INTERVIEW: Joe Sidek, Director of George Town Festival and the Rainforest Fringe Festival

Joe Sidek is the director of one of Malaysia best known festivals, the 7-year old George Town Festival. He is launching this year a new Festival in Kuching Sarawak, the Rainforest Fringe Festival from July 7 to 16. The George Town Festival will take place from July 29 to September 6 with some 100 events taking place during that time.
What kind of exposure brought the George Town Festival to Penang? Do you think that it helps changing the perception of Penang for tourists?
Joe Sidek- ​George Town Festival (GTF) started off in 2010. It was dedicated to George Town’s inauguration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 and the Festival is held yearly for a month or so.It is really a celebration of arts, cultures, heritage and communities.
Indeed it attracts hordes of international visitors to Penang and George Town and allows visitors to appreciate art in its local content and enjoy international shows at a very affordable price.​ We welcome during the festival over 250,000 visitors.
Do you think that the festival is also having an influence on locals? If yes, in which way?
Joe Sidek- ​We can see an incline of local folks appreciating art in various formats and GTF has helped to nurture awareness and to build passion and interest for the arts with the many free events it offers to the public.​
What are the novelties in the 2017 edition?
Joe Sidek- ​Six highlight shows brought in and collaborative efforts with various countries:- Anthar Agni, Manganiyar Classroom (India), A Simple Space (Australia), 6&8 by TAO Dance Theater (China), GALA (France & Malaysia), Svara ASEAN (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand & Philippine)
Apart from these, this year’s lineup has focus on events or shows skewed towards family and children, the youth and community. ​
What is the support of authorities towards the festival? Does it come from the Penang Government, the Federal Government, the Ministry of Culture as well as from Tourism Penang?
Joe Sidek- The main support comes from local Penang State bodies such as Penang State Government, the Penang Development Corporation, Penang Global Tourism, Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang​, Penang Town Council and George Town World Heritage Inc. And of course, we are very thankful to our sponsors such as hotel and travel partners as well as various projects’ institutions.
What about the new Borneo Festival? Is it more or less an extension of the Georgetown Arts Festival? What is the concept?
Joe Sidek- ​The Rainforest Fringe Festival (RFF) is a standalone festival of 10 days from the 7th to 16th July in Kuching, Sarawak. It also acts as a prelude to Rainforest World Music Fest. RFF celebrates the very best of Sarawak’s rich cultures, heritage and its people. RFF will then be intrinsically link to Sarawak and Borneo by showcasing notable local artists, photographers, designers, performers and artisans.