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RUMBLINGS IN GRAHAMSTOWN (article first published : 1999-09-15)

In an article appearing in the Grahamstown newspaper, Grocotts Mail, of September 3 there is an article headed “ANC pulls plug on arts festival”. It deals with a city council debate on the festival report back meeting held by senior council officials with other festival stakeholders. A decision was subsequently made by the city council to withdraw support from the arts festival.

“We are concerned by the way things are planned at the expense of others in this town. We propose that no resources be allocated to the arts festival until this sort of gathering is transformed into a representative and inclusive body. We would also like to see a full financial report on what we give and what we get,” ANC chief whip Cllr Jonathan Walton is reported to have said.

Grocotts Mail states that Cllr John Porter rose to the festival’s defence and stated, inter alia, that: “A lot of people have spent a lot of time and resources turning Grahamstown into the festival capital of Africa. We have had economic impact studies done that have dispelled the myth that only white people benefit from the festival.”

Festival director Lynette Marais is reported to have responded to the article by saying: “I think it will be a very sad day for all the people of Grahamstown if the TLC withdraws its support from the `industry of festivals’ being developed in Grahamstown.”

In the same publication, the Bird’s Eye view of your TLC column poses the following to Council: “I was rather startled to find that the council has turned its mind to whether or not to move the PX Village. Did you hold a mass meeting? Did you even ask Transnet and the Village Green Committee what they thought? Or did you not appreciate the R100 000 they donated to the disadvantaged after the 1999 festival? If you try to move them you may move them to a different place altogether - goodbye R100 000.”

The finance committee of the TLC was due to meet on September 8 when, hopefully, facts and figures will have been tabled reflecting the financial impact the festival has on the city of Grahamstown. It would be sad if political power mongering were to damage what has become a major success story benefiting all communities of a small city that is, after all, off the main circuit. The councillors are playing straight into the hands of those strongly lobbying to take the festival away from Grahamstown and move it to Johannesburg.

The Grocotts Mail article also stated that senior city officials visited the newspaper’s offices subsequent to the meeting to play down the significance of the council decision.


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