Organised by the National Arts Festival team, Africa's largest and most colourful cultural event offers a choice of the very best of both indigenous and imported talent.
Every year for 11 days Grahamstown's population doubles, as people flock to the city for a feast of arts, crafts and sheer entertainment. Every hall or large room becomes a theatre, parks and sport fields become flea markets, normally quiet streets have to be managed by an army of temporary traffic wardens, and every available bed in the city is booked. The festival offers more than 500 shows from opera, cabaret, drama and jazz to stand-up comics and folk music.
While many come to take in the arts, others simply want to be here for the spectacle or to market products ranging from tie-dyed T-shirts and woven rugs to handmade jewellery and customised telephones. The festival operates out of the 1820 Settlers National Monument and is organised by the Grahamstown Foundation.
The NAF is proudly sponsored by the Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, the National Arts Council,the National Lottery and the SABC.
Experience a hassle free Festival by keeping a few basic guidelines in mind when planning your programme. Here is a short list of tips for first-time adventurers.
FESTIVAL FIRST-TIMERS should plan carefully. Book some shows ahead. Allow enough time to view exhibitions, take a tour, to shop at the craft fairs and to fit in any hit shows that are creating a buzz.
THE FESTIVAL PROGRAMME: contains all information on both Main and Fringe events. Order a copy from the Festival Office or purchase a copy on arrival in Grahamstown at any of the Information Centres.
FREE OFFERINGS: Sundowner Concerts (17:00 daily in the Monument Foyer); art exhibitions, Street Theatre; and "craft-gazing" at the Transnet Village Green Fair and Clover Square.
A VENUE MAP: appears in the booking kit, the programme and loose copies are available at the Information Centres, hotels and residences. Detailed maps of Grahamstown may be purchased at the Makana Tourism office on Church Square.
HOPPER BUSES: The timetable for the Hopper service is printed on the back of the loose venue maps.
A CARRY-ALL: is useful for carrying your programme, souvenirs, umbrella, sunscreen etc.
FOOD: Apart from the restuarants and food stalls on the streets, most venues offer a steady supply of sustenance at all hours. Alcohol beverages are on sale at many venues.
CUE: The daily Festival Newspapers contains reviews and articles by leading arts writers, daily schedules, updates and programme changes. Find out what's hot and what's not in the Cue Clips section.
DRESS CODE: Informal but do anticipate unpredictable weather. Comfortable shoes are essential. Dress in layers and keep coats and scarves at hand as it may become bitterly cold.
PROGRAMME CHANGES: Prominently displayed notices at the Booking Offices as well as in Cue, will keep you updated on changes and cancellations. Starting times are adhered to as strictly as possible but please allow at least 50 minutes between performances. We regret that no refunds on tickets can be made for late arrivals.
THE FRINGE: In contrast to the Main Festival events, which are selected by the Festival Committee, the Fringe is open to all applicants, without pre-selection. Some of the most exciting artistic development and dynamic talents in our country were first spotted on the Fringe in Grahamstown. We urge you when selecting shows to see at least one that you know nothing about. You never know, it may turn out to be the highlight of the Festival.
TICKETS: If still available, tickets may also be bought at performance venues 30 minutes prior to starting times.