Grahamstown fest 'on track'

The annual Grahamstown National Arts Festival is on track this year and the organisers have announced that all the projects that have been planned and are traditionally part of the event will go ahead.

The annual Grahamstown National Arts Festival is on track this year and the organisers have announced that all the projects that have been planned and are traditionally part of the event will go ahead.

The announcement followed media reports last week that the popular festival had applied for funding from the Department of Arts and Culture to put together a series of 2010 legacy projects.

The reports also said that this funding, a once-off grant, was uncertain since the department had not indicated whether or not it was going to provide the money about four months before the 2010 Fifa World Cup kicks off.

The reports also come amid claims that there is an ongoing forensic investigation by the department to try and find out how the R150million that was earmarked for the 2010 arts projects had "disappeared" from the government coffers.

The reports also come against the background of at least two senior staff members being placed on suspension and waiting to face disciplinary processes.

Those on suspension are Sydney Selepe, the deputy director-general who has been on suspension for a year, and Tale Motsepe, the acting deputy director-general, who has been on suspension for a few months.

Selepe is the author of the department's 2010 plan, which, according to senior staff members is gathering dust in the as a result of his suspension.

"In the light of these reports the National Arts Festival wishes to offer the following by way of clarity. The National Arts Festival has a network of funders and sponsors who have supported us over the years, and who have committed themselves to supporting this year's event," festival director Tony Lankester said.

"With their assistance, we are able to proceed with our plans for the 2010 festival. We will also shortly be announcing a brand new corporate sponsor who has agreed to support the event for the next three years."

The festival is scheduled to start on June 20 and runs until July 4.

"We are in the stages of detailed planning around the staging of what we know will be another amazing bumper festival. We are on track to open bookings for this year's event during the course of April, and we will announce the highlights of this year's programme in early March," Lankester said.

Lankester added that the funding that had been applied for from the Department of Arts and Culture was a once-off grant that would specifically be used to increase the number of South African productions at the festival so that it can have as big an impact as possible during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

He said some of the funding would be used for the creation of and investment in various legacy and heritage projects associated with the festival, and to market the festival to a wider audience so that it can capitalise on tourists attending the World Cup.

"To our mind this additional funding will help the festival make as great a contribution as possible to the City of Grahamstown and the Eastern Cape province during the World Cup. It will help attract a greater number of visitors to the province," Lankester said.

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