Arts festival takes a dive – soccer rules

2010-07-04 11:11

While organisers of the National Arts Festival maintain the decision to extend the festival by five days has been ­successful, the streets of Grahamstown have been much quieter this year.

“Fest is dead compared with other years,” says Sondi Gamu, a Grahamstown local.

Kiara Maffenti agrees: “Everything is quiet here due to the World Cup,” although, she adds, “I’m still loving it.”

Organisers say ticket sales for the first half of the event were up by 7% compared with last year’s figures.

“Street theatre has really lifted the mood right through to the townships,” says Tony Lankester, festival CEO.

Popular shows have been jazz and theatre whereas comedy shows dominated in ­previous years. But soccer-based plays have not been as popular as expected.

“I came to the festival to take a break from the soccer,” says festival-goer Brett Jones.

“I’m really not about to sit and watch a play about the game.”

International media and foreign embassies have shown a keen interest in the festival.

A Swiss feature on local choreographers means international exposure for the likes of Acty Tang and Mlu Zondi, “which they might not have had had there not been the World Cup”, Lankester says.

Another group set for international exposure is The ­Phezulus, five stilt artists in their early 20s who have caught the eye of an Australian talent scout.

The group was started when Richard Antrobus, a performer, dancer, choreographer and part-time lecturer at the Rhodes University drama ­department, was approached by festival director, Ismail Mahomed, to start a development project that would pass on the skills and knowledge he has acquired.

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