Little Penang Street Market Turns Eight

In Upper Penang Road, up until 2006, this street was just another thriving nightlife district filled with night clubs and bars. Every last Sunday of the month, however, Little Penang Street Market (LPSM) takes on the street in the day and proving that Upper Penang Road is more than just a place for cold beers.

Brought together by a small group of volunteers, LPSM is a non-profit making community venture organised by Penang Arts Council. Celebrating their eighth anniversary last July, one of its committee Lyndy Ong shares the ups and downs of this independent street market. 

What has changed in LPSM over the eight years?
The relevance of showcasing heritage has not changed, neither has the need to promote creativity by giving opportunity to artisans, handcrafters, performers and visual artists, neither has the benefit of using public spaces creatively. LPSM can claim to have been at the forefront of all this, and now at last we see others realising the worth and need for such things.

The challenge for the future has changed. We no longer have to show the relevance of the objectives of LPSM. What we now need to do is to ensure the programming at LPSM makes it continually relevant and a positive force for Penang’s creative future.

What are some of LPSM's toughest challenges?

The toughest challenge would be achieving LPSM’s amazing objectives despite the very limited financial and human resources. Little Penang is into nurturing, promotion and advancing Penang’s creativity and cultural diversity through craftsmanship to performing arts; organizing and feeding in to events for the development of Penang’s cultural enterprise, performances and creativity; helping to share awareness and knowledge of Penang’s living and intangible heritage as well as cultural diversity. These are big ambitions and we have gone a long way to meeting them.

Has learning what sells and what doesn't, influenced how LPSM operates?
The stalls are just one part of LPSM and it is the vendors who will find out what sells and what doesn’t. They then either adjust their product design or presentation, or simply stop coming. Over the eight years, we have showcased the products of some 400 different stallholders. Many have been coming year after year. Some have dropped out. Every market we will have some new people. This is what keeps it lively and, together with the performances, art and other initiatives, has given LPSM its unique atmosphere and ambience.

How do you achieve all that with limited financial and human resources?
The small committee has managed through dedication, hard work, a clarity of focus and support from our stakeholders, which include stall holders, performers, a2 Gallery, supporters and sponsors. The latter have included MPPP, the state government and the Garage. A few years ago, we also had a very successful fund raising dinner and owe a vote of thanks to all who contributed to that.

What's your favourite stall in LPSM so far?
We love all the stalls that showcase the unique products of the person running the stall. Other markets and 'handmade' events have been able to recruit stallholders for their event from LPSM. We love this – it shows both the success of the stallholder and the success of LPSM.

What's the most unique item ever sold in LPSM?
LPSM has had a great product mix over the years. This has included traditional crafts, clothing, bags, jewellery, home items, antiques and collectibles, paper products, glass design, ethnic products, aromatherapy products and of course, food.

The emphasis is on creativity and heritage as well as showcasing talents. We have had artisans demonstrating batik making, or weaving, and selling products or allowing visitors to make and keep products. Of course, we also reserve some stalls for local organisations to showcase and sell their products: we are very happy to see, for example, Asia Community Service and Women’s Welfare Council showcase and sell their members' great work.

If you have RM25 in your pocket, what would you buy at LPSM?
Get a LPSM t-shirt! This will show the world you have experienced what many have hailed as one of the great street markets which has been covered by such renowned international media as the New York Times.

In this month's LPSM, it's all about Merdeka celebration. Anything exciting we can expect from LPSM?
As usual LPSM will be mixing stalls, food, interactive activities, live performances and art gallery in our unique and fabulous way. Visitors can revel in the celebrations of Merdeka via t-shirt printing, Merdeka Rainbow Looms, pottery, painting, Merdeka quiz, Merdeka message wall postings, joget, and great performances. Be there or be square!

Little Penang Street Market is held every last Sunday of the month at Upper Penang Road. The street market opens from 10.00am - 5.00pm. For more info, give them a call at 017-429 0806 and check out their website.