The Future Festivals South Africa project has been mapping the South African festivals landscape and how it has been impacted by COVID-19 shutdown. With COVID-related social distancing measures unlikely to ease to allow large in-person gatherings in 2021, festivals continue to be hard hit by the pandemic. Of the 214 cultural festivals that we mapped for 2019, only 116 took place in 2020.
Of the 214 festivals that occurred in South Africa in 2019, the largest groups were mixed Arts and Culture festivals (43%) and Music festivals (38%), with smaller numbers of Film (9%), Literary (8%) and Comedy (2%) festivals. In 2020, approximately half of the Arts and Culture and Music festivals that occurred in 2019 were cancelled. However, Film, Literary and Comedy festivals adapted quite well to the restrictions, mainly by pivoting to online “virtual” festival formats. With only 28 festivals having occurred before lockdown, adaptation strategies included having smaller, in-person live events that complied with lockdown regulations (17 festivals), a hybrid (online and "live") event (7 festivals) or moving online to have a "virtual" digital festival, which was the most popular response (64 events).
The Western Cape hosted 93 festivals in 2019, making it the largest festival hosting province. Gauteng was the next largest hosting province with 54 festivals, followed by KwaZulu-Natal (22 festivals) and the Eastern Cape (16 festivals). The remaining five provinces all hosted fewer than 10 festivals each. In 2020, the Western Cape (50 festivals) and Gauteng (33 festivals) remained the largest hosting provinces. KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape also faired quite well hosting 14 and 8 festivals respectively. The Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape each hosted less than 5 festivals while all festivals the North West were cancelled.
As the COVID-19 situation in South Africa continues to evolve, the Future Festivals South Africa project will map the 2021 festival responses to the pandemic.