SPEECH BY CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG
AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE GEORGE TOWN LITERARY FESTIVAL 2017
24 November 2017
Majestic Theatre, Penang
Good evening and Selamat Datang Ke Pulau Pinang,
On behalf of the Penang State Government, I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to all of you to Penang, particularly the distinguished guests, writers, moderators and performers who have travelled from all over the world be a part of our literary festival. It is a great privilege for me on behalf of the Penang State Government to host and continue to sponsor the seventh edition of the George Town Literary Festival.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since we first launched the first edition in 2011, the GTLF has aimed to encourage the literary arts to flourish freely in Penang – for writers and poets to share their words, and for audiences to be engaged and inspired. From its humble beginnings of only five participating writers in the first edition, the GTLF has traversed much territory to become the premier Malaysian literary festival.
Over the course of six years, the GTLF has hosted more than 200 writers, poets and performers from all around the world. In March this year, the GTLF was shortlisted by the London Book Fair for its International Excellence Awards 2017, putting the festival on the world map.
The GTLF 2017 continues push the boundaries of dialogue and discourse by providing a crucial space for writers and audiences to delve into some of society’s most pressing questions. This year’s theme – ‘Monsters and (Im)mortals’ – will challenge participants to venture into a world of myths and legends, to help us to understand how our past and present affect and inspire the stories of today and tomorrow.
Set in the heart of George Town, the GTLF continues to shed light on a rich history and vibrant heritage, celebrating a colourful and varied past in our many stories; of treachery and love, of betrayal and redemption, of loss and triumph.
Penang has always been a cultural melting pot – an intersection for history and trade, for intellectual discussions and the exchange of ideas. It is more evident than ever that there is a hunger and urgency for artistic expression. A city with no art or music, no literature or performing arts, no film or photography – has no soul.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The state government is committed to cultivating Penang as a centre for learning and appreciation, where we are encouraged to be proud of our heritage and history. We have always taken pride in the fact that the GTLF is the only literary festival in the country that is funded by and supported by a state government.
This world-class festival, which encourages discourse from the public in the spirit of freedom of expression, is only possible in Penang because of the state government’s commitment to championing the arts, culture and community engagement.
Furthermore we make no apologies for celebrating diversity and not interfering in your lifestyle – as attested by the State Government's continued support for events like Oktoberfest despite attracting strong criticisms. Penang will not be a state that bans this or that but live and let live.
The GTLF continues to have riveting conversations, provocations and panel discussions, a translators’ roundtable, a poetry marathon, book launches, performances, film screenings and writing workshops.
The three-day long programme will continue to expose Penangites to some of the finest literary minds in the world, to encourage the culture of reading and intellectual discourse – all of which are crucial in creating a cultured society that celebrates diversity in thought, literature and language.
I would like to thank and congratulate the team behind the George Town Literary Festival 2017 for producing this esteemed gathering. Last but not least, to all our guests, writers, performers and partners from Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States:
Selamat datang ke Pulau Pinang!
I hope you will come to love the charming George Town as much as we do.