Praise for ‘crown jewels’ but water a major concern

By MIKE LOEWE

The National Arts Festival hits midweek today amid praise from the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) but a lingering water crisis has put a question mark on future festivals.

CEO Tony Lankester, addressing the media as the R32-million festival headed into its second week, said: “The water issue is a big frustration and it affects the future survival of the festival.”

RIGHT BALANCE: Young dancers from MDG performing arts company Swoosh from the Free State performed at the Grahamstown City Hall on Saturday evening Picture: SIBONGILE NGALWA
RIGHT BALANCE: Young dancers from MDG performing arts company Swoosh from the Free State performed at the Grahamstown City Hall on Saturday evening Picture: SIBONGILE NGALWA

Vuyo Zitumane, chairwoman of
ECPTA called the arts splurge the “crown jewel” in the province’s tourism sector.

Talk of numbers being down were countered by Des and Suzie Wescott, owner of Grahamstown’s Wimpy and Mugg and Bean franchises, who said their sales were up on last year.

Water has been on in most areas during the day, but some areas were without overnight, which Lankester said was deliberate.

“Makana municipality is turning the taps off at night to allow the reservoirs to fill up,” he said.

Makana mayor Nomhle Gaga promised at the start of the festival water outages would be over by yesterday.

Popular shows have sold out, such as yesterday’s premier of Blonde Poison, in which Fiona Ramsay explores how a Jewish German woman is turned to become an informer in Nazi Germany.

Even underground venue, Champs bar, down a sidestreet off High Street, was full and rocking as young musicians showcased fresh styles ending with a rock ’n roll set from Indigo Reign, with lead guitarist Monde Schreiner, of the famous Schreiner family, drawing a good crowd of fans.

Famous festival hangout, The Long Table, was also busy until late and High Street was filled with the sounds of buskers and jazz late into the night.

In an interview yesterday, the festival’s outgoing director, Ismail Mahomed, said artists were pushing boundaries again, and he wondered if politicians were there for a party or to “keep their ears close to the ground”.

The festival will only release its ticket sales numbers next week, with Lankester saying there were too many variables to make any statements while the event was in full swing.

Numbers were dependent on when shows started, the weather and they were also watching the impact of the petrol price increase on Eastern Cape visitors.

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