George Town Festival has been a platform of choice for local artists to reach a global audience – the Festival has amassed a large international following over the years. But when the COVID-19 outbreak hit and the MCO came into effect in March 2020, the crisis for the Festival was hard to miss.
If there’s one thing we know about Azmi Hussin, it’s that he works hard. At one point in his life, the then father of two with a third on the way had only RM 2.50 in his pocket. While sitting at the Esplanade scrolling through his phone to see who he could contact to lend him money, a tour bus stopped in front of him, and many tourists disembarked. He thought to himself, “maybe I could draw caricatures for tourists and they could pay me money”.
The creative industry is increasingly being recognised as one of the key driving factors for economies worldwide. Indeed, the importance of the creative economy was given acknowledgement on a global stage when in 2019, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021 to be the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. While creative economy has no single definition, it can be seen as industries that lie at the crossroads of arts, culture, business, and technology.  Creative economy is an essential pillar of national economic activity, and when fostered, it can be utilised in building a sustainable, holistic and inclusive future.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our lives, and it’s been particularly challenging for individuals living with disabilities. The sudden change in routine can be startling for people with autism spectrum disorder. The visually impaired people struggle to maintain a physically-distanced space without being able to see it. Staying at home for people with cerebral palsy is a challenge as they require regular face-to-face therapies to manage their chronic pain.
Penang is pretty special. Other than its street food, the state’s charm lies in its photogenic settings. From its colonial and heritage buildings to its people, culture, rugged landscapes, idyllic seascapes and humble street food, there’s always a postcard-perfect view waiting to be captured. During the day, this fascinating state offers an exceptional amount of opportunity for shutterbugs, with its mix of characters, places and activities. At night, its hilly centre remains the best spot to catch the city’s lights sparkling in the dusk like ground-level fireworks. Throughout the year, there’s always a celebration going on and colourful street art to hunt. It is no wonder then, that its capital – George Town – was named one of the selfiest cities in the world by TIME magazine in 2014, with some 95 selfie-takers for every 100,000 people.
Nine years ago, you wouldn’t be able to imagine that George Town would soon be a recognised street art capital in the world, in league with the likes of New York and Berlin. That’s because it wasn’t; until sometime in 2012, when the arts broke out from within the confines of art galleries. Large scale murals and installations sprouted in every nook and cranny, drawing in tourists and transforming George Town into an open-air gallery of urban creativity. Quirky cafes and charming boutique hotels began to flourish, offering tired visitors a place to sit and a bed to rest after a day of hunting for street art. From Sia Boey to Hin Bus Depot, local authorities, city makers and space managers embarked on various creative placemaking projects which champion arts, culture and heritage to rejuvenate long-abandoned public spaces to improve neighbourhoods and connect local communities.