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How we’re making sure the show will go on at #NAF2015

Published on 25 June 2015

As the sleepy hollow of Grahamstown prepares to welcome thousands of visitors, the organisers of the Festival are finalising plans to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible

THE organisers of this year’s National Arts Festival have been furiously working behind the scenes to ensure that the show will go on – despite challenges posed by the national energy grid, unpredictable weather, funding crises and missed planes.

In the build-up to the 11-day event, the Festival management met with representatives from Eskom and Makana Municipality, under which Grahamstown falls, to devise a plan that will protect a large area of the City – covering about 54 of the 60 Festival venues – from loadshedding.

“We’ve achieved that by reallocating loads to different parts of the City, and by spreading any loadshedding requirements across the whole month of July, prioritising different areas at different times,” says Tony Lankester, the Festival CEO.

The remaining venues outside of this central area will have back-up generators and other contingencies in place to deal with outages.

“All of our venues have emergency lighting and our crews have been trained in evacuation procedures in the unlikely event that they become necessary,” Lankester says, pointing out that the Festival’s first priority is the safety of our visitors and artists.

Looking for the loadshedding shedule? Find it here

A Joint Operations Committee (JOC) – made up of representatives from the Festival, the SA Police service, all municipal departments (water, electricity, sanitation, traffic, fire, etc), Rhodes University and the Festival’s hired security companies – have also been meeting regularly. Once the Festival gets under way, the operations committee will meet daily.

“The JOC looks at every operational element of the Festival and makes sure that we have contingency plans in place for every possible risk,” Lankester explains. “We’re confident that we can manage pretty much whatever comes our way during Festival – it’s a strong, experienced team that pulls together to deliver this amazing event.”

While Makana municipality has been in the news because of its Eskom debt, Grocott’s Mail reported in April that the municipality had confirmed Eskom would not cut the town’s electricity, despite having threatened to do so.

Makana Municipality’s acting municipal manager Mandisi Planga told the newspaper at the time that the municipality had submitted a financial recovery plan to Treasury to pay Eskom the money it owes, and had made its first payment as planned.

Lankester said that while it was impossible to guarantee that everything would run like “a well-oiled machine with no glitches, hitches or hiccups”, he wanted to reassure visitors that they’ve been working on every aspect to make sure the Festival is 11 days of amazing. “We’re on it,” he says. “Let us worry about the unknown unknowns.”

“I have no clue as to how perfect things will be on 2 July. But I do know this: however imperfect it is, this Festival will, once again, demonstrate to the world how amazing our artists are – how resilient, hard-working, talented, focused and creative they can be as they use this imperfect world of ours as a backdrop,” Lankester says. After all, the messier the backdrop, the more interesting the stories, “and no-one can ever tell us that South Africa is not an interesting, messy, exhilarating place to be”.


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
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Twitter: @artsfestival