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GOOD GRAHAMSTOWN FESTIVAL (article first published : 2002-07-15)

The National Arts Festival saw over 102,000 attendees at the various events on offer during the eight day Grahamstown event, representing an increase in attendance figures of 5.2% in comparison with the 1% increase achieved in 2001. Monetary sales this year increased by 12.2%.

“We are very pleased with the figures especially in light of the fact that the Festival had a smaller programme this year, with a total of 342 events and 1191 presentations in comparison with 2001, which had a total of 362 events and 1302 presentations,” says Lynette Marais, National Arts Festival director. “In addition, the duration of the Festival was cut this year to eight days from ten days last year.

“Drawing plenty of support from audiences, the main programme had an increase in attendees of 3.2% and an increase in monetary sales of 11.1%. On the fringe, the attendance increase was 6.09% compared to an increase of 4% for the year before. Monetary fringe sales increased by 13%.”

Media attendance increased in 2002 with 250 members of the press attending this year’s festival. This year’s event included foreign media representation from the US, Ireland, Germany, Sweden and Holland. “The combination of a strong publicity campaign, and the promotion of some top class events ensured good media attendance,” says Marais. “Publicity was an integral part of the marketing this year because our advertising budget was very limited.”

She says the Festival programme contained something for everyone, with a varied and interesting programme as enticing as any in the past. “Additionally, we hope the growing street theatre component remains a permanent feature, as it allows anyone with imagination to own a piece of the Festival.”

Despite earlier misgivings over the sponsorship issues, Festival Chairman, Mannie Manim, has announced that the two major sponsors, the Eastern Cape Government and Standard Bank, will remain on board for a further two years. “The commitment from these sponsors will hopefully encourage additional sponsors, ensuring that the Festival will continue to grow in strength,” he says.

“Other sponsors will bring a new vibe to the Festival that will complement the excitement generated by previous Festivals,” he adds. “This will make the festival grow both in numbers and in content.”

He says the Festival brings in an estimated R37 million to the region each year, providing vital financial support to the Eastern Cape region. “Many residents of Grahamstown are dependent on revenues brought in during the duration of the Festival. It is doubtful whether the region would survive as well without it.”

Adds Lynette Marais, “We can see from the 2002 Festival that local theatre is in good shape, with a combination of the new and challenging as well as the old favourites. The National Arts Festival remains as ever, core to the process of profiling new arts and performers in South Africa. A few months ago, the future of the National Arts Festival hung in the balance due to uncertainties with the sponsors. After the 2002 Festival, the message is clear, the festival continues with a reaffirmation of the important cultural role it plays in South Africa.”

The National Arts Festival is proudly sponsored by the Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank and the National Arts Council.

See artSMart’s coverage of the Festival and wrap-up on the Festival pages




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