Small businesses, musos, town hit by OppiKoppi cancellation

OppiKoppi 2018 attendee Kingsley McTladi tweeted that the event was 'awesome' but he won't be returning this year.
OppiKoppi 2018 attendee Kingsley McTladi tweeted that the event was 'awesome' but he won't be returning this year.
Image: T.H.A.B.O (@KingsleyMcTladi) via Twitter

It is not just the musicians and the festivalgoers who are reeling from the cancellation of this year's OppiKoppi festival - the economy of Northam, in Limpopo, would be devastated too, one of the food vendors at the music festival said on Thursday.

"There are people who sell firewood, others that sell liquor and meat. Even supermarkets [will feel the pinch] because people travelling from outside don't usually stock up on what they will need until they get to the area," said Hezron Louw of Sumting Fresh.

He said his business would also feel the impact, as the festival provided a major boost to  annual turnover. 

"We also employ local people from Northam for the festival, train them on food safety and get them on board to work with us. We have had regulars who have worked with us for three to four years but this year, there will be no work for them," said Louw.

The festival organisers issued a statement saying the 25th annual festival had been put on hold after the 2018 event was ruined by criminals targeting attendees.

The 2019 event would have taken place from August 8-10 this year, but the organisers have decided that the cost of increasing security would have made ticket prices too expensive.

"This was a very big decision for us," said Theresho Selesho, CEO of Matchbox Live, owners of the festival, on Thursday. "For us to present the 2019 event with the increased security measures that are required to curb this crime, to present a safe and enjoyable festival, the production costs also increase drastically.

"By taking a gap year, we are giving ourselves the breathing room to redesign the festival and bring in the necessary changes without affecting the festivalgoer by increasing ticket prices."

Another service provider, Justin Melamed of Brohemian Pizza, said while this would result in a "small knock" to the business, he understood why the festival was put on hold.

"They had to do what they had to do for safety reasons and, well, there are other festivals," he said.

Tau Masemola, of Braai Guru, said service providers would be willing to help the event organisers to ensure the festival was never cancelled again. 

"As service providers, we could have helped because we were unaware of the challenges that they were facing. We no longer see ourselves as service providers but we view ourselves as partners and so we will assist in whatever way we can to see the event continue," he said. 

Masemola said that, after OppiKoppi last year, the organisers had already started to prepare for their return to the festival this year, adding that among their preparations were teambuilding sessions held to ensure that their operations ran smoothly. 

Besides the people who worked in preparing the goods, they had designers, promoters and other creatives whom they roped in with the hope of strengthening their brand at the festival this year.

The police must come and play their part because this is not just something small.
Tau Masemola of Braai Guru

For Braai Guru, attending the festival was not just about the immediate financial gain but they had used it as a "springboard" to get access to international festivals. 

They had hoped to take their business to a festival in the Netherlands in 2020. 

"So this affects those conversations going forward," Masemola said, adding that they had met their Netherlands contacts and shown what they'd done at OppiKoppi. 

"But government must assist. The police must come and play their part because this is not just something small. It moved from being a private event to being an event that affects the economy of the province," he said. 

Louw, who takes his business to numerous festivals, said OppiKoppi was not the only festival to be taken off their calendar this year.

At least one other big festival which was to be held in Kyalami next month was also cancelled, reportedly also because of safety concerns.

"But I hope OppiKoppi will be back. In a sad way, it's a show of the times," he said, meaning it was a reflection of what was happening in society.

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