973 A youth cultural dance group entertains on the streets of Grahamstown as the arts festival kicks off. This year is the 40th anniversary of the festival. 030714. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Celebrating the 40th year of the National Arts Festival, one might have thought theatre is on everyone’s mind.

It’s not – what they’re talking about is the weather! Anyone who tells you about Grahamstown and how to pack for the 10-day festival will warn that this is a city for all seasons – four seasons in one day, they always say.

And that’s exactly what’s happening, with winter woollies being discarded and T-shirts coming out. The temperatures these first three days are in the mid to high 20s, to everyone’s surprise and joy.

“It’s been very cold this winter,” said one inhabitant.

But everyone isn’t smiling about this balmy phase. “A festival without those freezing nights is not a festival,” said the affable Eunice Kekana, the executive mayor of the Cacadu municipal district.

But in all seriousness, festinos have been warned they should enjoy this unexpected sunshine because temperatures are expected to drop over the weekend, with numbers plummeting to the low teens. Regulars will know that’s how dramatic the seasons are in this part of the Eastern Cape.

Those temperatures are expected to climb as dramatically on the festival stages, though.

It’s too soon to predict this year’s attendance but the online pre-booking numbers have been in excess of what was happening last year at the same time, said a festival spokesperson.

And while they’re reluctant to make predictions in the first two days, they believe they have a programme that will deliver as the online bookings have suggested.