Pieces fall into place for annual arts fest

The host of elements making up the 42nd Grahamstown arts festival is coming into alignment in time for its launch next week.

The budget of the 12-day National Arts Festival (NAF) is R32-million but it usually infuses about R350-million into the Eastern Cape economy.

With hundreds of shows and artists joining the annual pilgrimage to Africa’s biggest arts festival from June 30 to July 10, NAF CEO Tony Lankester yesterday spoke about:

  • The first-ever cash injection into the do-or-die Fringe, where newcomers must jostle for instant fame and bottoms on seats.

The National Lotteries Commission is paying R10-million for it to be called the National Lottery Fringe.

The cash will translate into a R1000 venue hire rebate, but will also be felt “below the skin” in marketing, training, planning and advertising of the 369 Fringe shows.

Lotto chairman Alfred Nevhutanda said: “We welcome the opportunity to see South Africa’s artists perform on new stages. We want to see SA talent being nurtured”;

  • An offload of decision-making powers of the creative director onto a 19-member festival committee, which is packed with leading SA creatives in nine genres.
  • NAF has advertised for an executive producer to replace Market Theatre-bound Ismail Mahomed, a move Lankester says will improve the ability of the festival committee to produce and send NAF-branded shows out into the world; and

    • Another “substantial” three-year grant from the Arts and Culture Department (2017-2019) which was agreed on this month.
    • He said the switch to an executive producer was a compliment to Mahomed’s legacy of “building a really strong artistic advisory body with nice mix of energy and skills spread across the industry”.

      “We said let’s milk that expertise and give the festival committee more executive responsibility for creative selections by finding an arts person who will forge partnerships, such as with embassies and institutions, and who will work with the curators on the festival committee to bring the programmes to life.”

      The new executive producer would handle technicians, venues, budgets, and administrators and would have enough artistic sense to know “what will work on our stages, and what audiences want”.

      He said NAF’s desire to take festival shows beyond Grahamstown was becoming a reality.

      “We always had skin in the game. If we co-produce shows to give our shows life beyond the festival, that will make us happy. As a member of the World Fringe Alliance we will back our artists performing in Brighton or Amsterdam. We don’t take a cut.”

      Ticket sales were looking “strong”, he said.

      Last year 240000 tickets were sold and 330000 people entered the Village Green craft fair. — mikel@dispatch.co.za

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