Grahamstown’s annual gathering of creative and artistic talent is readying itself for a reboot as the National Arts Festival reveals some fresh features for this year’s event, which takes place from 28 June to 8 July.

Creativate Digital Arts Festival

As the breakneck evolution of technology spills over into all facets of life, artists are absorbing the playful possibilities that digital technology brings – and a new generation of arts lovers is emerging as a result.

Presented by Standard Bank, the new CREATIVATE DIGITAL ARTS FESTIVAL is being produced by the National Arts Festival with curatorial advisor, Toby Shapshack. From a virtual reality dinner party play to digital graffiti and workshops on digital music composition and production, this brand-new festival is likely to draw plenty of curiosity as creativity and technology converge.

Photo: Jan Potgieter

The Festival of Film and Ideas

This reimagined aspect of the Festival sees a programme of thought-provoking discussions, workshops and experiences, many of which are aligned to the works and themes that will be seen on the Festival stages. The Festival’s film element is being curated by award-winning film and documentary maker Dylan Valley, who will reflect on this year’s curatorial prompt, ‘Silences and Voices’.

“We wanted to locate what we previously staged as ThinkFest more firmly in the Festival’s programming and give it a new energy and momentum,” Executive Producer Ashraf Johaardien explains. “So by creating this festival-within-the-Festival, we’re binding together a lot of the content that gives rise to debate and inspiration. It will serve as a valuable bridge to our artistic programme and a framework within which Festival-goers can engage each other and our artists.”

New Home for the Village Green 

The Festival’s popular market and meeting place is moving to Victoria Girls’ School in Beaufort Street, bringing the attraction closer to the centre of town and residential areas. The market will be completely redesigned, with zones and spaces for families and kids, an improved food court and beer tent as well as a more accessible box office area. Entertainers will be an integral part of the experience, including a group of international buskers fresh from their summer festival circuits.

National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester says, “We have partnered with Standard Bank to re-invent this essential Festival hub and we think it’s going to be buzzing this year.”

Says Jenny Pheiffer, Head – Brand, Sponsorships and Events at Standard Bank: “We’re looking forward to an energised National Arts Festival. The Standard Bank Village Green, in its new location, will be the Festival hub for great craft shopping, amazing food and it’s the perfect place to visit in-between shows. We also believe that the digital arts festival, Creativate, will provide audiences with fresh and innovative experiences and engaging discussion. The Standard Bank Jazz Festival will be turning its attention this year to the rebirth of jazz, as a new generation of musicians tackle our musical legacy. That’s a lot of reasons why you should not miss the National Arts Festival this year!”

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Images: Village Green by Sam Lowe / Audiences at the National Arts Festival by Jan Potgieter