Festival performers reach out to all people

DISADVANTAGED communities at present benefit from the Grahamstown National Arts Festival's outreach programme.

DISADVANTAGED communities at present benefit from the Grahamstown National Arts Festival's outreach programme.

This counters the criticism that the festival is out of the reach of most ordinary people.

A report by the National Arts Festival recently revealed that 351 Fringe performers from 23 productions volunteered their time to take the joy of the arts to people who were not able to attend the festival in July.

The ArtReach Project concentrates on taking the festival "on the road" to prisons, hospitals and old-age homes.

"ArtReach is a vital component of the democratisation of the arts and making it accessible to everyone," said Tony Lankester, chief executive of the popular festival.

People at 11 institutions in Grahamstown benefited from this year's festival programme.

They included Juvenile Correctional Services, the General Correctional Centre, Settler's Hospital, Temba TB Clinic, Fort England Mental Hospital and Makanaskop Old Age home.

Performers who volunteered their time while the festival was in progress included the Grahamstown Pantsula Dancers, Cape Junior Ballet Company, Goosebump from Potchefstroom in North West and comedian Mark Sampson. He had audiences in stitches.

Productions that were taken to the community included the playsBehind the Walls, My Pride, Dance to the Rain Queen and the Segarone Cultural Showcase.

The children adored Pierrot MacClown and the Wacky Wizard Magic Show.

Performers received an ArtReach beanie and a festival T-shirt.

For the first time this year the festival welcomed school children from the Umzamomhle Special Day Care Centre in Alice.

These pupils, who are challenged by various degrees of physical or mental disability, were treated to a special production of the musical My Pride, presented by the Mahuma Arts Centre. The cast also live with mental or physical disabilities.

The play dealt with the prejudices against and misconceptions about disability.

The pupils were also given a platform to perform at a Fringe venue. The performers had an interactive discussion with the audience afterwards.

"The motivation, inspiration and encouragement learners received provided the incentive they need to face the challenges of living with disabilities," said Ninnette Iliasov, the organisational development support specialist at the Umzamomhle Centre.

The Correctional Services Department has been involved in the ArtReach Project since it was established in 2004. They were allocated two performances each week at the festival.

The inmates showed their appreciation by presenting the Fringe performers with music, dance and drama.

The scathamiya singing group Amagugu Amatsha, which has been performing at the Fringe for the past two years, are a group of ex-prisoners.

The inmates were inspired by the ArtReach project while they were in prison.