The Port Control offices overlooking the East London harbour were a hive of organisation as-last minute programme details were locked into place for what promises to be an exciting and diverse display of land, sea and air entertainment at the revived East London Port Festival this weekend, writes Barbara Hollands.
The quayside festival used to be a red-letter day on East London’s entertainment calendar and is back after a hiatus of five years when 25000 people flocked to make the most of living in a port city.
On Saturday and Sunday, the working harbour will become a thrilling nucleus of family and community fun which will include inflatable boat racing, rowing, a fishing competition, navy craft, an exciting sail past of yachts, rowing boats, fishing boats, NSRI vessels and navy sea boats, three entertainment stages, a craft market, tug boat rides, a maritime career exhibition and breathtaking aerobatic displays.
A highlight this year will be the presence of three South African navy vessels – the SAS Spioenkop frigate, the SA Agulhus, a polar supply and training vessel that recently returned from a scientific expedition to Antarctica, and the Victoria Mxenge coastal patrol vessel.
Visitors will have the opportunity to board all three ships at no extra cost. “There will also be quite a lot of other shipping activity in port including the Maersk Brigit tanker, the Annika wheat vessel which docks on Saturday morning and the Crystal Ace car carrier which docks and sails on Sunday,” said port spokesman Terry Taylor.
Acting port manager Alvin Singana said the festival was a celebration of the city’s marine and maritime identity and its ocean economy.
SAS Spioenkop Captain Charl Maritz said the ship was one of the SA Navy’s four valour class frigates and was based in Simonstown. Built in Germany in 2002, it became part of this country’s naval fleet in 2004 and sails with a 150-strong crew.
The captain said the 121m-long vessel, which is equipped with a 76mm cannon and a 35mm dual-purpose cannon as well as smaller calibre arms, sailed into East London on Tuesday evening especially for the festival.
“We are very much a people’s navy and so where there is a showing of maritime matters we like to get involved,” he said.
Maritz said the public were welcome to tour the vessel between 10am and 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday.
Another coup for the port festival stage is former East London singing sensation Aston Wylie.
Selbornian Wylie, who grew up in Gonubie and now lives in Cape Town, became a household name earlier this year when he participated in the hit M-Net singing competition The Voice South Africa. He will take to the stage at 1.15pm on Sunday.
A raft of other entertainment includes the Kaapse Klopse from Cape Town, Siseko Pame, Hip Hop Revolution, Ashmika Indian Dance, the Centrestage band and the popular Stirling Jazz Band on Sunday afternoon.
lThe festival runs from 9am to 9pm on Saturday and 9am to 5pm on Sunday. Tickets cost R20 per person and entrance is at the Hely Hutchinson Road port entrance in Quigney.
Taylor urged the public to make use of a “park-and-ride” system by parking on the East London beachfront, where extra security will be deployed, and catching free festival bus shuttles to and from the port.