Frequently Asked Questions

With thousands of events in hundreds of venues over 11 amazing days, the National Arts Festival can be a tricky event to navigate. Here are some answers to some common queries – from artists and audiences. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, contact us on [email protected].


Many who live in the Eastern Cape know that we have been facing many challenges relating to water supply in our City, both related to the severe drought in the region and to a largely inadequate and poorly maintained municipal infrastructure. But our team has been working incredibly hard on plans and innovations to ensure all visitors, artists and crews coming to the Festival are both safe and comfortable, and are not a burden on the limited supply. Our message during this time is simple – we’ve got this. 

Some of the measures we have put in place include:

  • A borehole at the Monument, sunk in partnership with the Gift of the Givers, that provides 100 000 litres a day.
  • Drinking stations at all our main venues.
  • Partnerships with local guesthouses and Rhodes’ residences to ensure there is enough water for our visitors to drink and attend to their basic needs.
  • Increasing water capacity in the townships so that residents do not experience a shortfall.

There’s loads to do in Makhanda, with eager visitors able to dip into a full ‘Festival experience’. Movies and talks are an integral part of the Festival’s offering and presented on the Film and Ideas platform, a robust and diverse programme of films, talks and presentations by local and international Festival guests.

There’s also the Creativate Digital Arts Festival, launched in 2018. This ‘festival within the Festival’ occupies the space where creativity, innovation and technology converge. It is a playground for artists and audiences interested in how the digital age is helping to bring our imaginations to life, and who want to experience the creative tools of the future. The jam-packed programme features film, theatre, talks, workshops and seminar and exhibitions.

Hundreds of visual artists working in almost every conceivable medium show their work in venues around town that range from the gallery spaces at the Monument to classrooms and community halls. Entrance to all exhibitions is free, and you don’t need a ticket.

Don’t miss out on the outstanding craft and art on sale at the Standard Bank Village Green Fair, which is host to around 300 top-quality crafters, traders, food vendors and artists. Handpicked for their fine work and dedication to their craft, most of these artists are present to talk to you, and to showcase their work. Find it on the fields of Victoria Girls High School in Beaufort Street. Live music, children’s activities, buskers and street performers, a food court, and an upmarket beer tent.

The Festival operates a free shuttle between the Monument, the Village Green and Rhodes Theatre, which will get you most places in town. This is a hop-on, hop-off service that only operates during the Festival – from 8am until the last Monument show daily. Pick-up points are clearly marked along the route.

The Main Programme

The Main Programme comprises work contracted by the National Arts Festival each year. We put out an annual call for proposals, and the deadline for submission is usually around August each year for the following Festival. You’ll find the Call for Proposals document in the Artist Zone section of our website, where we lay out very clear guidelines for submissions.

As part of your submission you need to include a detailed budget. Based on that, and the strength of the proposal, your production may get selected and an offer will be made to you. If you accept the offer, we cover all the costs of staging your show in Grahamstown and you earn the agreed fee as per your budget. All the ticket sales revenue comes to us, except for 10% that goes to cover ticketing commissions and expenses.

The Fringe

Then there is the Fringe, which is a completely open-access programme. Anyone can perform on the Fringe just by filling in a form and paying a registration fee, which includes a refundable venue rental deposit. The venue rental is per performance, and varies depending on the size of the venue. So, in essence, you come to Grahamstown, market and stage your show, and leave with about 80% of the box office (10% goes to the Festival, and 10% goes toward ticketing costs and commissions).
Fringe registration is open each year during October, and you have about four months to get your forms in to us.

If you’re serious about taking part in the Fringe, we suggest you pop along to the Artist Zone and read our various guides, which include loads of useful and important information.

The Arena

Finally, in between the Fringe and the Main, is the Arena. This is where we showcase work from productions and companies who have won either a Standard Bank Ovation Award on the Fringe, or an international award at one of our partner festivals. If you win such an award you can submit a proposal for the next year’s Arena. The deal here is midway between the Fringe and Main – we cover some costs (transport, accommodation, per diems, registration, venue hire and some of the marketing costs etc), but we don’t contribute to the production itself. The Festival and the company then split the box office, after the ticketing commission, 60% to the company, 40% to the Festival.


The two closest airports to Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown) are in East London (about 123km away, or a two-hour drive to Grahamstown) and Port Elizabeth (about 114km away, or one-and-a-half hours’ drive). There are regular flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and other South African destinations. If you are coming from overseas, you will fly into either Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban before catching a connecting flight to PE.

Makhanda lies just off the N2 highway between Port Elizabeth and East London. The small city is easily accessible by motorways from Cape Town (887km), Durban (671km), and East London (152km). You could also drive in from Johannesburg (950km).

There are bus companies that include Makhanda on their routes around South Africa: Greyhound, Intercape, Translux, and City to City. Please contact them directly to make enquiries or bookings.

We operate regular shuttles from the airport in Port Elizabeth to Makhanda throughout the Festival.


Our sponsors do. Less than 10% of our income comes from ticket sales (because, on the Fringe, most ticket sales revenue goes to the artists). The rest we have to raise from corporate sponsors and public entities such as the government, National Lotteries and so on. So if you see a sponsor’s branding anywhere during the Festival, make a note of who they are and please do your best to support them, both during the Festival and throughout the year.  They put a lot of their resources into the National Arts Festival and we keep telling them how amazing our audiences are… prove us right!

The Children’s Arts Festival runs concurrently with the National Arts Festival and is supported by Standard Bank. It caters for pre-primary and primary children aged four to 13, and is held in the safe environment of St Andrew’s Prep School. The age-appropriate programmes offer craft and dramatic workshops, all run by professional artists and performers. Included in
the day’s activities are family-friendly shows. All activities are supervised. Booking is essential. Details on

The South African National Schools’ Festival takes place just before and during the National Arts Festival, bringing together hundreds of Grade 12 learners and their teachers from around the country. The festival offers a structured programme of workshops, lectures, masterclasses and performances in a supervised environment. Contact the team directly for more information by emailing [email protected].

National Arts Festival ticket sales open once we launch the programme in May. Select, exclusive early bookings opening in April. Securing your tickets is a simple process and you have several options.

ONLINE: If it’s your first time buying tickets via our website, you will need to register – it’s a once-off, simple process. Once you are registered, follow the easy steps to make your booking. You can pay by Visa or Mastercard credit card, Instant EFT or SnapScan. Please note that website bookings attract an online booking fee of R2 per transaction.

  • Note that once you add tickets to your basket, you have 30 minutes to pay for them before they’re removed. It’s a good idea to know what you want to see before you start booking.

CALL CENTRE: Phone the Festival Call Centre 0860 002 004 and book your tickets with one of our friendly box office operators – you may use your credit card to make payment or make an EFT or direct deposit payment.

EMAIL OR FAX: Complete the booking form that you get with the printed programme, and return it according to the instructions on it. Once your booking has been made, your reservation will be emailed to you and you will have 48 hours in which to provide us with proof of payment.

GROUP BOOKINGS: Large groups are encouraged to book through the Grahamstown Box Office – contact the Box Office Manager on 046 603 1186 / 1163 or email your bookings to [email protected]. Concessions are available when buying 10 or more tickets for a single performance – Fringe shows only.


The Monument Box Office on Fort Selwyn Drive is open from early May. Monday to Friday 08:30 –18:00. Sat 09:00 – 13:00. From the start of the Festival, Box Office hours are 08:30 to 19:15 daily.

Once the Festival is under way, you can find other Box Offices at:

  • Village Green – located at Vicky’s, Victoria Girls High School. Open from 8:30 – 18:00 daily.
  • Rhodes Theatre – servicing the Rhodes Theatre and Box Theatre only. Open from 09:00 to 20:30 daily.
Students (with valid student cards), school-going children under 18 (with proof of age or school), as well as pensioners (65 years and older – ID may be required) qualify for concessions, or discounted tickets, that are available on most shows.
Group bookings (10 or more seats per performance) may be booked at the discounted rate for Fringe shows only.

We only offer refunds for Main and Fringe events in the event of programme alterations or cancellations. We cannot make other refunds or undertake to resell or exchange tickets.

Note that the Festival organisers cannot be held responsible if a production runs longer than the advertised duration. This information is supplied by the performers and is published as a guide. When booking your tickets, it’s a good idea to allow at least 50 minutes between performances. We regret that we cannot refund tickets for late arrivals at performances.

Artbucks is a Festival loyalty programme – as an Artbucks member, you can earn 10% of every sent you spend on Festival production tickets as a credit.

Here’s how it works: First, sign up to be an Artbucks member. Then, every time you buy tickets online, your credit will be registered. If you buy tickets at a Festival box office, present your Artbucks card.

Once the Festival is over, we will let you know how much credit you have earned. The choice is to either bank the credit to use against the purchase of tickets at the following year’s Festival, or to donate it to the Festival’s development projects:  Arts EncounterArtReach, and the Remix Lab. The Arts Encounter project distributes Festival tickets to community groups who would otherwise be unable to attend; ArtReach takes Festival performances to prisons, clinics, hospitals, orphanages and care homes; and the Remix Lab offers a two-week experience to community-based theatre groups during the Festival, giving workshops, masterclasses and hands-on experience to participants. Your love of the arts helps others enjoy it too.

Artbucks membership is free. Be sure to ask for your Artbucks card when you visit the Monument Box Office.

Benefits of membership include early preferential booking, as well as sneak peeks and other specials.

  • All customers who buy NAF tickets online are automatically signed up to the programme. If you’d prefer not to be an Artbucks member, please let us know by emailing [email protected]
  • Only the purchase of full-price tickets qualifies for Artbucks credit. Discounted or concession tickets for students, pensioners or groups are not eligible.
  •  ArtBucks are not transferable to others and your credit is only valid for a year. If you fail to spend your Artbucks at the following year’s Festival, your credit will be donated to the Festival’s development projects.

Money too tight to mention? We understand, only too well. But we have some fantastic specials and discounts in place to make the Festival easier on your pocket.

CONCESSIONS: These are discounted tickets available on almost every performance at the Festival. To qualify, you need to be a learner (under 18), a student – with a valid student card, or a pensioner – that’s someone over the age of 65. Proof of ID may be required.

GROUP BOOKINGS: Groups of 10 or more seats per performance may be booked at the discounted rate for FRINGE SHOWS ONLY. Contact the Box Office directly.

2-FOR-1: This discount is offered by some Fringe producers. To qualify you must book at least two full price tickets to the performance and you will only be charged for one. Any multiple of two will qualify – i.e. if you book seven tickets you will be charged for six tickets at half price and one ticket at full price. So why not bring a friend!

DISCOUNTED FRINGE and FREE FRINGE: These are date-specific discounts offered by Fringe producers – indicated in the programme and on the website. Where productions are free, you should still book a ticket to ensure that you will be able to get into the performance. For performances on the Free Fringe, donations will be encouraged in lieu of a ticket price – please donate generously!

Firstly, great. We’d love to have you too. But there are a couple of things you need to know first because, with about 600 productions staging 2500 performances, we have to have some pretty rigid rules in place.

The Fringe is open access and, as long as you apply by the deadline, you’ll be given slots on the programme. The one exception is in the Contemporary Music category which has a brief selection process – but we are sure you’re amazing so that should pose no problems!).

Visit the ARTIST ZONE and read the guides, which lay out everything you need to know in detail. Please be mindful of the deadlines and make sure you get your application in time. If you need help filling the forms in please call us – we’re very friendly and will help you through the process (we know it can be daunting for first timers).

Applications open in mid-October and close mid-January of the following year.

Unfortunately, we simply can’t accommodate productions who miss the deadline. And, if we can indulge in a bit of tough love: if you are only deciding to come to the Festival a couple of weeks before it starts, chances are you haven’t rehearsed enough to make a go of it and wow the audiences here.  Trust us – we’re doing you a favour by forcing you to plan ahead.



The National Arts Festival is 11 days long, and is held from the last Thursday of June to the end of the first weekend of July.

  • Submissions to be part of the Main programme open in July, with the selection process finalised by March.
  • The call for applications for the Fringe opens end-October, and closes mid-January of the following year.
  • Enquiries: [email protected]

Please keep an eye on our social media channels for the latest.

As the premier showcase of the best South African arts and culture, we’re delighted to welcome international and national producers! Please note that we do not have a general producer’s pass system. Registered productions performing at the Festival do get some passes for their cast and production teams, allowing them free access to shows that are not sold out. If you’re bringing a show to the Fringe, you will receive the passes when you arrive in town and register.