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NAF GETS THUMBS UP (article first published : 2006-07-20)

The 32nd National Arts Festival in Grahamstown (June 29 to July 8) was greeted by balmy weather and increased attendances overall. Good audiences and many more ‘sold out’ shows indicate that people continue to support the annual National Arts Festival, giving the thumbs up to organisers and sponsors alike.

Grahamstown opens its heart and its doors to accommodate the many visitors every year. In 2006 about 141,000 people attended the various events on offer from theatre to dance, music (including jazz), exhibitions, film and street theatre. With 620 events and 2,064 presentations on offer, it is no wonder that thousands of people are drawn to the Festival each year to get their fill of this artistic feast.

The main programme had a slight decrease in attendees (3.77%) because it had a smaller number of events, but an increase of 0.34% in monetary sales. There were 192 events and 388 presentations compared with 213 and 440 respectively in 2005. The fringe boasted 428 events and 1,676 presentations compared with 303 events and 1,430 presentations in 2005. The 2006 fringe figures showed an increase of 11.95% in attendees and 17.19% in monetary sales.

“We are extremely satisfied generally with these results as well as the increased overall monetary sales of 12.03%” said Lynette Marais, Festival Director.

The National Arts Festival was well supported by the media with 400 journalists from South Africa, the USA, UK, France, Holland, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia contributing to the media mix. The SABC stage and various mobile radio units added enormous value to the continued and various national coverage of the Festival.

The Festival sponsors and the Fringe artists generously donated tickets to the Arts Encounter Programme. These tickets are distributed amongst members of local NGOs, schools, and community groups in order that wider access to Festival events is afforded to all community sectors in Grahamstown. The Outreach Project organised Fringe performances in local prisons, hospitals, clinics and old age homes in an effort to bring the Festival to those who were unable to attend events due to illness or incarceration. “We are extremely grateful to the Fringe artists who gave so freely of their time and talent to this worthwhile project,” said Marais.

Mannie Manim, Chairman of The National Arts Festival, stressed the importance of sponsors of the arts and thanked the Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund, the SABC and the National Arts Council. “Artists would not have this wonderful platform on which to perform each year if it was not for the generous funding by the sponsors,” he said. “We do however need to alleviate the financial stress by adding one or two more sponsors to the list,” he added.

A study completed at the end of the 2005 National Arts Festival by Dr E Slabbert from the North-West University, concluded that Festival spending amounted to R54,3 million and that direct contribution to the town was estimated at R49,3 million. This is R21 million more than a similar study showed in 2003, and is a significant improvement from an economic perspective, revealing the fundamental importance of this Festival to the region.




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