal clinic this Sunday at Hin Bus Depot,” he said.

Find out more about GTF at

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