Arts & Lifestyle National Arts Festival gets ball rolling on application process for 2021

National Arts Festival gets ball rolling on application process for 2021

After a year that forced one of South Africa’s most-loved festivals to go wholly virtual as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a plan is well underway to have a live festival once more. 

Organisers of the National Arts Festival say the 2021 event will take place, most likely in July, but that it will be a hybrid between an online and a live, physical festival. They are also urging artists to submit their interest to be considered for the event. 

 “It’s obviously difficult to predict what will happen next year, but we will be going ahead with a 2021 festival and will adapt our formula if need be,” artistic director Rucera Seethal said. 

The 2020 festival, held in June/July, was fully virtual and attracted more than 80,000 visitors online during its month-long run. 

Makhanda (previously Grahamstown) will still be the physical epicentre of the National Arts Festival, but the live event will likely be smaller, more compact and focused than in previous years, in keeping with level one lockdown requirements. 


Nobulumko Mngxekeza and Philisa Sibeko in Macbeth, one of the shows at the 2020 Virtual National Arts Festival (Image by Nicky Newman)

The organisers are, of course, mindful that these plans will depend on the prevailing Covid-19 regulations and protocols. 

“We are designing a safe and inspiring experience for everyone involved – audiences and artists alike – and we think a smaller festival is apt in these times,” Seethal said.

Artists have been heavily affected by the lockdowns and the arts are only just starting to re-emerge in the live space after months of inactivity. 

“As an arts festival, we are going to do everything we can to support artists, while also facilitating the presentation of new directions in the arts,” Seethal said. 

A scene from Pepper’s Ghost by the Centre for the Less Good Idea, one of the shows on at the 2020 Virtual National Arts Festival.

The organisers are calling for Expressions of Interest General for programmed work for the festival. The call for the Fringe will go live on January 25 2021. Those keen to participate in the Village Green will also be invited to apply in 2021. 

The application form has been shortened and simplified to make it easier for artists to apply. Artists can apply with a work in progress, an idea for a new work or a piece that has already been made or performed.

The deadline for submitting expressions of interest is midnight on December 20. For more information, visit: https://nationalartsfestival.co.za/open-call-for-expressions-of-interest-for-national-arts-festival-2021/