Music world mourns passing of Splashy Fen founder Peter Ferraz

2014-10-16 00:00

THE music world is mourning the passing of Peter Ferraz, the man who founded the Splashy Fen music festival.

Ferraz, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April this year, died on Tuesday night.

In a message shared with Splashy Fenners earlier this month, the 76-year-old, said: “I am immensely proud of the festival; it has given me untold joy all these years and I foresee it continuing for many, many more. My heartfelt thanks go out to all the people who have made Splashy Fen what it is.”

Educated at Durban High School and later at Rhodes University, Ferraz completed an arts degree, a law degree, was admitted to the bar, spent 18 years as a newspaper journalist, and more than 20 years as a trout farmer.

He first got the idea for the festival after he and his wife, Almary, attended the Festival of the Flower Children at Woburn Abbey in England in 1967.

The experience made a lasting impression on the couple — as did their visit to the Folk in the Park festival in Washington DC during Ferraz’s journalistic posting to cover the Watergate hearings.

After buying a farm near Underberg, they, together with forestry officer Bart Fokkens, finally started working on making the dream a reality.

“We realised immediately that the farm was perfect for a music festival,” Ferraz said in an article on the Splashy Fen website. “With its natural amphitheatre, great acoustics, breathtaking mountain vistas, winding river and lots of fields for camping, no one could ask for a more ideal setting.”

With the help of Facma (Folk and Contemporary Music Association) in Pietermaritzburg, Splashy Fen 1, or Bergstock as it was dubbed, took place in October 1990.

Around 200 people were expected to attend, but some 1 200 enthusiasts turned up to camp under the stars and listen to artists like Tony Cox, the Silver Creek Mountain Band, Plagal Cadence and Syd Kitchen.

Infrastructure was rudimentary — just a makeshift stage and a few portable toilets.

“There was no Eskom then,” Ferraz recalled in the article. “Power was provided by my ancient little tractor driving an erratic farm generator. Every so often the music would stop for 20 minutes while the tractor was refuelled, but nobody complained. The foundations for today’s mellow Splashy vibe were laid right then and there.”

Ferraz stopped being involved in the day-to-day running of the festival in 2010, handing responsibility over to C-Weed Entertainment Promotions.


South Coast resident, David Mark, who helped produce the first festivals, said he would never forget those heady days, adding: “Peter just wanted to share the paradise that he had found, to share his farm... and he loved music.”

Veteran singer-songwriter, Nibs van der Spuy, added: “I first met him in 1990 at the first Splashy ... We were all unified together to initiate what would to become a legendary event. Peter’s vision would change the face of South African music forever.

“Peter will always be that generous spirit and the face of Splashy, a soft humble dove in tranquil flight. We will miss him.”

In a statement, festival organiser, Pedro Carlo, said that while all Splashy Fenners mourned Ferraz’s passing, they also wanted to celebrate his love of life, passion for music, and the rich legacy that he has left behind.

Guitarist, Guy Buttery agreed saying: “After opening his doors for more than two decades to tens of thousands of people every year to all kinds of characters imaginable, Peter Ferraz leaves us with his rich legacy, a strong memory of his kind heart and an athletic desire to keep the music playing.”

And in a post on Ferraz’s Facebook page, Ceridwen Cawthorn-Blazeby summed up the thoughts of many with her words: “Thank you for letting us enjoy so many years on your farm with live music, joy in our hearts and many sunrises! Splashy Fen will never be the same without you!”


Today the Splashy Fen Music Festival is an integral part of the South African music scene, drawing thousands of visitors to the Southern Drakensberg. It also injects some R21-million into the province annually.

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