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Sunday, August 17, 2014


The National Arts Festival and the City of Cape Town have entered a partnership which will see the launch of a new performing arts festival in September, modelled on some of the world’s iconic events.

The new Cape Town Fringe is inspired by the energy and ethos of popular Fringe Festivals in New York, Amsterdam, Adelaide and Edinburgh, and will feature “young, dynamic and cutting edge” work from some of the country’s leading theatre-makers, according to Festival CEO Tony Lankester.

“The Fringe model rests on two pillars – firstly the nature of the work on a Fringe is such that it is bold, innovative, exciting and it pushes boundaries for both artists and audiences; secondly a Fringe festival has a business model behind it which encourages independence and sustainability, while costs are shared between performers,” he said.

The Cape Town Fringe aims to present around 40 productions in venues in and around the city centre, as well as in satellite venues in areas such as Langa. “Access is critical to the success of a Fringe and was a big factor in our decision to proceed with this project,” Executive Deputy Mayor, Ian Neilson, acting Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing said. “Ticket pricing, choice of venues as well as the scheduling of performances all contribute to making a Fringe Festival appeal to as many people as possible, both traditional and non-traditional theatre-going audiences.”

A public call for proposals was made at the launch of the event, with the Festival’s Artistic Director, Ismail Mahomed, saying that organisers were looking for work that is “brash, bold, cheeky, outspoken, confident, socially aware and independent”.

“The Fringe model means that productions will pay a modest registration and venue hire fee, and then take the lion’s share of the box office,” Mahomed explained. “The Fringe itself then manages the bulk of the marketing, ticket sales, venue setup and all the staffing, financial, technical and legal requirements for the event.”

While the Fringe will use as many as 16 venues, Cape Town’s City Hall will form the ‘home base’ for the event, and will boast several performance venues and a Fringe Hub where artists, audiences and the media will gather at the end of each day.

“That kind of hub is critical – it breaks down walls between performers and their audiences, and it creates a sense of Fringe community around the event,” Lankester said.

The choice of Cape Town as a host city came about after the National Arts Festival conducted an extensive analysis of where to stage a new Festival.

“We wanted to extend our reach beyond Grahamstown and stage a new Fringe in a City which already puts creativity at the forefront; which has a strong and loyal theatre-going audience; which has the right energy for a free-spirited event such as this; and which has the scale to grow the Fringe over time, without losing the sense of intimacy that is so important,” Lankester said. “On each of those scores Cape Town came out tops – it’s the best possible home for the country’s newest Festival.”

The National Arts Festival is a member of the prestigious World Fringe Alliance – a grouping of nine Fringe Festivals which, collectively, reach an audience of over 3-million people. Alliance membership comprises the Fringe Festivals in Grahamstown, Hollywood, New York, Edinburgh, Brighton, Prague, Amsterdam, Perth and Adelaide.

“We’re building the Cape Town Fringe on this bedrock of global best practice,” Lankester, who was the founding Chair of the Alliance, said. “Through our network we will be able to bring some great international productions to Cape Town, and continue creating opportunities for our artists to travel the world.”

The City have committed to partner on the project for a three-year period, provided the event meets certain attendance and participation targets. Ian Neilson added: “We want this event to not only enrich the lives of residents, but also to create jobs, contribute to the economy and drive tourism. The National Arts Festival team delivers one of the world’s best-known and biggest events each year in Grahamstown. Through this partnership they will weave the same magic in Cape Town and put the City on the world Fringe map.”

The Cape Town Fringe will run from September 25 until October 5, 2014. The call for proposals is currently open and more information can be found at