Cue’s ZIMKITA LINYANA talked to locals and out-of-town traders about their festival hopes, fears, and gripes.
Many locals have fond memories of festivals gone by.
But, many said the build-up to the Fest has not felt the same as previous years – perhaps inevitable in the wake of the global pandemic and the battered economy.
Rhodes University grounds staff said buses normally come in and out of campus off-loading festival-goers at this time, and student residences fill up with guests. But this year the momentum is quite low.
“There are usually loud noises coming through from the Great Hall and the Great Field, reverberating from rehearsals. But now it is quiet,” one worker commented.
Others are more optimistic. “I’m excited as this is normally a quiet town,” said a first-year Rhodes University student. “I’m keen to see how it livens up, and it’s such a nice chance to meet people you wouldn’t normally interact with.” Another first-year student said it was her first festival since 2019 which initially exposed her to Rhodes University when she was in Grade 11.
Local car guard, Mzwandile ‘Junior’ Mgijima, said he was excited to be involved in some open-mic rap performances. “I’m not only a car guard. I do anything I can to support my granny and daughter.” But Mawande said he wished the Festival was still spread out across the city and not just focused on venues in the city centre.
A local street trader on Church Square was also among those longing for the past. “We don’t feel included in the big festival,” he said. “We were not successful in our attempts to secure stalls at venues like the Monument or Rhodes University.”
Meanwhile, thrifters from as far as Uitenhage/Kariega who are affiliated with the educational NGO, Ingcambu, were enthusiastically setting up their stalls Under the Arch on High Street. “We are very excited to be here and have been looking forward to it since the last one in 2019.”
Nostalgia mixed with hope. Locals see both opportunities and challenges ahead. The next ten days will reveal what’s in store.