The Future Festivals South Africa final policy report was launched on 9 March as part of Africa Week at King’s College London. The report offers an overview of the 18-month research project funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant.
The project, which is a collaboration between King’s College London, Rhodes University and seven festival partners, aimed to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on cultural festivals in South Africa and to build a new knowledge base and network to enable them to build resilience in these challenging times. Working with a variety of festival partners, the findings tracked some of the innovative modes of delivery and online engagement used by festival managers to continue providing work for creatives, reaching audiences, and fulfilling sponsorship obligations during the pandemic.
Though these were challenging times for festivals in South Africa, with almost half of those occurring in 2019 cancelling in 2020, there have also been opportunities for some festivals to innovate through the pandemic. There are four key findings of the project:
There are also a number of policy implications that stem from the impacts of COVID-19 on the festival landscape as well as the evolution that has occurred in the sector as a response to the pandemic.
Public sector funders may need to shift their focus from the old view, where their responsibility ended with making the grant and receiving the close-out report, to a much more collaborative, networked approach.
Providing platforms for networking, training, and mentoring is likely to become increasingly important and valuable in the ongoing COVID recovery period. Public and private sector funders could consider facilitating such events alongside the direct funding provided to individual organisers.
Supporting festivals looking for ways to continue reaching offline creatives and audiences should also be a focus of public funding.
Festivals need to be recognised as key enablers of the development of creative economies. Policy needs to recognise their strategic role – and to provide support not only for festivals to deliver their own artistic programmes, but also to be able to grow, network and innovate for the benefit of the overall sector.
The report is available for download at the following link: https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/199976118/Final_Future_Festivals_South_Africa_Policy_Report_3_March_.pdf
Please join us online for the launch of the Future Festivals South Africa: Lessons form the Age of COVID-19 Policy Report on 9 March 2023 from 15:00 to 16:00.
The online seminar presents the results of “Future Festivals South Africa” an 18-month Arts and Humanities Research Council research project (AHRC, grant number AH/P005950/1). The seminar will launch the final policy report of the project, with the discussion of its key findings and implications for policy. The project included extensive fieldwork and support for festival organisations during different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa between November 2020 and March 2022.
The seminar will see reflections from Prof. Roberta Comunian and Prof. Jen Snowball on the project development, its methods and the collaboration between King’s College London and Rhodes University. Ms Fiona Drummond will discuss here the extensive mapping of the impact of Covid-19 on South Africa Festivals between 2019 and 2021. Highlights from the report will be presented by Prof. Snowball and Prof. Comunian. Dr Jonathan Gross will present some reflections on the results of the “Letters, Videos & Pictures from the Future” data collection. Mr Delon Tarentaal will present some insight from the quantitative analysis of online and offline audience participation during the pandemic. Conclusions will be drawn on the lessons learnt and their policy implications.
There will be an opportunity for Q&A at the end of the talks.
The final report from the project will be available to download from the 9th of March 2023.
This event is part of the African Leadership Centre's - Africa Week 2023 celebrations - taking place 6-10 March 2023.
9 March 2023, 15:00 to 16:00
This event is online. To join us, please register for the event on the following link:
My Body My Space (MBMS) Public Arts Festival was started in 2015 in Ekhuruleni in Gauteng and then moved to Emakhazeni Local Municipality in rural Mpumalanga the following year. The festival is curated by the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC), which is committed to working with the local community, growing job opportunities, developing skills, stimulating the local economy and creating an arts and culture tourism sector in the region.
Usually held annually in April, the 2020 version of the MBMS festival could not go ahead after South Africa entered into a national lockdown in March to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, MBMS returned in January 2021 with a world first ‘festival on your phone’ using the WhatsApp platform. The programme aimed to highlight social issues and featured photo exhibitions, dance and theatre works as well as artist discussions on festival themes of isolation, grief, boredom, the nature of community and the conflicting challenges of navigating ordinary life and lockdown restrictions.
MBMS aims to disrupt and democratise space and the arts. The usual live MBMS festival occurs in various public spaces in rural Emakhazeni and encourages the audience to move as one body through these spaces from one performance to another so that there is no hierarchy of programming and an experience of human connection which transcends geographic and social boundaries. Through their virtual festival adaptation strategy, MBMS continued with their disruption of space, but this time it was the digital space being disrupted. This was done by countering what many other festivals were doing in the online space with high-definition, long-form works and ticketed events. Though their motivations were to pay artists for their work and provide high-quality, innovative digital works, this could be seen as exclusionary to lower income groups – as to participate, audience members needed to be able to afford tickets and data or internet connections. Artists also often required more sophisticated equipment in order to record their work for these virtual festivals.
For countries in the Global South like South Africa, the ‘digital divide’ makes moving online particularly challenging. Many artists do not have access to the necessary equipment, bandwidth and skills needed to produce a successful online production, while many potential audience members do not have access to devices on which to watch festival content, nor stable internet connections or high data costs which makes streaming or downloading content difficult. MBMS attempted to account for this by being low-tech, low-data, low-definition, low-cost, available on demand 24/7 and providing training to artists. For both artists and audiences, a smartphone was all that was required to either film or view content. Utilising the WhatsApp platform also made the festival more accessible as it is simple to use, video sizes are restricted (16MB), and most videos were 2-3 minutes long so only required small amounts of data to view. The adaptation strategy thus met festival aims of accessibility and affordability for artists and audiences as well as attempting to account for South Africa’s digital divide by being low-tech, low-data and free.
Networking and collaboration were thus crucial to MBMS’s response of a ‘festival on your phone’ as it was also through these channels that they were introduced to the Turn.io platform which would allow them to produce a phone-based festival that adhered to the festival’s main aims and allowed them to retain the quality of the festival as they moved into the digital space.Turn.io leverages the WhatsApp business API (Application Programming Interface), and seeks to support social impact organisations to disseminate information to improve health, employment, education, climate, agriculture, humanitarian response, financial inclusion and civic engagement. However, MBMS was the first arts and culture based application where a full festival would be delivered on the platform, and so the collaboration offered both partners an opportunity to innovate.
One of the major successes of the MBMS ‘festival on your phone’ was the increase in reach which was due to the innovative virtual festival format as well as the ease of accessibility. As a small rural festival, MBMS usually attracts around 1200-1600 people to the live event. Through the virtual format, the festival’s audience reach increased dramatically to 4 043 unique users over the main festival period from 29 January to 28 February 2021. The majority of users were South African but the festival also attracted a small international audience. In part, this was due to the increase in publicity surrounding the festival’s innovative, new and exciting adaptation as audience data shows a surge in users to the platform following broadcasts of interviews on national news.
Though artist engagement, training and development have always been an important part of the festival, it became more significant during the COVID period as MBMS pivoted their artistic development programme to help train artists to fill the gap in skills to produce works for the online environment. Supporting artists to transition into making digital work has emerged as a recurrent theme in this research as many festivals have offered training and filming support.
In running the mentorship and training programme, Zoom calls and WhatsApp group chats between festival organisers and artists were used. These became the means by which a community of support was formed between MBMS and the participating artists as people were sharing resources, ideas and techniques as well as encouraging one another in their work. This was a crucial point of human connection during a difficult time.
Rural communities have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, as they tend to be comparatively poorer areas of South Africa and are reliant on only a few types of economic activity to generate income, such as tourism, which was halted during the lockdown. The local community and municipality are particularly important to FATC and so producing a WhatsApp festival and supporting artists was not their only form of outreach during the pandemic period. Through the Angel Project, FATC launched a crowdfunding campaign and raised R160 000 to help support 91 households for 8 months during the height of the lockdown in 2020 with food, toiletries and PPE.
Based on the successes of MBMS’s virtual festival format – as well as the management team’s desire to deliver on community engagement, development, human connection, and challenging spatial and societal norms – ‘blended programming’ under a hybrid festival model could be a future business model for MBMS. However, a major challenge to the vision of this blended future is finding the finances to be able to make it happen.
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Innibos is an Afrikaans arts festival that has been held annually in Mbombela (Nelspruit) in Mpumalanga since 2004. A range of musical events lie at the heart of the festival with performances from many of South Africa’s top artists. Pre COVID-19, the festival experienced significant growth to become one of South Africa’s largest arts festivals with the main stage attracting crowds of 20 000 - 35 000 people per night. The festival attempted to harness this popularity and audience loyalty in their adaptation to COVID-19 by taking their audience with them on a journey of evolving festival events and formats.
Innibos has evolved their festival response to account for the changing COVID-19 pandemic and what they have found works well for their audiences. Usually held in June/July, Innibos was one of the first South African arts festivals to offer a comprehensive online festival programme in response to COVID-19 with Innibos Digitaal (Digital) in 2020. Their main motivation was to provide income to performing and visual artists as well as technical crews. Patrons could purchase tickets to gain online access to arts exhibitions, music concerts, literary readings and theatre productions. The online programme included popular productions filmed during the 2019 festival and several new productions recorded specially for Innibos Digitaal 2020.
One of the benefits of an online event is that it is not geographically bounded. Like several other festivals participating in this research, Innibos extended their audience beyond South Africa’s borders to attract international audiences from Australia, Bahrain, Germany, Namibia, Nigeria, Taiwan, UAE and USA. Some of these countries have significant South African expatriate communities who are likely to be amongst the audiences who logged on to enjoy productions in Afrikaans. Encouraged by this support, the Innibos management team have identified Australia and the USA as potential growth areas for the festival in the future as they could tap into these communities to offer hybrid festival events.
However, ticket sales for the various online productions were not as high as had been hoped and cannot match revenue generated from previous festivals. Compared to the usual live festival which attracts approximately 100 000 people, the virtual festival was streamed by around 8 700 people. Like other South African festivals who adapted to a virtual festival in response to the pandemic, Innibos struggled to attract their audiences to the virtual format and to monetize festival programming.
Though Innibos’s audience are loyal, this did not translate into much support for the virtual festival and Innibos’s social media was full of comments asking about when the live festival would be back as it was being sorely missed. Innibos’s audiences seem to have an especially marked preference for the live festival which is probably based on the festival’s history and content as the “heartbeat” of the festival lies at the main festival grounds where large scale music events are staged and for which the festival has become renowned as people come for the ‘Innibos experience’. Having recognised that the virtual festival format was not working well for them, the Innibos management team switched tactics and undertook a project-based approach with small COVID-compliant live events for 2021.
The Innibos festival was extended throughout the year with new projects being introduced as the COVID situation in South Africa continued to change so that new events became possible. A full programme of music, theatre, literary, craft, cultural and heritage projects were offered in 2021. These projects sought to “bring the arts to the marketplace” or to the people of Mbombela and so flipped the Innibos festival model on its head as people usually come to the main festival grounds. Geographically, Innibos is usually quite centralised with relatively few venues in the town, but in 2021 the majority of venues were local businesses and homes. In December, the final event of the year included a mini-festival, Bietjie-Bietjie Bos which was reminiscent of the pre-COVID large scale event.
Six In Jou Huis (in your house) concerts were held in the homes of local residents for small live audiences adhering to COVID-safety protocols and broadcast on the radio to reach a wider audience of 32 000 potential listers. These concerts were very well received by audiences as they were more intimate and offered a different experience from the usual live festival where there are large crowds. In this case, festival organisers took advantage of the COVID-safety regulations to develop something new which links to creative tourism and the experience economy. The feedback for the In Jou Huis concerts has been so positive that this adaptation will likely become a staple of Innibos in the future
One of Innibos’s largest and most successful events of the year was Gaan Bos Innimall (Go to Innibos in the mall), which was a close collaboration with the private sector. A fully fledged pop-up festival was hosted in a local shopping mall with live music in restaurants, a film festival and one-man theatre shows in the cinema, and a craft market and exhibition space. Through this initiative, Innibos was able to deliver on a number of their objectives as they were able to provide a platform for artists and, since the venue allowed them to bring art to the people, exposed new audiences to Innibos and promoted social cohesion as audiences and artists were more diverse. The economic return was also significant as I’langa Mall recorded their highest turnover ever. Based on the success of this event, a good working relationship has been established between Innibos and I’langa Mall that is likely to continue in the future, possibly with smaller scale events being held on a more frequent basis.
In an attempt to recapture the experience and vibe of the pre-COVID Innibos festival music programme, a smaller version of the usual large-scale event, Bietjie- Bietjie Bos (a little bit of Innibos), was held in December 2021 for 2 000 people. Unfortunately, the mini Innibos festival was not as successful as had been hoped. Just four days before the opening of the festival, the Omicron variant was detected in South Africa. Fears over the new variant meant that people did not feel confident attending live events and so ticket sales and attendance was disappointing. However, those who did attend enjoyed the return of the pre-COVID Innibos festival format and there was also some new audience development.
As part of the Future Festivals South Africa project, a song writing competition was held by Innibos. Jaco Smit won the competition with his song As dit Reën (If it Rains). The song was recorded by Karlien van Jaarsveld and Dewald Wasserfal, two popular Afrikaans singers. At the time of writing in August 2022, the song has over 31 000 views on YouTube and charted at number 36 in South Africa. The focus on ‘hope’ is a striking feature of this winning song. Hope was also a prominent theme in the Innibos Letters from the Future project with a number of artists suggesting that COVID-19 was also an opportunity to grow and branch out into new artistic ventures.
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The KKNK was one of the first South African festivals to make the decision to cancel their live festival event in 2020 and to shift online to a virtual festival format in 2020 and 2021. The virtual 2020 KKNK offered a comprehensive programme including theatre, dance, music, a virtual art gallery, poetry and artist discussions. To account for restrictions on travel, the KKNK introduced short films to their festival content along with a number of online community projects. With physical location and timeframes no longer an issue in the online environment, festival activities were offered throughout the year. In 2021 with safety concerns around live gatherings and lockdown restrictions still in place, the KKNK continued with the virtual festival format as their main offering and also hosted some small COVID-compliant live events for a hybrid festival format. To increase the accessibility of online theatre shows, the KKNK has partnered with VIA, an Afrikaans television channel available to subscribers, to air four theatre productions.
Marketing poster for KKNK Oraloor (everywhere), the 2021 virtual edition of the KKNK. The festival attempted to reach audiences wherever they were and content would be accessible “on television, on the silver screen and even in the palm of your hand”
Data were collected via an online audience survey, focus groups discussions with festival organisers and sponsors, and a “Letters from the Future” project.
64% of the survey respondents had attended the KKNK 4 or more times before, highlighting that the festival was able to retain a large portion of the loyal audience during the transition to an online medium. The festival also managed to attract new audience members (14%) who had not attended any form of the KKNK prior to 2021. During 2020, the most popular event attend at the virtual KKNK was the Virtual Art Gallery (60%) whereas in 2021, theatre (76%) and music productions (65%) were the most attended events by the survey respondents. Most of the events were rated as “good” or “excellent”. 82% of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that the KKNK helped them better understand and enjoy arts and culture within a South African context.
The website received the most “excellent” ratings (41%), which is a good sign since the KKNK invested in updating their website to enhance performance and end-user experience. This was one of the strengths of the KKNK’s virtual adaptation compared to some other South African festivals who struggled with their websites. However, it should be remembered that the digital divide in South Africa means that it is difficult for audiences and artists to make the shift to online participation in arts festivals.
Audience Ratings of Festival Events/Components
66% of the respondents preferred the live face-to-face event more than the online pre-recorded or streamed event, a finding that is consistent across festivals participating in this research – although there are benefits of online events, there is no replacement for live festivals. Additionally, we can compare attendance between the last two editions of the festivals which were both online. There was some online audience development which built on the success of the 2020 online festival as 55% of respondents were newcomers to the online edition of the KKNK in 2021, and 33% were repeat attendees, having attended both online editions of the festival. This indicates a generally positive reaction amongst the survey participants to the KKNK’s online festival editions. However, there is a preference for the live festival as 12% of respondents attended the 2020 festival and chose to not attend in 2021.
Focus group discussions with Festival organisers and sponsors revealed the huge disruption that COVID-19 caused, but also the great opportunity it provided for innovation and rethinking the core vision and purpose of the KKNK. The shift to an online format was a way to maintain business continuity and provide work opportunities for artists, but there was also concern about the impact of this strategy on the host city, and a desire to still be able to contribute economically to the town of Oudtshoorn and bring people together for social cohesion and connectivity purposes. The close relationship and collaborative approach to the KKNK adaptation strategy has been unique amongst the festivals participating in this research, with input from festival organisers, the local community, and sponsors.
In both the 2020 and 2021 editions of the festival, there is a strong theme of community and connectivity as the KKNK attempted to move beyond a passive viewing of artistic works by including a number of online community activities. These were designed to connect people and inspire them to be creative during a difficult time by making art in multiple forms such as crochet and poetry. An online international programme for artists to collaborate was also introduced. Lastly, in 2021, a virtual version of Oudtshoorn was created where online visitors could ‘walk’ through the town and recreate a live festival experience.
In both online festival editions, there has been a focus on quality. This is important for an online festival as they are competing with a lot of other online content, some of which is free. The festival offering thus needed to be of a high technical quality as well as being new and exciting in order to tempt audiences and to cut through screen fatigue. This also helped with the monetization of festival content which is something that many of the festivals participating in this research have struggled with.
The KKNk’s primary sponsor has been closely collaborating with the management team to continue to support the festival. They stated that their motivation to continue to provide support to a festival, where they cannot reap the usual return on investment through marketing and promotion at the live event, is based on supporting creative communities, Oudtshoorn communities and audiences while having the opportunity to be a part of something new with the potential to innovate. While there has been a decline in festival finances, the innovative business models adopted by the KKNK, and the ongoing loyalty of sponsors has helped the festival to manage. However, as with all festival partners in the Future Festival South Africa research, longer-term financial sustainability and content monetisation remain a challenge.
The “Letters from the Future” project received submissions from artists, audiences, festival organisers and sponsors. Participants used the opportunity to imagine what the KKNK 2030 edition would be like. Themes included reflections on live versus digital experiences and how these could become intertwined in the future; new ways of using technology to transform the overall KKNK experience and make the festival easier to navigate; the role the festival plays in connectedness, inclusion and togetherness; as well as how the festival relates to its environment in terms of being green and performance spaces expanding into nature. A wide range of values associated with the KKNK were articulated. Some imagined futures were pessimistic (where some important attributes of the festival had been lost), but most were optimistic, imagining a festival, and a country, that was inclusive, progressive, and thriving, although sometimes different from what had been done in the past. These letters from the future offered a wide range of visions of the KKNK 2030 – indicating the many types of value that the festival has (and could have) for its diverse audiences, artists, and communities.
The KKNK has tried to remain true to their mission in their virtual festival adaptation strategy by supporting the arts and artists, providing quality content, supporting communities and promoting social cohesion. Through this process, the KKNK have innovated with the content they offer and the virtual platforms they use in terms of content delivery and moving beyond a passive viewing experience. The space to be creative and innovative has been an unexpected positive aspect of the pandemic.
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The NAF was one of the first festivals in South Africa to move completely online to a virtual festival format in 2020, and to attempt a hybrid approach in 2021. However, just 10 days before the 2021 festival was due to start, South Africa entered into a strict lockdown that did not allow for live audiences. The NAF quickly regrouped and took the entire festival online with recorded and live-streamed performances. Since the planning and implementation of a hybrid approach to a festival has already been figured out, this should stand the NAF in good stead for future hybrid festivals as South Africa recovers from COVID-19. The NAF’s experience also illustrates the importance of flexibility in planning to be able to adapt quickly to changing situations.
To collect information on how the NAF has navigated the crisis, research methods included online focus group discussions with festival organisers, an online audience survey, an analysis of Google Analytics website activity data, and a “Letters from the Future” project.
Audience responses to the online editions of the NAF were mostly positive: 45% of respondents rated the NAF between 8 and 10 out of 10 for overall experience in 2021. The NAF tends to have a loyal audience as 57% of respondents reported having been to 4 or more previous editions of the festival and continuing to support the NAF in their online transition. There is also some evidence that the NAF succeeded in building new audiences: 25% of respondents said they were attending for the first time or had been only once before.
Survey respondents tended to enjoy the 2021 virtual NAF as the majority of ratings were in the “good” or “excellent” categories for most components. While generally quite similar, younger festinos gave higher ratings to the Fringe Live, Exhibitions, Workshops and Webinars and the Eastern Cape Showcase (although note the small number of responses in the latter 3 categories), while older festinos rated Livestream and Jazz more highly.
Audience ratings of Festival components
Respondents were also asked to indicate which aspects of the National Arts Festival Online Experience they had particularly enjoyed or not enjoyed. The majority of festinos (79%) said that they enjoyed being able to participate in the Festival from home, without having to travel. Smaller groups said that they appreciated having to pay less for tickets (32%); being able to move quickly and easily between shows and events (29%); and not having to “dress up and go to see shows and events” (28%).
Aspects of the Online Festival that were enjoyed
In terms of aspects that were not enjoyed, nearly three-quarters of respondents said that they missed the “excitement and vibe of going to a live event” (74%), and that they missed the experiential aspects - “the sense of connection to performers and artists that you get at a live event” (73%). Smaller groups missed being able to “socialise and party with friends and fellow festival-goers” (49%), not being able to experience the food and drinks on offer (39%); and not being able to travel to a new place (30%). Only 13% reported that they had struggled with the technology in accessing online content.
More than half (57%) of respondents felt that they definitely preferred the live event; 26% said that they liked the live event, but that the online edition of the Festival was also fun. Much smaller groups said that they liked some aspects of the online event more than the live event (14%) or that they definitely preferred the online event (3%). These results imply that, while there is definite potential for hybrid events, most respondents miss the experiential aspects of attending a live Festival and would want to return to that in the future, at least in part. Accessibility is also increased by having online events, though this is hampered by the digital divide in South Africa.
Finally, respondents were asked to rate their National Arts Festival Experience 2021 overall on a 1 to 10 scale, where 1 meant “very bad” and 10 meant “excellent”. As shown in the figure, ratings were generally good, with 45% of respondents rating their overall experience as an 8, 9 or 10 out of 10 (good to excellent). 32% of respondents rated their experience as a 6 or 7 out of 10 (fair to good); and 23% rated it as 5 or below (fair to poor). For those who rated the overall Festival as 1 to 5, the most common reason was because of the difficulty in navigating the website.
Overall ratings of National Arts Festival Experience
However, there was a marked reduction in NAF online activity between 2020 and 2021 as an analysis of Google Analytics data showed. This may be because of other events at the time of the 2021 festival edition (such as the social unrest in some provinces in South Africa, an increase in COVID-19 lockdown level, and the Olympic games), but may also be because of general “screen fatigue”. The much higher bounce rate in 2021 may also indicate that aspects of the NAF website user experience could be improved.
In terms of audience behaviour, online audience views of 2020 shows built up over the first few days of the festival to peak at day 10, before steadily decreasing again. The decrease beyond the first ten days of each festival is to be expected, since the NAF has always been a 10-day event, and livestreamed content was available during this time. Insights from the daily popularity of the site allows festival organisers to deduce when the site is most active and to use this information to schedule livestreams to optimize viewership and revenue generation. Thursday, Friday and Saturday were the most popular days for both 2020 and 2021. Hourly data for both years shows that the visitors peak between 7pm and 9pm and dip between 3am and 5am. Given these patterns, it would be ideal for festival organisers to schedule livestreams from Thursdays to Sundays between 7pm and 9pm for optimal viewership.
The online environment does offer the potential for the NAF to reach more international audiences. 80% of the visitors in 2020 came from South Africa and this decreased to 75% in 2021. For both 2020 and 2021 most foreign visitors came from the United States and the United Kingdom.
As with almost all South African festivals who moved to an online format, monetization of content was a challenge, and the festival relied on public and private sponsors in order to continue. The fall in income generated from ticket sales and spending data reflect a general challenge with online cultural events: that monetising the content is difficult. This may be because of falling household incomes during the pandemic, but the relatively high-income levels of most respondents cast doubt on this explanation. Other reasons for lower online spending could be the very high levels of competition and variety in online content, much of which is provided for free on platforms like YouTube, or at very low prices on OTT services like Netflix. It may also be that online content, which in many cases audiences are used to being able to access for free, is not perceived as having the same value as an in-person experience.
The change in format to include online and hybrid festival events necessitated a huge investment in skills and a steep learning curve for managers, artistic directors and creatives. A key factor management had to keep in mind was their reason for adapting and why they were continuing to produce a festival during a global pandemic. For many festivals, including the NAF, supporting festival stakeholders like artists and technical crews has been an important motivation. The NAF took on a collaborative role, supporting artists in their production of online content by providing access to recording studios, workshops and webinars.
The COVID-19 pandemic, although devastating, has acted as an opportunity in disguise to re- evaluate and redesign the NAF. Using the metaphor of a tree, the NAF organisers discuss the need for a “hard prune” to cut away what no longer works and re-grow the festival by introducing new components and re-thinking the festival format and offering so that it is sustainable in the long-run and functions as a healthy tree. Though a difficult process, the pandemic has prompted several festivals interviewed for this research to refocus on their core mission, aims and objectives. For the NAF, the heart of the festival resides in Makhanda. This has become apparent to festival organises through the pivot to an online festival where there is a feeling that so much of what makes a festival was lost.
The futuring project sought to provide festival audiences, artists, and organisers with the opportunity to step back and imagine what the NAF could be like in 2030. Many of the scenarios imagined ways in which online and mobile technology and applications could be used to increase the accessibility, collaboration and inclusivity of the future NAF. Interestingly, the physical location of the festival remained important (“the heart of the festival”), and ways of building on its historical context and sense of African identity while expanding its reach was a recurring theme.
Still image of the NAF portal created by artists blk banaana (Duduetsang Lamola) and Francois Knoetze representing ideas from the Letters from the Future. This interactive world acts as a portal for the further imagining of the NAF and can be explored at https://seekbeak.com/v/35ze4nP91An
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The Cape Town Carnival, established in 2010, is a street parade that showcases and celebrates the diversity of Cape Town and South Africa. Although the parade is the highlight, the Carnival works with creative professionals and local communities throughout the year to develop the costumes, music and dances that make up the event.
In this report, the Future Festivals South Africa team explores how the carnival has changed and adapted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, tracking the Cape Town Carnival's evolution from 2020 to 2021.
The Cape Town Carnival had to cancel their annual street parade just days before it was due to be held in March 2020. The organising team refocused on their core purpose to "ignite joy and unity through creativity" which proved crucial to their success as it inspired their adaptations and helped them to persevere through the challenges of designing a new Covid-safe carnival format. In 2020, the Carnival shifted to an online format that allowed them to continue working with creatives and community groups, and then designed a scalable hybrid event for 2021.
The Cape Town Carnival has shown that flexibility is key in adapting to Covid-19. They have positioned themselves well for the future with stronger community bonds in place and a more diverse range of business models that includes scalable live and virtual elements.
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Researchers from the Future Festival team are involved in two dissemination events in the coming weeks.
Prof Jen Snowball will talk at the 8th edition of DUT’s Faculty of Arts and Design Digital Festival (DigiFest08) that will be held as a virtual event from 19th to 21st October 2021. This event, themed UNMASKED, will promote collaborative practices (creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship) in art, design, and technology. She will contribute to the panel The new possibilities of digital festivals due to the pandemic
Dr Roberta Comunian and Mr Delon Tarentaal are contributing to the Association for Cultural Economics International online seminar series this Tuesday 26 October, 2021 / 16:00 Central European Time during a Mini-symposium on ‘Cultural festivals in an era of C19: New Research Agendas and Data Sources’
Prof Jen Snowball, Rhodes University, South Africa
Prof Ian Woodward, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
Dr Roberta Comunian, King’s College, London, United Kingdom
Mr Delon Tarentaal, Rhodes University, South Africa
For more information http://culturaleconomics.org/about/seminar/
What does the future hold?
Take a stance and stand a chance to win - prizes of R60 000 are up for grabs. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, festivals from all over the world need to think anew, this includes the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK). Write us a letter from the future and tell us how you see the KKNK in 2030. Voice notes, videos or sketches can be submitted instead of a letter.
Please click below to participate:
Droom Saam oor die Toekoms van die KKNK
Hoe lyk die toekoms?
Waag 'n mening en staan 'n kans om te wen - pryse van R60 000 is op die spel. Weens die Covid-19 pandemie moet feeste van regoor die wêreld nuut dink, dit sluit die Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) in. Skryf vir ons 'n brief uit die toekoms en vertel hoe jy die KKNK in 2030 sien. Stemnota's, video, of sketse kan in plaas van 'n brief ingedien word.
Klik asseblief hieronder om deel te neem:
What will the National Arts Festival be like in 2030?
Future Festivals South Africa is working with the National Arts Festival as a research partner to ask about the future of festivals in South Africa.
Artists blk banaana (Duduetsang Lamola) and Francois Knoetze have created an interactive 360 world including public contributions of imaginary spaces, places and people which could form part of the National Arts Festival ten years from now.
This interactive world acts as a portal for the further imagining of the National Arts Festival ten years from now. We welcome new contributions towards this project in any format, for example: a photograph or scan of small collages created from home, a letter, an idea, a poem, a voice note or a sound recording.
Be free and imaginative with your contributions!
Explore the portal and contribute to the imagining the National Arts Festival 2030