“Festivals are how I imagine heaven to be.” Rafiek Mammon

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The National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from 29 June to 9 July 2017

Festivals…aah, there’s the rub!

By Rafiek Mammon

The first question most people ask when you come back from a festival is: How was the festival? I am never really sure how to respond…does one zoom straight into the response of the “I”- specialists, the ones who go: “I had a great time. I loved it. The best thing I saw was…Although, I think…” Or, does one remove the me, myself and dreaded I from the equation and look at the woods, see the trees of green…that sort of thing?

Truth be told: Festivals are how I imagine heaven to be. So much to see, so little time. I return home, inspired with lots of introspection. In there lies the power of the arts. And at this year’s National Arts Festival (NAF), the programme was thick. I wanted to see more than I could fit in, what with wearing a few hats at the festival this year. Oh my goodness – I just remembered, I didn’t see any of those flamboyant festival hats this year. Or maybe I saw one but certainly not the gamut of past years…

The Village Green was dry this year. And by dry, I mean like Fish Hoek kinda dry. No alcohol. This didn’t go down at all well with festival-goers, let alone the traders who rely on the inebriated to buy their food and other goods. Let’s face it, a drunk man and his money are similar to a fool and his…

Artists-from-all-over-SA-will-be-showcasing-their-talent-at-the-National-Arts-Festival

Speaking of which, this led to a sparser Village Green, which in turn led to sparser audiences at some shows as word of mouth is a big thing at the Green. I guess alcohol has its purpose? The festival felt quieter this year on the whole. Many said it had to do with economics, others say it had something to do with the Knysna region and the fires. Bottom line: it felt emptier. Others say things like “there are too many festivals”. Usually those who say the latter are the ones who are not regular theatregoers but the ones who are looking for a “good time” by any means necessary and who, if said good time is not had by all and sundry, say things like: “there are too many festivals”.

To theatregoers and those who love the arts, we say: “Bring ‘em on!”
I was going to talk about the varied programme, the diversity of make-up of this NAF and just how much was really on offer, but this might take up volumes. So, in short, let me re-iterate: there were tons on offer. The cliché “something for everyone” refers. Suffice to say, though, that the NAF Fringe is the place to try out your work! And it helped that both the shows Artscape took the festival this year (including the one I directed) won Ovation Awards! Yay!

So, let me re-ask myself the question: “How was the Festival?”
It was (11 days of) amazing. Truly. It may have been quieter than usual – at least for the number of days I spent there – which was at the beginning of the festival; I don’t know what the last few days looked like attendance-wise. And will I be back next year? Hell yes!!!

Rafiek Mammon