History Of The National Arts Festival

Grahamstown has been associated with carnivals and festivals for more than 180 years as British immigrants established the tradition of celebrating landmark anniversaries on a grand scale.

When a movement gained ground last century to erect a memorial to these pioneers it was agreed that it should be a “living” monument presenting festivals, conferences and other gatherings.

An inaugural festival was held in 1974 when the 1820 Settlers National Monument was officially opened. With the exception of 1975, a Festival has been organised every year since then. The Festival was a project of the Grahamstown Foundation for 28 years and, in 2002, became a Section 21 Company with an independent board of directors. It still operates out of the Monument, where it rents office space and the performance facilities.

From the beginning, the programme was not confined to one venue, other facilities in the city were also used. A trend that developed as the Festival grew and today approximately 50 venues are scattered throughout the Grahamstown area.

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