Abandoned shophouses come alive during Butterworth Fringe Festival (VIDEO)

by Opalyn Mok

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 16 — With paint peeling off their walls, the tired looking pre-war shophouses stood forlorn and abandoned in rows behind the main road of Jalan Bagan Luar.

Other than a few surviving shops and coffee shops, the narrow labyrinth of roads tucked behind the main road are long past their heyday, gathering dust.

Festival revellers learning to make Indian murukku at the Butterworth Fringe Festival.

Festival revellers learning to make Indian murukku at the Butterworth Fringe Festival.

But for the past two days, this quiet part of old town Butterworth has been filled with music, dance and food at random intervals during the inaugural Butterworth Fringe Festival (BFF); a festival within the George Town Festival.

Rows of stalls, selling food, handicrafts and souvenirs, fronted the narrow roads while various performances are held at three different spots from 4pm till 11pm on both nights.

In one of the shophouses, a set of percussion instruments strike out a strange and yet catchy tune all “on its own” without any musicians such playing the instruments. This is Intriguing Instruments by Australian percussionist Robbie Avenaim who uses technology to enable the instruments to play all on its own.

Along the same row, in another shophouse, 100 images of old photographs, paintings, maps dated from the early 19th century until the late 1970s were displayed in the 100 Images of Province Wellesley exhibition.

Outside, at the main stage area, famed American-Taiwanese street performer Isaac Hou captivated the crowd with his skilful handling of a crystal ball before he whip out his Cyr Wheel and started twirling and circling around inside the wheel in perfect balance.

Over on the island, a crowd started gathering at the ferry terminal for the Cross Waves & Moving Jetties performance in the evening.

The audience were ushered to the ferry where the performance, featuring eight main dancers from Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore, started with an energetic dance just as the ferry crossed the north channel to Butterworth.

The performance continued on at the Butterworth ferry terminal with a band performance before the audience is led to a spot under a bridge at the terminal where the dancers continued with their journey of contemporary and fast-paced dance.

From the terminal, the audience boarded buses to the BFF site where the performance flowed from a street corner, a large shady tree, to the exterior of a warehouse before ending on a wide open space, telling a different story at each spot.

Even as across Waves are ongoing, other performances such as the Bunraku puppet show and Urban Distortion were held at the main stage area while Vespa scooters and vintage Volkswagen ferried people to and fro the ferry terminal to the BFF site

First published in Malay Mail Online on 16 August 2015