The National Arts Festival will present the biggest Fringe offering in its 38 year history, this year. In line with the spirit of ‘open access’ embodied by the Festival, 390 Fringe productions are expected to hit the boards during this year’s 11 Days of Amaz!ng.
This 20% increase in the number of applications has meant that the Festival has had to source new venues in a city already bursting at the seams, but the Albany Bowling Club, Oatlands School and St Aidan’s Chapel will no doubt fast become an integral part of the Festival landscape, and artists are increasingly making use of unusual and site-specific spaces.
With more productions fighting for their share of the 200 000 audience members that make their way through Grahamstown during the festival; some artists have looked to do things a little differently. This year, several groups will be pooling their resources and following the model of Cape Town Edge, who have run a successful independent venue at Princess Alice Hall for a number of years. The Joburg Framework will take over the Drill Hall, Follow Spot Productions will be mounting 5 productions at the Highlander, and a collective under the banner of Artscape will be managing some productions at the Gymnasium. Families will also have more options this year with the creation of the ASSITEJ Family Venue at Oatlands, which will be hosting 6 productions, a family-focused art exhibition and outdoor interactive entertainment.
Productions making their Grahamstown Fringe premiere are eligible for a coveted Standard Bank Ovation Award. A panel of judges, headed by the doyenne of arts criticism Adrienne Sichel, will give their stamp of approval to productions on the Fringe identified as being a cut above the rest. New winners are announced daily, and are given special stickers to add to their posters, to help guide audiences in the making of tough programming decisions. At the end of the Festival, stand-out productions from the list of Ovation Winners are presented with special awards. Ovation winners are also invited to submit proposals to be a part of the Arena platform the following year.
Ticket prices average just R55, but Festinos who are feeling the pinch, or waiting to hear which shows have street-cred, can take advantage of the 50% Fringe running on the last Sunday of the Festival, when all Fringe tickets will be half-price. Another way to make the most of your Festival spend is to join the Festival’s Artbucks programme, where 20% of your total ticket spend is reallocated to you as a discount on your tickets for the following year, or can be donated to the Festival’s Artreach programme.
With an average of 295 productions showing on any one of the 11 Days of Amaz!ng, across the Main, Arena and Fringe platforms, theatre-going audiences are spoilt for choice. But between street theatre, art exhibitions, fantastic musicians, pop-up restaurants and stalls, and the Village Green craft market; there’s plenty to keep anyone entertained.
The National Arts Festival runs from 28 June to 8 July in Grahamstown this year.
Bookings for this year’s “11 Days of Amaz!ng” are open. Tickets are available through Computicket. Booking kits will be available from selected Standard Bank branches, selected Exclusive Books and Computicket branches from May. For more information on the programme, accommodation and travel options visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za. Also join the National Arts Festival group on Facebook for all the latest news, or follow us on Twitter.
The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, The Eastern Cape Government, The National Arts Council, City Press and M Net.