National Arts Festival sets social responsibility trends

Grahamstown's National Arts Festival continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to being a socially responsible and an environmentally friendly festival. The Festival’s several development projects will run full steam from 20 June – 4 July.

“The Festival’s commitment to development is built on the principles of creating access to the arts, access to opportunity, access to skills and giving artists ownership of their growth in the creative industries,” said Festival Director Ismail Mahomed.

The Hands On! Masks Off! programme, now in its third year, is supported by Business and Arts South Africa and the National Arts Council. The programme focuses on strengthening the entrepreneurial skills of the arts community by bringing together some of the country’s leading arts entrepreneurs to share their skills and knowledge with a new generation of arts managers.

Building on the success of last year, the Remix Laboratory has grown by 100% and has increased its enrolment from 60 participants to 120 community-based artists who will participate in a residency programme during the Festival.

The participants will attend workshops, seminars, performances and visits to galleries. The participants will be mentored in arts practice and arts appreciation. The project aims to build the creative skills of community based artists. The project is sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Representation of Flanders, the U.K. Arts Council and the National Arts Council.

The Arkworks Circus has more than 30 Grahamstown-based artists who will work together with the Arkworks Collective to transform waste materials into props, costumes and puppets for performances in public spaces.

During 2009, the Arkworks Circus, with a small grant from the National Arts Festival, created a puppet production using waste materials. The Transnet Foundation recognised the success of the Arkworks Collective and has offered them an additional grant to grow their environmental sustainability programming through the arts.

Supported by the National Arts Council, the Art Factory, launched last year, will continue to engage street children in creative programmes during the Festival. The Art Factory teaches marginalised and vulnerable youth performance skills such as juggling and acrobatics and combines this with a strategic focus on building the life skills and confidence of the youth. Launched at the Festival last year, the Art Factory now functions as a year round project in Grahamstown.

As part of the ArtsReach Programme the National Arts Festival is committed to take the arts to hospitals, clinics, old age homes and rural areas. A number of artists on the Fringe volunteer their performances for the ArtsReach programme during the Festival.

The Skills Diversification programme recognises that if artists are given new creative skills, it will diversify the nature of creative practice. This in turn could grow their audiences and enable them to earn money from the newer forms in which they practice their arts.

The Festival’s Skills Diversification project teaches artists how to stilt-walk, make balloon sculptures and perform as street artists. Last year’s project, the Phezulu Stiltwalkers programme was so successful that the Festival, with support from Standard Bank, engaged the artists on a four-city tour to promote the Festival.

This year, the Festival will be working with two new groups to introduce them to new skills that will enable them to enter the creative industries more profitably. The Festival also provides the groups with year round mentoring on how to develop their projects into companies. The two new projects are Umthombo and Creature Chaos. 

Other initiatives supported by the Festival include the Novel-Script project which will offer a residency for seven South African writers to work with a group of Dutch writers and learn how to re-write a novel for the stage. The City-Books project is a follow up on the Festival’s Writing Beyond the Fringe programme, and will this year will focus on creating 24 one minute films. 

The Arts Encounter Project will once again distribute a number of tickets to indigent individuals to enable them to enjoy productions from the Festival’s Main, Fringe and Arena programmes.

Another exciting development is the Innovation Hub, a partnership project between the Festival, Rhodes Investec Business School and the Makana Municipality. Following a call put out jointly by the three partners for new entrants into the economy to propose small business projects to the Festival, six individuals were invited to attend a series of seminars at Rhodes University’s Investec Business School on how to refine their business plans.

Four of the six participants will be partnering with the Festival to launch their new businesses. The Take a Ride initiate will enable festival visitors to rent a bicycle for a few hours or for a full day; a second initiative will sell snacks and cosmetics at the various university residences, the third emerging entrepreneur will be selling pies at various venues whilst the fourth emerging entrepreneur will provide visitors with an innovative facility to safely charge their cellphones while they enjoy the Festiv al. Be sure to support these four new business initiatives. They will all be carrying the Festival logo.

There’s a whole lot more too – check out www.nationalartsfestival.co.za for the full programme or pick up a copy of the Booking Kit / Programme at selected Exclusive Books and Standard Bank branches, and Computicket Outlets.

Call the Festival hot line for all enquiries – 046 603 1103. Also see Twitter and Facebook.

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