Keeping the Festival City clean

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By ROY LUBKE

There was quite a furore in email exchanges this week after the Festival from those trying to ‘Beautify the High Street’. I will attached extracts of the emails which tell the story.

It started off with a message from the High Street Beautification Project to all those on the emailing list:

“I wish to object in the strongest possible terms regarding the condition of the High Street area adjacent to the cathedral.

“This is not the way we live and this is not the image Grahamstown wants to portray. We are trying to beautify a town on the one side and allowing others to trash with impunity. These traders should have their licenses revoked.

“If this is a sign of things to come… please move the festival to Cape Town.”

It had accompanying photos obviously taken early in the morning.

There followed this message from another on the list:

“Is there not some effective way to try to change the attitude of people who litter with impunity? Put the onus on the stall holders perhaps, as long as there are sufficient trash boxes around which are emptied regularly. Thanks that the place will be cleaned up today, but it’s labour that could be used elsewhere if people were just more responsible and proud of their surroundings.”

And then this:

“I think everyone needs to chill a little. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it is messy. Yes, it is a violation of our home. Yes, we all wish it didn’t happen, although it is inevitable that it does. This is South Africa and littering is a national pastime, not linked to race, class, income or age.

“But it it also gets fixed. Quickly. Every year. And spreading photos taken at 8am before anyone has had time to start the clean-up is hardly fair.”

And I had my say also:

“Well done.  I only came in to town this afternoon and you would hardly have noticed that the Festival had been here.”

And another with thanks:

“Thanks a mill. With a small amount of planning and some effort it is completely possible to avoid a repeat.”

But all is not well:

“While we are all chilling maybe it is worth noting that the photos taken later do not show where the built environment and aesthetics have been damaged – through fires being made, street furniture and bins damaged, paving vegetation and trees damaged etc. etc…. some of this is not “fixed quickly” or in fact ever! Who becomes liable for this damage? NAF? Traders? Oh I forgot it is South Africa… no one is liable.”

And so now we go into philosophy:

“This ‘mango mentality’ should not be enabled – it will be the ruination of the beleaguered town’s already faltering economy. The name Muck-unda is quite appropriate for these pics, isn’t it?”

And some more:

“While I agree that the site always looks terrible the day after festival (and I don’t condone the carelessness of the traders); I live around the corner, and in my experience over the years, to their credit, the National Arts Festival cleans everything back up to a spotless state within a day or two at the most. Let’s please give them a chance (and let’s not forget that for many people in our town, Festival is the only work they get in a year).

“I also urge everyone, not to lose sight of the positive vision that got this project started in the first place. It’s always tough when there are setbacks and it seems that the hard work one has put in is not appreciated.  But so many people have been so positive about the vibe at this years’ festival, and I have no doubt that the great work done by so many people in this group to make our town look more beautiful has gone a long way to inspire that positive outlook.

“Please don’t lose hope and don’t lose sight of our collective vision of a better Grahamstown for everyone (even if it means closing our eyes for a day or so).”

And some more accolades and offers of help:

“I’d like to thank Tony Lankester and team on pulling off another festival in our trouble ridden town. I’d like to applaud him on managing to retain it for Makhanda/Grahamstown, which of course is another subject open for debate, about which, I might add, I think it’s time to move through this debate as all it does is divide our city even further.

“Instead of publicly and constantly criticising our city staff, and the efforts of Mr Ted Pillay, why don’t we rather engage him, and Tony, and see how we can get our city back in ship shape, as soon as possible, so we are not at risk in the future of losing this cash cow to our town.”

The High Street Beautification Project then follows with advice on how to efficiently manage waste during events

This email dialogue may well continue. If you are interested in the High Street Beautification Project and want to be on the mailing list contact me.

As long as we have people like this in Grahamstown the National Arts Festival will always be in Grahamstown and living here will only improve for all our citizens in time no matter what.

Isn’t it great living in Grahamstown?  and thank goodness we ARE in AFRICA!

“Grahamstown/Makhanda – a Great place to be”

* Roy Lubke is the chairperson of Wessa in Grahamstown.

Bottoms up and hats off to the teams who clean up Church Square after the National Arts Festival. 2017 file photos: Sue Maclennan

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