ADELAIDE has been George Town’s sister city since 1973, but not many know the root of their connection.
This ‘city of parks’ in South Australia was designed by the first surveyor-general of South Australia in 1835, a man with blood ties to Penang.
His name is William Light, son of Sir Francis Light.
For that reason, next year’s George Town Festival (GTF) is tying up with Adelaide’s OzAsia Festival with the theme ‘Connecting the Light’.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Rod Smith said an agreement had been signed between the City of Adelaide and GTF for a collaboration in the arts space.
“The first manifestation of this collaboration will be the partnership between the two festivals.
“The manner of the collaboration is being worked out and the theme will highlight the connection of the two cities through the Light family,” he said.
“Penang artistes will also have a chance to perform at the OzAsia Festival next year while their Australian counterparts will come here for GTF,” he added.
William was born in Kuala Kedah on April 27, 1786, and lived in Penang until the age of six.
After an illustrious career as a soldier (a Captain in the British Army and Lieutenant Colonel in the Spanish Army), he eventually became the surveyor-general of South Australia and designed Adelaide.
He is hailed to this day because he made sure the city has 690ha of gazetted parklands.
“There are two key elements that create a close relationship between Penang and Australia.
“One is the long presence of the Royal Australian Air Force in Butterworth, and another is the Light family,” Smith said.
Smith arrived in Penang on Monday for an official visit to explore opportunities between Australia and Penang.
He described GTF as an iconic event that was well-known in Australia, adding that the Australian High Commission had worked with festival director Joe Sidek for several years.
“He has done a fantastic work, including with the Troupe Fest short-film festival that is similar to the Australian Film Festival.”
OzAsia Festival is the premier Australian international arts festival that connects audiences with arts from across Asia.
Held between September and October each year, it features contemporary dance, theatre, music, film, visual arts, community and food events, discussions and the Moon Lantern Festival.
“The first time I came to George Town was in 1985. I was an undergraduate and I came as a backpacker.
“I marvelled at George Town for the way it preserved its historical buildings.”
Smith said he was glad to see Penang recognising the economic value of its history.