BUZZ ON THE WANE: Guitarist Gary Thomas puts up posters for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. The buzz around the festival is on the wane, according some artists, stallholders and businesses.
Cape Town - The buzz that usually surrounds the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown is on the wane, according to some artists, stallholders and businesses.

Artist and festival regular Mark Rose-Christie said the fizz has gone out of the festival.

Rose-Christie, who compiled a video of people airing their dissatisfaction at how the festival is being run, confirmed this.

“The hype is definitely gone, not that many people are attending the festival any more. The vibe is down, there are no street performers up on High Street to create the market feel in the environment,” he said.

But National Arts Festival chief executive Tony Lankester dismissed the claims.

“I’m not entirely sure where the concerns that the festival is dying down are coming from. Anyone walking through our markets and sitting in our venues enjoying the 2500 performances we are staging will confirm that the festival has an amazing energy this year.

“Dozens of performances are sold out, the traders at the Village Green Craft Market are reporting record sales, and the response to the location of the market has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said.

Lankester said the festival had renewed its contract with Standard Bank for the next three years, and has multiple projects and initiatives attracting strong support from both the public and private sector.

They have also introduced street theatre patches around the city and in the township, he pointed out.

However, Licebo Datyana, manager at Oscar’s Country Café, said businesses were observing a gradual decline in profits.

The café is situated on African Street, one of the main roads.

“Hype and entertainment is dying down due to the high costs of travelling, food and accommodation.

“The festival used to be more family- oriented and the entertainment would reflect that. What we are noticing is that more businesses are coming for marketing purposes, rather than spectators,” he said.

Datyana said the restaurant’s profits had dropped by almost half.

“Turnover is not good. We have been seeing this over the years, which is the total opposite of what we expect because the festival is peak time for business,” he added.

Madhatters Coffee Shop manager Philip Mc Dougall shared his sentiments.

“Business has been declining. It could be because of the economy and the drought. We are hoping that maybe more people will be attending the festival this weekend, but things have not gone well so far,” he said.

Makana Tourism director Sue Waugh said it has been fairly quiet.

The festival kicked off on June 28 and ends on Sunday.


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Cape Argus