[INSIDER’s GUIDE] Navigating the hundreds of shows, events and venues at the National Arts Festival can seem daunting – especially for first-time visitors to the small city of Grahamstown, which becomes South Africa’s cultural home for the 11 days of the Festival, running from 30 June to 10 July this year.
Here are 10 essential things to know about the National Arts Festival if you’re planning on making this the year…
1. What is the difference between the Main programme and the Fringe?
Based on artistic merit, cost and curatorial considerations, the Festival’s Artistic Committee and Artistic Director select productions for the Main programme, a showcase of theatre, dance, visual art, film, performance art and music at the Festival. The National Lottery Fringe, on the other hand, is open to everyone – there’s no selection process making it one of the world’s biggest open access events. It’s crammed with a jumble of first-timers and seasoned performers.
2. What are the Standard Bank Ovation Awards?
The Standard Bank Ovation Awards are designed to reward creative excellence and innovation on the National Lottery Fringe, and are decided by a team of adjudicators made up of arts critics, directors and others who, between them, see all the productions premiering on the Fringe. Each day during the Festival a new crop of winners are announced, helping you make sensible choices around how to spend your time and money! Previous years’ award-winning productions can also be identified by the Standard Bank Ovation Award logo on posters and flyers.
3. What is the Arena platform?
The Arena sits between the Main and the National Lottery Fringe programmes, with artists who have won Standard Bank Ovation Awards the previous year invited to participate.
It is billed as ‘the Award-winners playground’ because it also features productions that have won awards at our World Fringe Alliance partner festivals. You can expect the best of the best here.
- Arena – Theatre: As Ever, Bessie; Secret Ballot; Heart’s Hotel; Barrera
- Arena – Dance: Kochira; No Fun ction AlL anguage
- Arena – Music: Tigerlily – Josie Field and Laurie Levine; Asanda Mqiki – The Balladeer; Umle – amaKhoboka Anomsindo (Angry Slaves); Ottoman Slap – Spice Roots; and Not the Futurists
4. Why are Solo Theatre productions singled out?
The Solo Theatre Programme celebrates the uniqueness of solo productions, ones that draw on intimately personal narratives to encourage reflection on contemporary society. This year, all eight productions are performed by women.
- Ruth First: 117 Days (performed by Jackie Rens)
- Unveiled: Love, Hate, Culture, Language and Life (Gulshan Mia)
- Watching, Ceci N’est Pas de Deux (Ester Natzijl)
- Penny (Zethu Dhlomo)
- In Bocca Al Lupo (Jemma Kahn)
- Blonde Poison (Fiona Ramsay)
- Immortal (Jenna Dunster)
- Amsterdam (Chanje Kunda)
5. My budget is pretty tight. How can I make the most of the Festival?
- Concessions: Discounted tickets are available to students, learners and pensioners. If you don’t look old or young enough, don’t forget to bring along your ID or student card. There are also discounts available for groups of 10 or more seats per performance.
- Buy One, Get One Free: Some National Lottery Fringe shows offer a two-for-one special on some performances – so why not bring along a friend.
- 50% Fringe and Free Fringe: Some National Lottery Fringe shows offer hugely discounted tickets on specific dates – and sometimes they’ll even perform for nothing (although a donation is encouraged in lieu of a ticket price). Check the programme for details. Free and reduced price National Lottery Fringe shows are marked in red.
- Public Art performances: Expect public displays of culture all around town – especially on the Drostdy Lawns, on the stage at the Transnet Village Green craft market and at the SAfm Sundowners at the Monument each evening. And don’t miss the vibrant, colourful farewell to the Festival – the Streets of Freedom parade that will wind its way through Grahamstown on the last weekend of Fest.
- Free eye candy: There is no entrance fee to any of the more than 50 visual art exhibitions on display in galleries and other spaces around town.
- The Half Price Hut: This makes a limited number of discounted tickets available each day of the Festival. Participating shows are announced every day on the #NAF app, on our Twitter feed @artsfestival and in Cue newspaper.
- Artbucks: This is our loyalty programme. Join it to accumulate credit that you can spend next year.
- Fingo Festival: Happening in Fingo Village, one of Grahamstown’s oldest townships, the 7th Fingo Festival offers a unique programme, including children’s theatre, civil society dialogues and an open-air stage. It runs daily from 5 to 9 July, from 9am – and there is no charge. See more at www.fingofest
6. What is Think!Fest?
Think!Fest is a series of lectures, seminars, book launches and panel discussions that take on burning issues (student protests; migration and human suffering), challenge perceptions (decriminalising dagga, lifting the veil on Islam), and deepen our understanding of our society and the arts.
- Don’t miss the post-performance discussions of Main productions with cast and members of the creative team. These are held immediately after the first performance of the show.
- Download the latest Think!Fest programme here [PDF]
7. Where do I find the #NAF16 programme?
- You can browse, search and book for shows on www.nationalartsfestival.co.za.
- Printed copies of the programme are available at selected branches of Standard Bank and Exclusive Books and at tourism offices and theatres across the country.
- Download a PDF if you’d like to browse offline. Find it here.
- Browse a digital copy of the programme at issuu.com/2016_programme
8. How do I book tickets?
There are a number of booking options available:
- Book online: Visit our fully secure website, www.nationalartsfestival.co.za. You can pay by Visa, MasterCard or EFT. Instead of having to collect your tickets from a Festival box office or self-service terminal, you can choose the Print-At-Home option.
- By phone: Contact the Festival Call Centre 0860 002 004. You can pay by credit card, EFT or direct deposit.
- By email or fax: Fill in a booking form and send it to [email protected]. You’ll have 48 hours to make payment once your reservation has been made.
9. How do I find out what’s hot during the Festival?
- In print: We recommend that you pick up a Festival Pocket Planner on your arrival in town – it will include any changes as well as the essential daily diary, which lists every performance of every production. And don’t miss Cue, the daily newspaper published by the Rhodes Journalism and Media Studies Department for the duration of the Festival. You’ll find friendly newspaper sellers on every corner.
- The NAF App: Download our gorgeous and easy-to-use app from the iStore or Google PlayStore. The updated 2016 version will be available from mid-June.
- On social media: Follow us for updates – and let us know what you’re up to.
- Facebook www.facebook.com/nationalartsfestival
- Twitter @artsfestival
- Instagram @nationalartsfestival
Don’t forget to use the hashtag #NAF16
The Critter carries independent reviews during the Festival. Find it at www.thecritter.co.za
10. Our top tip to enjoying #NAF16?
We say get edgy! Explore, experiment and go beyond your own boundaries. Step beyond the things you know and enjoy – and you are likely to be richly rewarded. The town and people of Grahamstown, as well as the artists of South Africa, are putting themselves out there to entertain you, make you think, please you, and, perhaps, even make you uncomfortable… so take up the challenge, and make this the year.
All media queries to:
Rabbit in a Hat Communications
083 414 0552
021 300 0052