Splashy founder’s magical memories

2009-04-10 00:00

“IT was absolutely magical,” reminisces Peter Ferraz on the subject of the first Splashy Fen in October 1990. “The best thing was the smoke curling up through the trees from the first camp fires, and the first arrivals sitting around strumming their guitars. I’m reminded of that every year.”

Wearing an original Splashy sweater, the 70-year-old Ferraz is in a cheerful mood when he stops by The Witness office to talk music, Underberg and, of course, Splashy. Well spoken and well travelled, Ferraz worked for the Star newspaper in England, but now lives a semi-retired life in Underberg with his wife Almary and enjoys travelling, something he has done most of his life. And it was on his travels that the idea for Splashy was first seeded.

“This is well documented of course, but we were not aware that there was this phenomenon of the music festival … the Glastonbury-type thing,” he says.

“I had attended the Festival of the Flower Children at Woburn Abbey [England].” The year was 1967.

“Later on I attended another festival that had mainly bluegrass music, which I’m afraid I’m a sucker for.”

But Splashy’s formation happened much later. “It took a long time before it gelled,” recalls Ferraz. “Bart Fokkens, who was a forester in the area, had connections here with Fatma, the local folk club.

“Before we knew what had happened after a night out with, er, a lot of red wine … Bart had put the word out and that’s how the first one came to be.”

Splashy continued to grow from then on, and Ferraz recalls how the festival grew very quickly around the year in which Just Jinjer first performed there. “After that we went through a dip, and there are two views on that. My view is that we got too big too fast. Our infrastructure couldn’t cope and we lost a bit of that Splashy character.

“But also the type of person who came to Splashy changed a bit. We got a crowd who thought the whole point was to get drunk and disorderly and show off to their mates. And there were a lot of people whom I didn’t find at all attractive, and I think obviously a lot of other people felt that way too.

“But we’ve grown again to cope with the demands and the people who we get now are fantastic people.”

Ferraz is clear that the organisers are not trying to recreate a nightclub in the mountains, and the people in Underberg have been very accommodating.

“I get businessmen telling me stories of these weird and wonderful creepy crawlies making their way through the village to Splashy, but they all take it in their stride. I know that if you do anything public, you’re not going to please 100% of the people all the time. I worked in a newspaper, so I know.” He pauses and gives a wink.

“But if people do have a problem, they can come and speak to me. But very seldom do we have that. Usually, it’s quite the opposite.”

Ferraz enjoys the fact that many of “tomorrow’s professionals” come to have their stint at Splashy, and let their hair down before “they settle down to become doctors or lawyers”.

On that note, he is reflective over what Splashy is.

“Danny de Wet was interviewed on television years ago and he summed it up by saying that what he liked about Splashy Fen was that you could ‘get out of it, but not too out of it’. And I like to think that Splashy will always be a bit wild, but not nasty wild or ugly wild. Obviously if Splashy Fen was something of which everybody’s parents would approve, they wouldn’t come. There has to be a slight wildness about it, but within nice bounds.”

It is this “wildness” factor that attracts many up into the mountains every year, and has kept Ferraz busy for the past 20 years, but he admits that although he still wants his hand on the tiller to make sure the character of the festival remains, he is happy to give the work over to someone else.

“My nightmare is that I’ll still be doing this when I’m 100.”

•For more information and the latest festival news, visit www.splashyfen.co.za or contact Pedro at 082 892 6176.

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