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Fabulous Festival fun for families

Published on 7 June 2017

Families are in for a treat at this year’s National Arts Festival with two new Family Fare venues bursting with fun – the new National English Literature Museuam (NELM) building at 25 Worcester Street boasts a profusion of activities for the young at heart, including two free daily stories read by actors and others in their beautiful story amphitheatre at 10:30am and 3:30pm every day.

NELM also plays host to Think!Fest talks on various parenting issues. Grahamstown senior advocate Nicky Turner’s informative talk Children: Rights and Responsibilities will illustrate the challenges faced by young people in South Africa and the failure of society in upholding the rights of children; dietician Zintle Phekana will look at malnutrition in her talk Healthy Child, Healthy Community; and Cathy Gush will address Literacy development in South Africa.

There are also Think!Fest workshops for young people – Jeannie McKeown will offer creative writing workshops for six- to 15-year-olds, Drama for Life offers four- to six-year-olds the opportunity to explore travel in Jiggles & Journeys, and Klara van Wyk and Buhle Ngaba provide some fun with clowning workshops.

There are productions galore in the NELM theatre specifically aimed at young people – Granny Susan Incredibledirected by Toni Morkel, Rat Race, a smash-hit from 2016 from Kyla Davis, Zina and the Songbird by the Ubom! Theatre Company, and the hysterical JitterBugs – written by primary school children and performed by adults.

Public art

At the NELM outdoor amphitheatre, the Jungle Theatre public art offering in 2017 is When Lion Had Wingsa beautifully crafted re-telling of a Khoikhoi myth about overcoming fear and taking back personal power. They use masks, puppets, stilts, music and the Nama language to tell this universal story. 

There’ll be a coffee shop at NELM, which is South Africa’s first ‘green museum’. The new R147-million building, a project of the Department of Arts and Culture, has beautiful indigenous gardens to explore too.

Story time

Nompumelelo Community Centre in Joza is a brand-new venue that is owned by Grahamstown’s Child Welfare. Easy to get to, with secure parking, this township venue is home to loads of family productions, story time (daily at 12:00 in isiXhosa), workshops and talks – including Kathryn Court’s Parenting and Protecting talk and Drama For Life’s Dance it Out jive workshop..

Across the square from Nompumelelo is Noluthando Hall – home, in 2017, to The Gruffalo – Grahamstown’s own production that received rave reviews and loads of sold-out shows in Sandton.  If you haven’t taken your youngsters to this show yet, now’s the time – the venue is just off Raglan Road and there’s plenty of security. Book early to avoid disappointed faces at home.

Memory Hall hosts Bethdale Primary’s The Calabash Children, UJ’s re-telling of the classic James and the Giant Peach, Slick n Sleeve’s enchanting medieval tale, Spellbound, Zikka Zimba Hijinks Theatre’s imaginative Taking Flight and the amazing, 1000-year-old wizard, Wacky, returns for more interactive fun.

Kingswood Theatre boasts Rob van Vuuren and Dani Boschoff’s inspiring tale of Florence and Watson that’s just returned from a very successful run at Brighton Fringe, and Masonic Hall presents Anex Theatre Production’s absurdly funny musical, The Nose.

Drama For Life’s Creative Hub at The Library Hall presents Space Rocks (for small people) and Insta-Grammar, Maimane!, and Kasi Stories for tweens and teens.

Take your daughters to see You Suck and other Inescapable Truths at Princess Alice Hall – great for Grades 7 to 10, it’s a teenage truth-telling about school, boys, the popular groups and trying to fit in. Laugh out loud fun with Klara van Wyk as the indomitable Pretina de Jager.

The Fingo Festival at Fingo Square is dominated by children’s activities between 10am and 1pm every day.

Free concert

The National Youth Wind Orchestra’s Children’s Concert in the Monument’s Fountain Foyer offers young and old the chance to ‘meet’ the instruments of an orchestra – performed by the wind ensemble from the National Youth Orchestra this promises to be a wonderful and inspiring hour of music played by children for children – and it’s free!

There’s lots of other productions that are suitable for the whole family – look out for the ‘All ages’ symbol in the Festival Programme – or give us a call if you want to make sure on 046 603 1163.

Support Child Welfare

The National Arts Festival is helping Grahamstown’s Child Welfare celebrate its 100th anniversary this year by offering all Festival-goers the chance to add a little value to the lives of Grahamstown’s welfare children by making a donation when they purchase their tickets. Please help us to lighten the load of this incredible local organisation.