Quiet alley coming back to life

  • Metro News
  • Saturday, 23 Nov 2019

Students and workers hanging out at the Mertajam Art Walk near Jalan Aston in Bukit Mertajam. — Photos: MUSTAFA AHMAD/The Star

THE once quiet and dim alley that links Jalan Datuk Ooh Chooi Cheng and Jalan Aston in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, has been transformed into an artistic hive featuring works of various artists.

Now called Mertajam Art Walk, it features over 30 photographs showing the town’s existing bustling trades and activities.

A row of concrete poles which are over 60 years old now serves as a reminder of the age of the place.

New additions have been brought in such as plants along the path and vines hanging down from the arch roofing.

Easily standing out are the colourful sunshades sponsored by Japan International Cooperation Agency through a collaboration with the Seberang Prai City Council.

There is also a section which has been gazetted as smoke-free and closed to motorists and the alley is accessible to the disabled.

Rakan BM chairman Marc Teh, whose team was tasked with planning the project, said the alley was chosen as it once served as a prominent shortcut for locals.

“There used to be two movie theaters along one side of Jalan Aston and the railway station, bus station and commercial district were on the other side.

“This alley was bustling between the 1960s and 1980s.

“However, recent developments elsewhere and a shift in population led to many shops here closing down and the alley becoming ‘dead’.

“In 2016, a team of researchers from Yokohama City chose the town to study and we started the Mertajam Art Walk in 2017 by retaining the original structures and bringing in simple decorations.

“Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim contributed RM150,000 to upgrade the infrastructure while Rakan BM forked out RM60,000 to install the plants and lighting system.

“Today, we have established an outdoor exhibition area to reconnect the young locals to the heritage town,” said Teh.

Apart from being a popular hangout spot for students and workers, the alley also has a tailor, barber and sundry shops.

Teh said future plans for the alley included more activities such as musical performances and storytelling sessions.

LED lights in the alley are turned on from 7.30pm to 12.30am daily.

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