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Wednesday, July 6, 2011


The National Arts Festival in Grahamstown has announced sales figures for the first four days – which show an overall 6% increase when compared to the same point in the 2010 event.

“With seven sales days to go, the combined Main and Fringe attendance is up firmly over both the 2010 and 2009 figures,” Festival CEO Tony Lankester said.

Since 2010 was a slightly unusual year, spanning 15 days and running during the FIFA World Cup, the Festival is also using comparisons with the 2009 event in its’ analysis.

“It is interesting that the overall figure is being driven by extremely strong sales for Main productions, which have leapt about 50% since last year,” Lankester said. “We saw, in the first half of the Festival, very good houses across the board.”

Main productions which were 100% sold out in the first few days of the Festival include Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Music Ben Schoeman’s two piano recitals; Cape Town City Ballet’s Swan Lake; Mark Bank’s two performances in the Transnet Great Hall, Iris Brunette, Lloyd Webber and Friends and the Gala Concert.

“A couple of talks on the ThinkFest programme were also sold out – including Justice Albie Sachs, Richard Cock and Denis Beckett,” Lankester said.

A few performances scheduled for the second half of the Festival – including Sandra Prinsloo’s performance in ‘night Mother, and the Irish company Fidget Feet’s Madam Silk – are already sold out. “Apart from those productions, though, there is plenty on offer for lovers of theatre, jazz, classical music and dance,” Lankester said.

Turning to the Fringe, the Festival has announced that sales are largely the same as last year, but that this may be driven largely by structural changes to the Festival “In 2010 we introduced the Arena which includes many productions that, traditionally, would have appeared on the Fringe and which, now, are included in the Main figures,” Lankester explained.

Having noted that, there have been many Fringe productions that have enjoyed sold out performances in the first half of the Festival – including last year’s hits Big Boys Don’t Dance, London Road and the newest instalment of the ‘Raiders’ franchise, called Rocket Raiders.

Festival management expect that the momentum of sales will continue into the second half of this year’s event. “We are expecting that some of the drawcards on the programme like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Selaelo Selota, theatre productions like The History Boys and Shakespeare’s R&J as well as dance productions such as Lovaffair are going to keep public interest high through to the end of the Festival,” Lankester said. “We’ve also had a large number of Fringe productions that have been named as Standard Bank Ovation Award winners, and we are starting to see audiences gravitate to them.”

In addition, the introduction of the ‘50% Fringe’ for the last day of the Festival, which will see all Fringe tickets selling at a 50% discount, is expected to draw additional crowds from Grahamstown and elsewhere in the Eastern Cape as day-trippers make the most of the extra Festival day.

“We’ve had great support, excellent houses and reasonable, although slightly chilly, weather so far,” Lankester said. “We look forward to a great second half and, with thousands of performances still to come, we encourage those who aren’t here to make a snap decision to join us for a few more days of AMAZ!NG.”

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