The George Town Literary Festival Goes Virtual for 2020

founders and directors of georgetown literary festival 2020
George Town Literary Festival co-creator Izzuddin Ramli, co-directors Sharaad Kuttan and Pauline Fan, Petach exco member Yeoh Soon Hin, Goethe-Institut KL director Rolf Stehle and PCEB chief executive officer Ashwin Gunasekaran during the launch at Courtyard by Marriot, Penang recently. – The Vibes/RACHEL YEOH, October 11, 2020
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Celebrating its 10th edition, Southeast Asia’s largest and most internationally-popular annual literature festival is heading for a virtual party this year.

gtlf 2020 banner through the looking glass
George Town Literary Festival 2020 banner

The ongoing reshuffling of SOPs, CMCOs, and other mass gathering-dissuading situations have made the creative industry attempt to seek out alternatives to keep their arts alive. The George Town Literary Festival 2020 (GTLF) is the biggest event of Malaysia’s to try this ‘new normal’ format, but a well-arranged plan is underway.

Aptly themed ‘Through the Looking Glass‘, the entire festival is dedicated to this mass shift in creativity, focusing on the roles of literature and art in times of a crisis like this one.

The scheduled line-up of over 60 writers and artists are collaborating to present a series of works exploring experiences facing a pandemic. Recorded and to be released on platforms such as Spotify, it is hoped that this festival will garner new possibilities for the arts society.

gtlf virtual press
GTLF virtual press conference | Image credit: GTLF Facebook

This ‘new normal’ is set to offer up-to-date, socially-relevant curated podcasts, visual presentations, audio drama, poetry readings, and panels in both English and Bahasa Malaysia. A one-on-one special conversation with participating writers is also included in the itinerary.

18 English titles and 12 Bahasa Malaysia titles are to be the focus of the podcasts during the GTLF run. Headlining features include

  • Fatimah Busu (Malaysia’s leading and award-winning Bahasa Malaysia-language author and foremost literary critic),
  • actress Sharifah Amani (whom many will recognise as Orked from Sepet),
  • Fahmi Mustaffa (Penang-based best-selling novelist)
  • Joshua Kam (winner of the 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize for ‘How the Man in Green Saved Pahang’)

Esteemed international special guests are

  • F. Sionil José (a literary legend, hailed around the globe for prominent insight into Filipino class struggles and colonisation via epics since the 60s)
  • Leila Chudori (recipient of the 2020 SEA Write Award, journalist, and author)

“There is a slight departure from the usual formal way of running festivals, but we are not shying away from the 10th edition. We will focus on a greater 10th edition as we keep our fingers crossed, hoping that this (pandemic) would have settled.”

Ashwin Gunasekaran, Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) chief executive officer.

Supported by the Penang State government, PCEB, Kinokuniya, Tintabudi Bookstores, Nusantara Audiobooks, Tun Perak Coop, Penang House of Music, the Embassy of France, the Goeth-Institute, and other cultural organisations, truly the arts and literature scene in Southeast Asia has proven the tenacity to survive these uncertain times.

tintabudi and penang house of music gtlf 2020
Tintabudi and Penang House of Music aiding in the recording of the podcasts | Image credit: GTLF Facebook

The George Town Literary Festival 2020: Through the Looking Glass will take place on 26 to 29 November 2020.


For more information and to know when to tune in, follow the GTLF 2020 social media pages below.


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