IN THE FRAME: Ashraf Johaardien, executive producer of the Cape Town Fringe. Picture: Jan Potgieter
THE NATIONAL Arts Festival has put out a call for artists to submit work for the Cape Town Fringe which is on from September 21 to October 8. This is the fourth iteration of the Fringe.

The Fringe submission call went out on July 10.

In the call for submissions, National Arts Festival executive producer Ashraf Johaardien announced that there is a new format for this year’s Fringe festival.

As to what that format is - well, that is a big question. The City Hall is no longer the festival hub, but there is no mention where the new hub is located and how the Fringe will hang together.

The Cape Town Fringe wants to open up existing spaces in the city and surrounds and accommodate artists away from the mainstream but how this will proceed is not specified.

We did a ring around asking artists to give their thoughts. “It is all very vague”, was the general response.

The big question: money. What will the Fringe pay for? Artists are applying to get on to the Fringe and they don’t want to be quoted, which is understandable. One artist - a very vocal activist - mused: “I am not sure what is being offered by them. Will they produce some of the works, or is it dog eat dog?”

In terms of venues, the Fringe is open to suggestions, stressed Johaardien: "Ideally the festival wants to be investing time, energy and programming into venues that are or have the potential to be viable and sustainable in the long term.

"That, however, does not preclude site-specific work or pop-up venues though. It really just depends on what submissions we receive and how that fits into the overall vision for this.”

What is on offer by way of funding? “Our resources are not unlimited so it’s unlikely we’re going to support the creation of performance spaces from scratch. We’re definitely open to augmenting existing resources in venues that warrant such investment, but then those venues need to be able to demonstrate an audience network they are able to activate who would benefit from such investment.

"We’ll supply the marketing tools, programming and infrastructure support, but venues will need to take the lead in bringing in their supporters. The bottom line: who pays - artist or the festival?

"The Fringe has always worked on a shared risk basis and that has not really changed. Basically there will be a split of door sales between the artist and the venue, with a nominal percentage coming to the Fringe to cover marketing, ticketing and admin costs.”

Why the shift from the City Hall as a hub? “The City Hall is currently undergoing a massive renovation, but that’s not the core reason for rethinking the structure and model of the Fringe. A Fringe that happens almost exclusively in the city centre is almost counter-intuitive in many respects.

"Many communities in the broader Cape Town area have said that the high cost and low access to public transport makes the cost of theatregoing out of their reach. So, in very pragmatic terms, this is a way of bringing the work and the festival to the people - where they live and work.

"The focus is on community venues, and works selected need to speak to those communities. Yes, there will be a ‘hub’ in the city, but this year is about taking work to communities - it’s about connecting powerful live performance with audiences in the spaces and places where those audiences live.”

From Johaardien's responses, it is evident that the Fringe is taking its cue from artists and aims to work around the submissions. Johaardien enthused: “It will all be different this year. The idea is to get more than the usual suspects in the room, on board and engaged. Partners will be identified from the call, as will artists.”

Last year, there was a buskers' festival as part of the Fringe. No mention is made of the busking event in the call for Fringe submissions.

* CT Fringe publicist Sasha Polkey said the Buskers Festival will take place from October 5-8.