Sold-out shows and great crowds at Hilton Arts Fest

2014-09-22 00:00

“WE’VE been treated like celebrities,” Zanne Solomon, director of Civil Parting, said of her first experience of The Witness Hilton Arts Festival.

She and actors Shaun Acker and Pieter Bosch Botha loved the vibe of the festival, which ran at Hilton College from last Thursday to yesterday, and were impressed by the venues and technical assistance they received.

It was a view echoed by other actors and artists at the festival, which attracted thousands of visitors to the Midlands school.

Beren Belknap, a puppeteer from the Handspring Puppet Company, which spent two days delighting crowds with appearances from Joey, the equine star of the theatre show, War Horse, said: “It’s been fantastic … I had forgotten how pretty it is up here and everyone has been super friendly.”

Festival director Sue Clarence said that while they hadn’t finalised their numbers, many of the shows on offer, including The Witness flagship production, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks (reviewed on page 11), had been sold out.

“We have done thriving business today,” she said, adding that yesterday’s sunny weather had helped bring crowds of people to the festival. “My aim for the coming year is to secure funding, not to make the festival any bigger, but to directly halve the ticket prices. But to do that, we will need about R750 000.”

Those at Hilton were also able to enjoy the craft market, free music and theatre performances throughout the weekend. One of the big drawcards was the Chemspec Perspective exhibition where 61 visual artists showcased their work.

Clarence said she had received many positive comments about the improved art and craft offering at the festival, while others had told her that they were happy with the new booking system, despite some initial teething problems.

“I would also like to say that we are very grateful to the public for helping us to stick to the liquor laws this year,” she added.

A change in the licensing laws earlier this year forced the organisers to restrict drinking to the Grolsch Beer Tent and a small bar at the visual arts marquee.

Clarence said that next year she was aiming to provide festival-goers with another option during the festival. “We are thinking of something more like a wine bar,” she added.

Iain McMillan, director of development at Hilton College, told The Witness he was delighted with the way things had gone over the weekend, adding: “The festival provides us with a fantastic opportunity to welcome crowds of people to the school … What I love about this event is that we have the chance to contribute to the arts.”

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