Getting off to an early start at Grahamstown Festival

A 13-YEAR-OLD’S performance at noon today is one of the first shows kicking off this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, the arts extravaganza that brings in tens of thousands of visitors to the city each year.

Violinist Pendo Masote is making his debut on a platform at such an elevated scale as the world-renowned festival. Accompanied by a small string ensemble from Port Elizabeth, Masote will give three performances in the Beethoven Room on the first three days of festival, plus one performance at the Graham Hotel.

CHIEF ATTRACTION: Festival goers come from all over the world for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and one is likely to see them at the Village Green, occasionally in their national costumes. Most of the overseas visitors are involved in one way or another in the hundreds of productions on offer. Festival runs from June 29 to July 9 Picture: SID PENNEY

The latter performance will see the talented youngster playing electric violin to electronic backtrack. Masote’s performances are on the festival’s Arena programme.

The 43rd National Arts Festival got underway officially at 9am today and continues until Sunday afternoon, July 9. With today’s weather forecast pegged at a chilly 15 degrees in Grahamstown, festival goers at show venues are advised to dress warmly, with heavy coats and beanies much in evidence.

With more than 700 productions running over its 11 days, the National Arts Festival will cater for all tastes when it comes to the arts – music, theatre, comedy, family fare, dance, visual art, film, student theatre, cabaret and ballet.

Another “early-bird” on the festival programme is “You Suck and other inescapable truths” with Kiara van Wyk taking to the stage of Princess Alice Hall in African Street at 10am today. In fact, her award-winning show will be staged daily at 10am until July 9.

Something more static will be in the form of art exhibitions, of which there are plenty spread across ‘Festival City’ from the Steve Biko Building, Rhodes Art School and Albany History Museum to The Highlander in Worcester Street, Trinity Church Hall, St Patrick’s Hall, and Carinus Art Centre in Donkin Street.

All exhibitions run from 9am to 5pm daily.

At 9am today the gates opened to what is usually the Great field, home of Rhodes rugby, but for eleven days the Village Green arts and crafts fair during festival.

SHOWS ON A HIGH: A Grahamstown resident stops to have a look at some of the National Arts Festival posters outside the Rhodes Theatre. The festival runs from June 29 to July 9, and this year boasts over 700 productions Picture: SID PENNEY

No festival visit to Grahamstown is complete, they say, without a visit or two to Village Green, two sports fields crammed with marquees containing art, crafts, clothing, jewellery, carpets, woodwork, paintings and fancy goods.

The Village Green food tents and caravans offer culinary delights not normally eaten on a daily basis, but it’s festival time in Grahamstown, so festival goers are bound to partake of potato fritters, Chinese food, shawarmas, jumbo venison burgers and wors rolls.

All the while, children will be stuffing themselves with hotdogs, candy floss, fudge, candy-coated peanuts and ice cream.

Back indoors, the Standard Bank Jazz Festival is a hot highlight of festival, bringing some of the best talent globally and locally to the stages of the DSG Hall and DSG Auditorium.

James Morrison is undoubtedly the world’s greatest multi-instrumentalist, playing at virtuoso level on all the brass, piano, saxophones and double bass. Completing the James Morrison Quartet lineup are William Morrison (guitar), Harry Morrison (bass) and Patrick Danao (drums). They perform in DSG Hall next Wednesday night.

In association with the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, SpiritFest explores faith through a series of workshops, discussions, book launches and performances.

The choral multi-media service “Under African Skies” in the Cathedral tomorrow evening will feature choral music and hymns from South Africa and beyond, sung by the Cathedral Choir.

The performance will take place in a darkened church with powerfully gripping images of the African continent and skies, projected on a large screen. The choir is directed by Kutlwano Kepadisa.

Grahamstonian Stephen Holder will present an organ recital “Mystery, Modes and Grace” in Commemoration Church on July 4 (1pm), the only organ recital at festival.

There is also the Children’s Art Festival at St Andrew’s Prep, with a daily programme of events for children between the ages of four and 13

The Festival Dance programme sees Grahamstown’s own Movements Dance School performing “The Secret Garden” in Glennie Hall at Victoria Primary from July 5 to 7. Cheryl Emmerson is the director of this work, one of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s most famous and well-loved classics.

Think!Fest is a non-performance element of the National Arts Festival where speakers, groups and panels swap opinions and create an open floor for robust discussion.

Elinor Sisulu will deliver the keynote address “Challenges of Child Welfare in an Unequal Society” in the Ntsikana Room in the Monument at 10am on Sunday, July 2.

The address is a salute to Grahamstown’s Child Welfare in its 100th year.

There is also the Children’s Art Festival at St Andrew’s Prep, with a daily programme of events for children between the ages of four and 13.

Beyond the scheduled festival programme there is always plenty going on in Grahamstown during festival, with a free daily SAfm Sundowner Concert in the Monument fountain area, street performances, markets, free entertainment stages and the annual closing Street Parade through the streets of Grahamstown.

Restaurants, cafes and bars buzz from late afternoons until late at night as festival goers discuss shows, sip their coffees and prepare for the next show.

While festival organisers wish festival goers an enjoyable and safe stay in Grahamstown, all visitors to “Festival City” are urged to use water sparingly.


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