THE Eastern Cape government has stepped in to rescue the National Arts Festival (NAF) from a R10-million rand cash crunch caused by Lotto changing its funding rules.
LIGHTS, ACTION … Eastern Cape Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture MEC Pemmy Majodina at the media briefing in the Makana municipal chamber in Grahamstown. or the National Arts Festival.
This was revealed an interview with NAF CEO Tony Lankester before the traditional media briefing this week, often regarded as the first public opening of the largest arts extravaganza in Africa.
Festival CEO Tony Lankester said Lotto had changed the rules about when organisations could apply for funding.
“They said organisations could only apply for funds 12 months after their previous application and payment.”
Despite applying way in advance last year, the festival’s R10-million Lotto money was only paid in the third quarter of that year, meaning the 2016 festival had already been held.
The new Lotto rules, designed to prevent organisations from applying twice a year, were intended to introduce a “cooling off” period, said Lankester. But this also meant the festival would miss an entire year of Lotto money in 2017.
He said the Eastern Cape Premier Mpumulo Masualle, when told about the funding glitch, had immediately stepped in and sourced “enough money” to cover the shortfall.
Lankester was not keen to reveal the precise amount but said it was “close enough”.
However, Pemmy Majodina, MEC of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture told the media that when the heard about the Lotto problem, “we did not want festival to fall on its face, so the Office of the Premier (OTP) beefed it (funding) up to R12-million”.
She said the government was “happy to do so because this is one of the best festivals and it creates employment.”
The festival over its 43 years had undergone transformation. From being attended by only a few, it was now attended by “everybody”.
The festival gave emerging and professional talent a platform, she said.
She said SRAC gave R3.6-million, the OTP R9-million and the national Arts and Culture department R5-million giving a total of R17.6-million in government funding.
Festival spokesperson Sascha Polkey said last year the festival was attended by 225 634 arts lovers.
Majodina said the festival had an economic spinoff for the province valued at R377-million, while Grahamstown will earn R94-million this year.
The festival was dedicated to Oliver Tambo who Majodina said “was a fine cultural person, who conducted choral music and acted in dramas”.
She said of the festival: “All our ducks are in a row to deliver this 11 amazing days. We acknowledge the drought but we have plans to deal with shortages. This will not be an insurmountable problem. Electricity is under control. We have capacity to ensure we do not (have a) black out.”
She said Chippa United players and coaches would be holding soccer clinics at a festival-linked Junior Soccer League which will launch in Grahamstown.
“They must scout and unearth talent!” she said.
Lankester, said this year’s festival theme, the art of disruption which would the festival, had emerged from “a lot of conversations with artists”.
“They said they wanted to explore the notion of disruption.”
He said: “It’s easy to get hung up in gloom and doom of funding, but lets focus on the positives. Over the next 11 days not a single performer will be jailed for what they say on stage, as long as they do not violate the constitution or engage in hate speech. Despite the gloomy economy our artists will be here. There has been no decline in productions and artists.”
He praised South African audiences for their stamina and openness.
“Sometimes what our artists are doing is hugely experimental, yet we have very few walkouts. Most South Africans will sit it out and listen. We listen a lot. That is a great strength. This (festival) is a national treasure for all the hidden work it does in building the fabric of society. We are in the right place in the right time.