“This has been the most incredible 12 years of my adult life and I am extraordinarily grateful to the Festival team, the artists and audiences who have made it all so worthwhile,” Lankester said. Pictures: David Ritchie/African News Agency

Makhanda – The National Arts Festival has announced that its long-serving Chief Executive Officer, Tony Lankester, will be stepping down from the position later this year after more than a decade at the helm of the country’s leading, and the continent’s biggest, arts festival. He is set to take up an appointment in the UK from October.

“This has been the most incredible 12 years of my adult life and I am extraordinarily grateful to the Festival team, the artists and audiences who have made it all so worthwhile,” Lankester said. 

“Steering this ship has been a privilege and has resulted in a ton of memories, moments, friendships and learning experiences I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. But I feel it’s the right time to move on with my career and to give the Festival space to bring in some new energy and ideas.”
 
While making the announcement, Festival Chair Ayanda Mjekula thanked Lankester for his contribution to the Festival since his appointment in 2007.
 
“Tony has certainly been a revelation and has set a high standard that will be extremely difficult to rival, but which we have an obligation to maintain. His leadership has been inspirational and produced the best  from all those who worked with him. He occupied the CEO position for just over a quarter of the existence of this Festival. This period heralded a time of invigorating growth for the Festival. 
 
On behalf of the artists who were touched by this Festival, we thank you for the vibrancy, the freedom and the creativity which you allowed them to pour in! South Africa thanks you for making it Africa’s biggest show and being  deeply African! The message from the board is that you should be proud of your contribution to the growth and enrichment of South African cultural heritage. We wish you well in all your future endeavours," Mjekula said.
 
Mjekula mapped out the management arrangements for the next few months: “We’ve recently appointed Nobesuthu Rayi as the Festival’s Executive Producer and we’re currently recruiting for an Artistic Director. Once that process is finalised, and with the continued service of Brett Bailey as Artistic Committee Chair, the artistic team will be complete and can focus on the programme for the 2020 Festival. 

To oversee the business side of the Company, and to manage a smooth handover from Tony, we’re drawing on the expertise of our Board and putting together a transition management team. The core operations team consists of very experienced, long-serving members of staff and Tony will continue serving, on a consultancy basis, after his departure through until the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition,” he said. 
 
“The Festival dates for 2020 are 25 June – 5 July and we’re all focused on ensuring it is another great event,” Lankester said. Our primary focus over the next few months is to ensure that our portfolio of projects – including the National Arts Festival in 2020 – has a strong team in place to drive it.”

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