Arts & Lifestyle National Arts Festival unpacks new digital format

National Arts Festival unpacks new digital format

The National Arts Festival explains how the festival will function online.

The National Arts Festival announced in March that this year’s edition of the popular arts showcase would be a virtual rather than physical event. 

In a webinar on April 21 the organisers explained how the first-ever digital edition of the 46-year-old festival would work.  

The decision to go virtual

The decision to go virtual was made with artists in mind, says CEO Monica Newton.

“We considered postponing but the timeline looked very uncertain.The only other time of the year to consider would have been December, which is impossibly hot in Makhanda(previously known as Grahamstown.”  

Monica Newton

Artistic director Rucera Seethal says going virtual was a difficult decision, but better than cancelling altogether.  

The virtual fest will run from June 25 to July 5 and can be viewed on the National Arts Festival’s website. The website will become a portal to short films, virtual exhibitions, online workshops, and other experiences and events.

Technical director Nicci Spalding says this will achieve two things – first, protect the artists’ work from being downloaded or copied; and second, allow the festival to manage access to the work as most of the programme will require virtual audiences to buy tickets.

Seethal says it’s important for the arts to retain its value in the shift to an online space. 

How it works for the audience

Visitors will be able to buy ticket packages enabling them to view a selection of works. Besides the live works they will also be able to view most of the shows at their leisure.

Each day of the festival will offer an online programme for audiences to choose from.  

Seethal says the organisers are still open to ideas from artists and producers – also for ways to collaborate, offer resources and mentorship. There is an ideas form on the festival where suggestions can be posted. 

The festival will have a curated programme for each of the 11 days, mixing theatre, comedy, visual arts, workshops, talks and experiences as well as elements of the Standard Bank Creativate Digital Arts Festival programme, which shares cutting-edge work in the spaces where art and technology meet. 

Open-access platform for all artists

There will also be an uncurated, open-access platform for artists to share work and generate revenue from ticket sales.  

Fringe festival manager Zikhona Monaheng says this platform will allow anyone whose work was not chosen for the curated daily programme to put their work online and potentially make some money.

The festival will take a 10% handling fee to manage ticket transactions in the open-platform space, leaving  artists with 90% of the takings. A call for submissions for the open access platform will open soon.  

The Standard Bank Village Green will also go virtual. A digital gallery will be available so  visitors and traders can engage with each other.  

The webinar can be viewed here.

A summary of questions  asked during the webinar, and their answers, will be on its website.  

To contribute ideas, resources or work complete the ideas form.

The initial webinar will be followed by others  – sign up for the festival’s newsletter to receive more information. You can follow National Arts Festival on Twitter (@artsfestival), Instagram (@nationalartsfestival), Facebook (@nationalartsfestivalmakhanda) and YouTube (National Arts Festival). 

Share your Covid-19 #lockdown experiences on our Facebook group, Lockdown Diaries South Africa.