A live, in-person National Arts Festival is set to reinvigorate Makhanda’s streets and venues for 11 days from 23 June to 3 July.
The first programme will be announced on 4 April, and online ticket sales will open on 3 May.
The live festival will be followed by an online festival and potentially hybrid festival productions at venues outside Makhanda.
Speaking at a NAF stakeholder briefing on 24 March, NAF CEO Monica Newton said the live festival contributed significantly to the GDP of Makhanda (around R94-million) and the Eastern Cape (R377-million).
In 2019, the craft markets (Village Green, Church Square, and Drosty Arch) sold R6.1-million worth of goods.
Newton emphasized that the value transcended the economy, contributing incalculable value to artistic, social, and cultural life.
Artists and producers rated the festival as “important to improving profile and reputation”.
Audiences are incredibly loyal – it is common for audiences who’ve attended their first festival alone to want to come back with a group of people the following year to share the experience.
The briefing was attended by various stakeholders – in-person and on Zoom – from the city, including the government, the SAPS, the Makhanda hospitality industry, Makana Tourism, Rhodes University, the Makhanda Circle of Unity, and local business owners.
The last live NAF was held in 2019, an 11-day showcase of the arts featuring over 600 productions and exhibitions in over 600 venues. In 2020 and 2021, the festival became a fully digital experience running over two months with over 500 productions presented online, created in multiple venues across the country.
Newton said that even though the digital migration had broadened access, with about 156 000 site users globally, the financial returns are not significant.
This year, the National Schools Festival will be integrated into the first four days of the main festival. “Children need to be an integral part of NAF – they are the future artists and CEOs,” Newton said.
Newton said NAF was a mirror to society, reflecting experiences and conversations and being catalysts for innovation and expression.
Stakeholders agreed that the continuity and success of the Live NAF were in the hands of everyone in the Makhanda community. The whole town will host the festival, not just the west side and CBD.
Adherence to COVID-19 regulations was a key priority as we are still in a pandemic. Most bigger venues have been booked as to allow 50% capacity.
Newton said that the online program of the past few years has been a substantial success and will remain the core risk mitigation mechanism should the need arise.
Key NAF sponsors are the National Arts Council (21%), Standard Bank (24%), Eastern Cape Government (32%), the National Lotteries Commission (3%), DSRAC (6%), Sara Baartman District Municipality (2%); Nelson Mandela Bay (9%).