Festival halftime: let them eat naartjies

Closing-Parade-National-Arts-Festival-2014---Credit-CuePix-Michelle-Cunliffe---smallTHE National Arts Festival hits midweek today amid praise from the East Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) but the lingering water crisis has put a huge question mark on future festivals.

CEO Tony Lankester, addressing the media as the R32-million festival headed into it’s second week, said: “The water issue is a big frustration and it affects the future survival of the festival.”

Vuyo Zitumane, chairwoman of ECPTA called the arts splurge the “crown jewel” in the province’s tourism sector.

Talk of numbers being down were countered by Des and Suzie Wescott, owner of Grahamstown’s Wimpy nd Mugg and Bean franchises, who said their sales were up on last year.

Water has been on in most areas during the day, but some areas are without overnight, which Lankester said was deliberate.

“Makana Municipality is turning the taps off at night to allow the reservoirs to fill up,” he said.

Makana Mayor Nomhle Gaga promised at the start of festival that water outages would be over by Monday and today will be the test of this statement.

Popular shows have sold out, such as yesterday’s premier of Blonde Poison, in which Fiona Ramsay explores how a Jewish German woman is turned to become an informer in Nazi Germany.

Even underground venue, Champs bar, down a sidestreet off High Street, was full and rocking as innovative young musicians, many from Rhodes showcased fresh styles ending with a head-banging rock ‘n roll set from Indigo Reign, with lead guitarist Monde Schreiner, of the famous Schreiner family, drawing a good crowd of fans.

Famous festival hangout, The Long Table, was also busy until late and High Street was filled with the sounds of buskers and jazz late into the night.

In an interview yesterday, the festival’s outgoing director, Ismail Mahomed, said artists were pushing boundaries again, and he wondered if politicians were there for a party or to “keep their ears close to the ground”.

The Village Green was warm and busy with bales of second- and third-hand leather jackets imported from Europe being sold at a flate rate of R380 each.

The festival will only release its ticket sales numbers next week, with Lankester saying there were too many variables to make any statements while the event was in full swing.

Numbers were dependent on when shows started, the weather and they were also watching the impact of the petrol price increase on Eastern Cape visitors.

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