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A festival like no other, Darling

Cape TOwn - The Voorkamerfest in Dariling, which runs from September 5 to 7 and is a tribute to fine theatre performed by a line-up of local and Dutch artists.

You’ll be able to watch pocket-sized performances staged in the comfort of the front rooms of homes of enthusiastic residents throughout the small town.

An art stand alongside the 'A&C' (arts and craft shed) in the heart of Darling which comes alive during the Voorkamerfestival.Tefo Paya from Botswana performs at Voorkamerfest in association with partner Africa Arts Institute.From the Netherlands: Thijs Maas  from the collective: Het Nieuwe Lied - one of the brilliant young singer and songwriters whom will participate in Voorkamerfest 2014.The Voorkamerfest is cutting-edge and adventurous, distinctive and fun, bold and exciting  everything an arts festival should be.Action: Starring Lloyd Marengo and the children of Darling.

The concept is thrilling, efficient and ticks more boxes than a bumper crossword puzzle: social cohesion; nation-building; community engagement; affirmation and pride. It educates while it entertains and crosses social and economic barriers.

The Voorkamerfest is an intimate lucky dip. The concept is easy – you buy a ticket for a “route” – there are seven – all of which are colour-coded. You queue up at the local taxi rank and when the taxi with your colour sticker comes along, you hop on.

You travel with a load of strangers, who by the end of the route are your new best friends. The taxi drops you off at three voorkamers during the course of one route – you could end up at a modest RDP house in the dusty, yet impressively neat and tidy township or at the posh schoolmaster’s grand Cape Dutch house in the centre of town.

Each show lasts 40 minutes and is different in style, texture and content. Each route offers three stops: three homes with three entertainment options – from jazz to classical music, comedy, drama, poetry and circus acts.

I gather the concept came out of an inspired chat Pieter-Dirk Uys had with Wim Visser and Inge Bos, two creative souls from Amsterdam who spend much of their time in the Cape. They adapted and evolved a quaint Dutch tradition of visiting friends’ voorkamers where live entertainment is hosted, adapted it to a South African context and formalised it into a community festival.

A bunch of their associates come out too, resulting in the entertainment having a strong Dutch collaborative spirit.

The Voorkamerfest has been going for 11 years and has developed a strong educational component with school workshops and activities.

The hub is of course Evita se Perron – the old Darling station that is now a community theatre venue and the preferred performance “platform” of Tannie Evita at 8 Arcadia Street.

The Voorkamerfest is linked to the Darling community in such a fundamental way that all parties benefit. Homeowners become venue managers; taxi drivers become festival hosts; townsfolk make the meals, sell their crafts and accommodate visitors. Everyone gets involved, takes ownership and feels responsible.

For example, the local wine négociant, Charles Withington, has a specially brewed local brandy named after the town’s signature event: the Voorkamer brandy, which he sells in The Darling Wine Shop, a quaint establishment offering a range of Darling wines, olives, brandies and knick-knacks.

The Voorkamerfest is cutting-edge and adventurous, distinctive and fun, bold and exciting – everything an arts festival should be.

If You Go...

Illa Thompson, Sunday Tribune

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