The 44th National Arts Festival will open on 28 June and the citizens of Grahamstown have rolled up their sleeves to get the town ready for a stream of visitors to the annual arts gathering.
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“We have been encouraged by the proactive way in which a group of businesses, committed government officials and some of our energetic residents have united to get involved in making Grahamstown a town we can all be proud of,” says National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester. “The activity ahead of the Festival is in full swing and visitors will be greeted by a clean and welcoming Grahamstown.”
From patching roads and filling potholes to clean-up campaigns initiated by the local schools, there is a lot going on behind the scenes to accommodate the Festival influx.
A fund-raising auction held in Grahamstown recently raised R500 000 for Makana Revive, a private, citizen-led initiative to rehabilitate the City. The money is being used to cover a percentage of the costs attached to the work that needs to be done.
Richard Gaybba, spokesperson for Makana Revive and Chairman of the Grahamstown Business Forum, says: “We’ve recently seen an influx of funding and the opening of channels between business and government. While big projects such as road repairs and the replacement of the town’s ageing water and sewerage infrastructure are starting to roll out, there is a hive of citizen activity as the people of Grahamstown roll up their sleeves.”
Pothole-patching teams are hard at work on the streets and an initiative is under way to beautify islands and verges on High Street and Bathurst Street, road markings are being repainted and street lights are being repaired.
Schools in Grahamstown have also been busy with clean-ups and gardening in and around some of the campuses. St Andrews College has also contributed by paving the pavement areas around Worcester and Somerset Street.
Efforts have also been made to improve the security cameras around many of the eating establishments and nightclubs and the Grahamstown Business Forum is working with informal parking attendants to ensure a positive environment for all.
“This is not a flash in the pan or a cosmetic lift for the Festival alone,” Lankester says. “Grahamstown has had its challenges over the years but its residents and businesses have decided to tackle them head on. There is good energy in our town and we look forward to sharing our progress.”
The National Arts Festival contributes R94.4-million to the economy of Grahamstown and R377.15-million to the economy of the Eastern Cape. On average visitors to the Festival stay for six days, according to the study, The Impact of the 2016 National Arts Festival by Snowball & Antrobus.
NOTE: Grahamstown is a water-stressed area and visitors to the Festival are advised that the maximum daily allocation per person is 60 litres. This means that visitors should shower for two minutes only and wash clothing only when necessary.
Main image: The stage being prepared for the Steven Cohen performance put your heart under your feet…and walk/to Elu / Ryan Bruton
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