Low turnout hits popular national arts festival

THE organisers of the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in the Eastern Cape must be feeling disappointed at the low attendance at shows.

THE organisers of the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in the Eastern Cape must be feeling disappointed at the low attendance at shows.

Instead of the usual 10 days, the organisers have increased the fest to 14 days hoping to cash in on World Cup fever. But the most difficult thing at the festival is to bump into someone speaking a strange language.

With the weather warmish the organisers expected thousands of festival-goers to swarm to the pubs, restaurants and theatre venues.

So far that has not happened. It is easy to book a table in a restaurant, one does not have to wait for service, the streets are easy to stroll along without worrying about human congestion.

The crowd numbers do not look more than the usual Grahamstown crowds. In fact, the busy High Street in Grahamstown, which is dotted with restaurants, pubs and accommodation, yesterday afternoon did not look or feel any different from a busy street in Melville. Maybe slightly busier than Melville's famous 7th Street.

Those who have been here since last Sunday when the festival started report that there were even less people and a more subdued atmosphere then.

By extending the programme to 14 days to cater for the expected hordes of World Cup visitors, the organisers might have shot themselves in the foot. It is probably a question of soccer lovers not necessarily translating into arts lovers.

But the artists have not disappointed in the productions they have brought to Grahamstown this year. It must be disappointing for this lot, with some brilliant shows such as the Rivonia Trial , written and directed by Aubrey Sekhabi, having to be cancelled due to low audience numbers .

On a lighter note, the weather has been behaving very well for the past three days.

Yesterday, a number of revellers could be spotted in their shorts, something unheard of in the usually cold Grahamstown.

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