Uncategorized Laduuuma! Fest in 2010

Laduuuma! Fest in 2010

“You can’t escape getting drawn into soccer fever,” says Festival Director Ismail Mahomed, and Festival 2010 is not exempt from this football furore.

The final whistle for this year’s Festival has yet to be blown, but organisers are already making game plans and setting up goals to accommodate the Fifa World Cup.

In the corner of Mahomed’s office, files, folders and envelopes are filling up a box labelled 2010 proposals: “This indicates that artists are also beginning to think forward,” the ever-optimistic director says.

Mahomed views the World Cup as a chance for us to be drawn together and showcase the country to the world.

The National Arts Festival, the most important event in the arts calendar, is a historic platform where the people of South Africa can come together and embrace each other, and embrace conversation; it is the role of the Festival to create that platform, Mahomed says.

Although the World Cup and the Festival share a collaborative agenda, Mahomed says, “we are not in competition with the soccer. I don’t think anyone in this country can compete with the soccer!”

Rather, organisers aim to complement the simultaneous show-stopper, and have a few ideas in mind.

Working with Fifa
The 2010 Festival will be extended to 15 days to “build the programme around the key matches”. Tony Lankester, CEO of the Festival, has a set up a meeting with Fifa Local Organising Committee member Derek Carstens.

“We want to make sure that they’re aware of what we’re doing. We can use the information they give us to work around their schedule.”

The number of performances will remain the same next year, but a longer running time means that schedules will be more flexible.

“We don’t need more stuff to fill 15 days,” says Lankester.“If we were to run this year’s programme back to back it would take five and a half months to watch it all.”

Members of the Festival committee consulted with artists to get feedback and suggestions for next year’s Festival.

Some of the pre-tournament proposals were the possibility of using international languages such as Spanish and French on the official website, and using accommodation in Grahamstown’s surrounding areas.

Other plans waiting on the sidelines include running shuttle busses between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown, working on a new traffic flow plan, creating a public viewing area for soccer action, and reshuffling the programme so that popular shows are performed during the day to attract day visitors from PE.

“We also have to take into consideration that people will want to party after big games so we will have to look into continuing music late into the evenings,” Mahomed explains.

Expanding audiences
To draw in the socks, sandals, and safari hat-wearing set, Lankester says the committee plans to advertise at the Edinburgh Festival: “If people were maybe thinking of coming to South Africa, this might convince them.”

“2010 is a great opportunity for our artists to put their work in front of an international audience,” Lankester says.

The programme will also include some work for an international audience; local artists well known overseas, such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

This year’s experimental reshuffling of the trading areas has booted some sellers into less green playing fields.

Although Lankester has not finalised where stallholders will be selling their wares next year, he confirms that potential traders will be paying their deposits only once they have been shown a map indicating exactly where they will be situated.

Due to the dismal foot-traffic to Fiddler’s Green this year, the area in unlikely to be used as a trading venue next year.

“I would love to see it used for a circus tent or an additional performance space,” Lankester says. The Village Green will remain on the Great Field, but “it will be more of a craft fair next year”.

Money matters
Bearing business in mind, Mahomed sees the World Cup as “a catalyst for everyone”, particularly in igniting an “entrepreneurial spirit”.

As the second largest contributor to Grahamstown’s annual GDP (Rhodes University takes the cup), Mahomed says that the Festival has to keep economic concerns in mind.

He feels that the expansion of the Festival will ensure more work for more people. He is totally confident that the citizens of Grahamstown will rise to the occasion and sees this as opportunity for new entrepreneurs; the Festival should be central to that, but not exclusive.

With regard to Festival’s money matters, Mahomed is confident that the reciprocal relationship the event has with its sponsors will make next year’s expansion financially viable.

“This year’s growth amid a recession got some raised eyebrows,” Mahomed adds, hoping that additional sponsors will want to fully develop business (or preferably philanthropic) relationships.

“There won’t be a gazillion more people than there were this year,” and Lankester says that the municipality will cope as the Festival committee has a good relationship with them.

“The biggest challenge will be the weather. It is the one thing over which we have no control. Everything else we don’t see as a major threat.”

It is clear where Mahomed places his bets for 2010: “I’m extremely optimistic that we will have an incredibly successful Festival,” he concludes.

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