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8 ways to have a good time in Grahamstown #NAF2015

Published on 26 May 2015

We share our top tips for visitors to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][FESTIVAL NEWS] Where to stay, where to eat, where to play and where to sleep are questions first-time visitors to Grahamstown ask when planning their trip to the National Arts Festival. In response, the organisers have put together a brand-new and up-to-date ‘hospitality guide’ to ensure Festival goers have an easy and enjoyable time at this year’s Festival, which runs from 2 to 12 July 2015.

The #NAF2015 brochure covers accommodation (including hostel and university residence accommodation, guest houses, B&Bs and game lodges as well as contact details for people who will help you find a bed), a list of where to eat, and a directory of transport providers to get you from A to B.

Once you’ve got the logistics of your stay sorted out, then it’s time to focus on having a good time in Grahamstown.

Here are our Top 8 Insider Tips:

  1. Plan ahead: Get a programme (from selected Standard Bank and Exclusive Books branches), browse the website and get some idea of what’s on offer. Book your ‘must see’ shows as soon as possible – many of this year’s biggest music acts (Thandiswa Mazwai, Ray Phiri, Oliver Mtukudzi, Beatenberg and Mi Casa) are in town for one night only so tickets are flying. But make sure you also allow time to explore outside your comfort zone. The Main and Arena programmes are curated by the Festival Committee, but the Fringe is open to all applicants without pre-selection. It can be a mixed bag – but that’s the point. Keep your mind open and, with more than 2,500 performances in 11 days, don’t expect to sleep much.
  2. Bring the kids: There are loads of things for children to do, including 20 ‘family theatre’ productions, and many other child-friendly performances and events. (Age recommendations are included in a production’s details in the programme.) The Children’s Arts Festival, which offers shows, art making and fun, runs parallel to #NAF2015 and has half- and full-day programmes for children aged 4 to 13. See the website at
  3. Bring a warm jacket: It’s generally a casual affair, but July in the Eastern Cape can be pretty nippy – some would say freezing. Dressing in layers is a good idea as the weather can be quite changeable. As the locals will tell you, if you don’t like the weather in Grahamstown, just wait five minutes…
  4. Buy Cue: Cue is the Festival’s daily newspaper and a must-read for last-minute programme changes, previews and reviews. It also carries the day’s events and the ‘Fringe-in-Fifty snap reviews. Daily winners of the Standard Bank Ovation Awards are also announced in Cue. People love talking about what they see, so you’ll get a lot of word-of-mouth recommendations too.
  5. Seek out the free stuff: All the art exhibitions are free and there are daily performances in public spaces, such as the Drostdy Lawns in front of Rhodes University and at the Transet Village Green market. The Festival’s famous ‘sundowner concerts’ – at the Monument every evening from around 4.30pm – are free of charge too. The Free Fringe Festival includes more than 135 performances that don’t cost you anything – if you enjoy the show a donation to the performers is gratefully accepted in the Free Fringe Buckets.
  6. Be a pedestrian: Grahamstown is small enough to walk almost everywhere. And finding parking at such a busy time for a small town can be a pain too. Going by foot or bike is recommended. A free ‘hop-on hop-off’ bus that travels between venues operates for the duration of the Festival.
  7. Go green: Why not take along your own reusable coffee cup – most vendors will fill it if you ask (and some at a discount too). That way, you can avoid nasty polystyrene cups – and tick the “green-friendly” box while you’re at it.
  8. Stay up late: A dinner at the legendary Long Table is obligatory – at least once. Expect hot food, gallons of alcohol and deep conversations with fellow Festival goers and artists. This year, the Standard Bank Jazz & Blues Café will be hosted by Saints Bistro, at the top end of High Street. Catch professional and student musicians letting off steam and butting musical heads late into the night.

Got your own tips and tricks? Tell us on our Facebook page or Tweet us at @artsfestival or mail us at


Bookings can be made via the website:
Ticketing call centre: 0860 002 004


Pick up a Festival programme and booking kit from selected Standard Bank and Exclusive Books branches. The full programme is available online at


The National Arts Festival is grateful to its presenting sponsors: the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Standard Bank, the Department of Arts and Culture, and the Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture. City Press and M-Net are our media partners.


The National Arts Festival is an important event on the South African cultural calendar, and the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent. This year it runs from 2 to 12 July 2015 in the small university town of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. The programme comprises drama, dance, physical theatre, comedy, opera, music, jazz, visual art exhibitions, film, student theatre, street theatre, lectures, craft fair, workshops, tours (of the city and surrounding historic places) as well as a children’s arts festival. As no censorship or artistic restraint has ever been imposed on works presented in Grahamstown, the Festival served as an important forum for political and protest theatre during the height of the apartheid era, and it continues to offer an opportunity for experimentation across the arts spectrum. Its significance as a forum for new ideas and an indicator of future trends in the arts cannot be underestimated.


A committee of experts in the various disciplines selects the content of the Main programme. The planning process takes into account what is available locally and from outside South Africa. Three considerations that influence decisions are the artistic merits of any submission, the creation of a varied and balanced programme, and the costs involved.

Gilly Hemphill
The Famous Idea Trading Co
+27 11 782 0085
+27 82 820 8584

Twitter: @artsfestival [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]