Arts & Lifestyle 2020 National Arts Festival to go ahead – but as a virtual...

2020 National Arts Festival to go ahead – but as a virtual fest

Amid coronavirus fears, the annual festival is taking a different approach

Organisers of the 2020 National Arts Festival have been wracking their brains for a plan on how to approach the huge annual event in the context of the coronavirus pandemic and have come up with a novel solution – it will be going “virtual”.  

In a statement from the National Arts Festival (NAF) on Tuesday, the organisers explain the ban on more than 100 people gathering in any public space presents a tricky problem. 

Precautionary measures

Also, because of the travel ban effective from Wednesday, and limits on the use of public transport, artists and visitors may not be able to get to Makhanda for the festival.

“We don’t want to contribute to the spread of the virus and fully understand that this is a time for isolation.”

The National Arts Festival 

“We’ve decided to do something bold and something we have never done before.” 

“From June 25 to July 5, the festival will be going completely virtual for the full 11 days of amazing.”

A virtual approach means the event can continue to support artists and the arts, but with the work presented within a digital space. 

“This way we can share some magic and hope with those who may still be confined to their homes; an opportunity to connect when we are being asked to distance ourselves from one another.”  

A virtual show

The organisers went on to say artists relied on festivals like these for income through ticket sales, networking and getting their work seen. 

“Rather than cancel, we aim to create a new opportunity for artists and audiences alike to celebrate the arts, and to create an accessible platform for artists to share their work.”

With just over 100 days until opening day, the organisers decided to take the step to go virtual now rather than wait it out. 

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They felt they could not ask artists to prep for a festival that might or might not go ahead, and also couldn’t expect festival-goers to make accommodation and travel plans, and book shows, when everything is still up in the air because of the coronavirus. 

The 2020 National Arts Festival will make history by being the first ever virtual edition.
The organisers know the virus will have an enormous impact on the economic stability of Makhanda and the Eastern Cape, but hope to make the new format work. They will announce in the next few weeks what the festival will offer and how it will work. 

The NAF is engaging with donors and sponsors regarding these plans, and will liaise directly with artists and traders already registered for the 2020 event. 

Scifest Africa, also to be held in Makhanda, has been postponed and will now take place from September 9 to 15. The Eastern Cape Schools Festival will also be postponed to September, with final dates to be confirmed.

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