It's been a breakout year, says festival director.

THE month-long George Town Festival (GTF) finally came to an end last Sunday, boasting a treasure trove of local and international performances and exhibitions, and festival director Joe Sidek, the man responsible for putting the GTF and Penang on the map of the world, can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

“I feel that this year has been our breakout year. Nearly all of our shows were sold out, we had bumper crowds, we had more events than we’ve ever staged before, and collaborated with creative groups from across the region and beyond,” said Sidek.

Without entangling himself and his tireless team in a set of goals and objectives, Joe kept things flexible.

“My aim every year is to steadily grow the festival, to keep it an open platform that draws local and international talent. In that sense, I think it was a resounding success,” said the 55-year-old.

George Town Festival director Joe Sidek: I feel that this year has been our breakout year. Nearly all of our shows were sold out …

What inspires Joe to keep at it is the relentless support of the local community.

“We’ve built some staunch supporters over the years, and it’s one of the highlights of the festival for me to see familiar local faces coming to all of our shows.

“We’ve really focused on finding ways to give back to the community, and have introduced programmes like Friends of the Festival.

“I think it’s important to see local support as a partnership – we need to find ways of really benefiting the community before we can expect their support,” added Joe.

But the man is already looking into the sixth edition of the festival.

“Next year, one of the main challenges which I’m looking forward to tackling is the fact that Dewan Sri Pinang, the only high-capacity performance venue, will be under renovation which means that we really have to think creatively, find new spaces, new partners and artistic solutions to staging the big shows we want,” he explained.

The enthusiastic and passionate Joe said last month had been “one of the most exhilarating (and exhausting) of my life and I can’t wait to relive it.”