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ARTSLINK.CO.ZA CLOSES MAJOR MODULES (article first published : 2003-07-1)

It's official. This month, the screen of South Africa's most comprehensive online arts, culture and entertainment database went black.

Twelve modules of information on the arts industry, the most extensive resource of its kind, collated by Artslink.co.za over the last seven years are gone. These included the Show Guide, listing shows around the country, the Visual Arts Diary, listing exhibitions, and the invaluable South African Calendar of Cultural Events, plus a searchable archive of more than 10,000 news items.

For the seventh time, the National Arts Council has dismissed Artslink.co.za's application for funding to keep this information open to all. The latest reason given was that the application "is outside the NAC's funding mandate".

For founder and webmaster TJ de Klerk it is the end of a dream: "It started exactly seven years ago at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown,” he says. “Carl Johnson, then fringe manager, and I were eating pizza in the early hours. It was the early days of the Internet and we envisioned the arts world in one website, a one-stop information resource, a forum to link performers, artists, musicians and audience, a showcase to South Africa and to the world.

"I actually realised that dream. It was there. Bit by bit over the years I added the elements. Artslink.co.za was powerful, a growing, evolving entity. I could and did answer queries from all over the world."

But the price was high - in time, effort and money. To a large extent TJ did it alone, working long hours, pouring in his own resources. Again and again, attempts were made to obtain funding, with only token success.

"In the end, enough was enough," TJ says. "My partner Gerry Coughlan and I both have families and commitments to meet. It was a difficult decision to make as we believe the information is invaluable and the country will be the poorer without it, but ultimately Artslink.co.za has no obligation to maintain a database." So the screen went black.

For TJ the days of crusading are over. Now Artslink.co.za is a Business, with a capital B. Artslink.co.za News, linking publicists with the media and the audience via e-mail, is very successful and will continue. "It works in realtime," says TJ. "The news gets out and these days, when arts coverage is constantly being cut in the mainstream media, Artslink.co.za plays a crucial role."

Artslink.co.za ISP is a leading-edge Internet Service Provider, providing Internet access, e-mail, website hosting and design.

"We will concentrate on the ISP and the news wire. We will serve our subscribers to the best of our ability. In the wider forum, Artslink.co.za will hopefully continue to play its role in the arts world as a forum for networking and discussion," says TJ.

More information on 082 230 2255 or visit www.artslink.co.za




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