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Preview: George Town Festival 2021

GEORGE TOWN, PENANG – Even with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Penang’s annual George Town Festival has announced that the Festival is set to continue as scheduled, with a slew of online programmes from 10th to 18th July 2021. Physical events are tentatively postponed until further notice, due to the government’s announcement of a total nationwide lockdown, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The postponement of the physical events is necessary to support the government’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and welfare of the artists and participants, staff and audiences.

Online programmes that are in place include:

G-Short is a short film festival held as part of the George Town Festival 2021 to celebrate the endless imagination and possibilities a 90-second short film can bring about. It is set to be held in George Town, Penang in July 2021. Themed “Reimagine: A New Way of Seeing”, with the tagline “Short Yet Powerful”, G-Short was conceived to encourage the local and international film communities to create short-form and original films, unleashing their creativity and innovation to tell stories in new ways – all while strengthening the branding of the George Town Festival. A series of sharing sessions, together with the public screenings which feature the works of 30 finalists selected from 697 submissions, will be held alongside the film festival.

Lights On is a virtual projection mapping installation programme which showcases George Town’s diverse cultural and historical landscapes through pulsating lights and swimming patterns projected onto a small mockup of the heritage city. “Lights On” is accompanied by two main components: a one-month-long virtual residency programme and a virtual exhibition. The virtual residency programme aims to select seven residency artists to create their micro projection mapping designs under the guidance of professional advisors and curators. Meanwhile, the virtual exhibition showcases the residency artists’ designs, which will be projected onto a micro mockup of the heritage city of George Town. “Lights On” is scheduled to be streamed live via the George Town Festival social media platforms, alongside a sharing session participated by the residency artists of the virtual residency programme. “Lights On” is presented by the George Town Festival in collaboration with Filamen, EPSON Malaysia and FabU.

Perspectives is a docudrama giving viewers a chance to see things through a different point of view, with this disability-led film directed by Peggy Ferroa and Michael Chua. Part documentary, part theatrical monologue, “Perspectives” is an independent project which explores the lives of Singaporeans with disabilities, told through music, monologues and works of art. It also features soundscapes by the Harmony Community Choir, a choir that primarily consists of young adult choral singers with autism and other learning disabilities. The stories by Lim Lee Lee, Victor Tan, and Stephanie Esther Fam are bound to cast a stark light on the community’s unseen challenges, unheard voices, and unspoken desires.

Online concert Immerse unites three Malaysian musicians each living in different countries, brought together virtually to take audiences on a deeper dive into the different styles and periods of Chinese orchestra music. Chow Jun Yi (New York, United States), Tan Yong Yaw (Malacca, Malaysia), and Raymond Choo Boon Yew (Macau, China) – who studied traditional Chinese instruments and music in mainland China – will take audiences on an unforgettable musical journey which is segmented into three parts: the traditional music repertoires that reflect the heritage and history of the Chinese; contemporary works which seek the power of immersion in the future time and space; and works which trigger deep thinking on multiculturalism and Chinese music culture in Malaysia while they are away from home. After all, it is through the accumulation of knowledge and real-life insights that enables people to re-recognise the past, the present, and the future.

From Singapore, online murder mystery BODY X The Culprit sees audience members attempting to solve the murder of a man found dead outside a kopitiam. Held entirely on Zoom, in our review of it last year, we hailed it as having set a standard for digital murder mysteries both now and in the future, and stands out as one of the more engaging, immersive experiences amidst its brethren.

And for those who’re bored in the house, Imaginarium is here to pique your curiosity, as Out of the Blue Theatre uses the power of audio to immerse you in an imagined space within the confines of your own bedroom, for a touch of escapism to leave lockdown behind, just for a moment.

These are just a few of the many programmes available online for audience members to revel in this July, as the 2021 George Town Festival goes digital, and gives you a new avenue to sate your curiosity and quench your taste of the arts.

George Town Festival 2021 runs from 10th to 18th July 2021. For more information, visit or follow George Town Festival on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates.

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