The National Arts Festival from June 28 to July 8 is an annual feast of theatre, dance, performance art, music, visual art and more and can be packaged into a rewarding Eastern Cape holiday. Here are some ideas for what you can get up to in the Eastern Cape before or after the Festival.
Culture and Coast
The Eastern Cape’s endless beach options have plenty to offer. From Port Alfred to Kenton-on-Sea and Cannon Rocks you can check in at a B&B or rent a big home and pack it full of friends and family for days filled with beach walks, cook-ups and board games. Warm, sunny days are not unusual at this time and the odd swim in the Indian Ocean could even be on the cards. Excellent kite-surfing, fishing and canoeing will keep everyone active and there’s whale spotting and bird-watching for the more laconic. Visit local restaurants and experience genuine Eastern Cape hospitality. Take a look at www.sunshinecoasttourism.co.za and www.kentontourism.co.za for some more ideas.
Culture and Bush
The Addo Elephant National Park is the only nature reserve in the country to lay claim to the Big 7, although it is primarily famous for its elephants, which visitors are almost certain to spot. Stay in or around Addo for a convenient bush holiday escape. If you are in the market for a luxurious adventure, check in at one of the area’s top game lodges. Pumba Game Reserve offers safari experiences for overnight and day visitors www.pumbagamereserve.co.za
Farm stays are another option for getting some down time even whilst enjoying the National Arts Festival as some of them are close enough to Grahamstown to use as a base. The Festival’s Hospitality Brochure lists a whole lot of farm and country stays and it’s worth look.
Culture on a Budget
Grahamstown still has many options for reasonable accommodation, as does the surrounding Eastern Cape area. Winter is considered off-season at most beach towns with many of them offering special prices so you are sure to snap up a deal – and its only a scenic half hour drive to Grahamstown. The area also boasts many backpackers. If you have the time, a trip into the Transkei is worth considering. See the Wild Coasts of South Africa and meet its warmest people along the way.
Kids and Culture
The National Arts Festival is completely geared up for families. The Children’s Art Festival http://childrensartsfestival.co.za, held in association with St Andrew’s Preparatory School, offers supervised programmes for children from 4 – 13 years. The National Arts Festival also has a full programme of family shows on offer – many of which are a delight for parents too! Afterwards the beach or bush options will make for a memorable adventure no matter the weather.
The Cultural Road Trip
If you have time to soak up the scenery and enjoy the journey, make the National Arts Festival the destination of a cultural road trip by plotting a route that includes a few interesting stops. The Platteland Preview is an annual event that takes place in Smithfield in the Free State just before the National Arts Festival. The small Karoo town opens its homes to artists performing at the National Arts Festival in return for some performances for the town itself.
Meander through Art Map SA’s Contemporary and Fine Arts Route for the Garden Route or get ahead of the rush and attend the Morgan’s Bay Footprints Festival (22-24 June) where you can enjoy live performances, traditional dancing and share in their vision for social cohesion.
Spreading out further afield, make a trip past Nieu Bethesda and the Owl House; home of artist Helen Martins who, together (for the most part) with Koos Malgas, created a fantastical collection of sculptures embarking for the mystical East from her home and garden.
Passing through Cradock, you can also visit the Olive Schreiner Museum in the home she had as a little girl http://www.thegreatkaroo.com/listing/olive_schreiner_house_cradock
Closer to Grahamstown, stop in at Port Elizabeth to visit The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum; home to an impressive collection, ranging from British and Oriental art to international printmaking and art from the Eastern Cape.
FAST FACT: The National Arts Festival contributes R377.15 million to the economy of the Eastern Cape Province. (source: The Social, Cultural and Economic Impact of the 2016 National Arts Festival by Snowball and Antrobus)
The National Arts Festival has a comprehensive guide to accommodation, transport and more at https://www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/2018-festival/travel-stay-2018/
Other handy resources for planning your trip to the Festival and beyond
Makana Tourism – for more on where to stay and what to do in Grahamstown http://www.grahamstown.co.za
Eastern Cape Tourism for comprehensive information and assistance with the broader region http://www.visiteasterncape.co.za
For more information about the National Arts Festival 2018 and for all the latest news on the programme please visit:
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DATES TO DIARISE
A select range of must-see shows will start to go live for booking, see https://www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/events/ for more
The full National Arts Festival programme will go live online and all shows will open for booking
The National Arts Festival printed programme will be available at select Exclusive Books and Standard Bank branches, as well as at some theatres across SA.
28 June – 8 July
The National Arts Festival presents a packed programme of incredible shows, discussions, public art, entertainment and more!
ABOUT THE MAIN PROGRAMME
The Artistic Committee, comprising experts in various disciplines, selects the content of the Main programme. Work from both within and outside South Africa is considered, with the following criteria in mind: the artistic merits of any submission; the creation of a varied and balanced programme and the costs involved.