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GROWING NUMBERS FOR NAF (article first published : 2005-07-17)

The National Arts Festival, which ran from June 30 to July 9 2005, showed the organisers and artists alike, that the public and media fully support the yearly pilgrimage to Grahamstown.

There were over 139,000 attendees at the various events on offer during the 2005 Festival. The main programme saw an increase of attendees of 7.5% and the Fringe 4.1% making an overall increase of 5.5%.

Monetary sales increased overall by 0.6%, with a decrease shown of 1.9% on the main programme and an increase of 2% on the Fringe.

"The slight decrease in monetary terms for the main programme can be attributed to the very strong Fringe productions on offer this year. It was certainly one of the best Fringe programmes that I can remember,” commented Lynette Marais, Festival Director. “So why, you may ask, the decrease in monetary value and such a large increase in attendees? This year 3,971 tickets were given to the Arts Encounter Project which assists NGO's and groups that are not in a position to attend Festival events without some assistance. Fringe performers were also extremely generous in making 3,629 tickets available to the scheme.

"We are very satisfied with these results and the support shown", she continued. "Last year was the 30th anniversary, 10 years of democracy and the 100th anniversary of Rhodes, and without these other celebrations, the Festival has still managed to achieve good figures."

Attendees were treated to 516 combined main and Fringe events with 1,870 presentations in 2005, compared to 494 events and 1,829 presentations in 2004. This is an enormous feast for all who attend the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

392 members of the media attended this year's Festival. Foreign media representation came from the UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Finland, Holland, Trinidad and Lusaka. With the introduction of the SABC stage, the level of publicity was taken to new heights, as this not only allowed more television coverage to be broadcast live, but also gave their radio stations a broadcasting platform.

Marais commented that good interest was again shown from the overseas directors and impresarios. This has become a shopping paradise for overseas talent scouts.

When addressing the media during the Festival, Chairman Mannie Manim stressed the importance of the role of the media and their support of the arts, as well as the support given by the five sponsors, The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, SABC and the National Arts Council. "The success of a Festival like this depends on the continued support of our sponsors. No Festival of this size and nature can survive without this sort of funding," he said. "We do however need another corporate sponsor to alleviate the yearly rising costs and allow for upgrading and maintenance of the venues."

Statistics show that the Festival brings in an excess of R35.5 million to Grahamstown each year giving a welcome boost to the local economy.




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