National Arts Festival
It’s one of the country’s biggest bucket-list cultural and social celebrations but arriving without a plan has its couch-surfing consequences.The National Arts Festival’s website is loaded with information on how to get to the Festival, and there is an active community of experienced Festival-goers on Twitter and on the Festival’s Facebook page. Chatting on these platforms will help sideline procrastination and get the ball rolling for a Festival that shouldn’t be missed:
FLY OR DRIVE
There are numerous flights into Port Elizabeth and East London from all the major airports in South Africa. From the airport, a 130km trip in a hire car will connect visitors to Grahamstown. The National Arts Festival and Blunden Tours operate a bus service between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth Airport (the last trip serves the 20:00 flight) with a single fare of R300 and R600 return. Prior booking is essential on 0860 002 004. Van Rensburg Shuttle Service operates between PE and Grahamstown as well. Contact 083 654 3242 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A drive to Grahamstown from Cape Town is 872km (via the Garden Route) and from Johannesburg 992km (via Colesburg). Make a road trip of it and stop off along the way. Visitors coming from Johannesburg or Bloemfontein, should make a beeline for Smithfield and their annual Platteland Preview Festival, which falls on 24-26 June this year. The small town hosts artists en-route to the National Arts Festival in return for a very special sneak-peek at their shows.
FINDING A BED
As a small town, Grahamstown gets creative when it makes room for the Festival visitors so expect accommodation ranging from upmarket B&B’s to student residence rooms and self-catering houses. Accommodation in the town fills up fast – with repeat Festival fans and artists reserving all their favourite spots well in advance.
The Festival provides a list of accommodation agents and establishments who can assist in connecting Festival-goers to their nests – download the accommodation brochure athttps://www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/2016-festival/travel-stay/
For an immersive experience of the town and its people, a home stay will connect visitors to accommodation in Grahamstown’s township homes. See www.grahamstown.co.za for more. The Grahamstown Hospitality Guild not only assists visitors in finding accommodation but also grades all of their members’ accommodation annually.
Going beyond, families can combine a beach holiday with their Festival by staying in nearby Port Alfred (57km away) or Kenton-on-Sea (59km away). Visitors can even blend a bit of history into their Festival experience by staying at the legendary Pig and Whistle Hotel in Bathurst (45km). There are also numerous game farms and farm stay options on the outskirts of Grahamstown; for these and many other options outside of the town, visit Makana Tourism or www.sunshinecoastaltourism.co.za and www.kentontourism.co.za.
Festival-goers without wheels needn’t be concerned; the Festival works with local travel operators to create the Festival Hopper – which is free to use (although tips are gladly received by the drivers) – and travels from venue to venue. Cabs on Call also offer private and direct trips for one to two passengers to wherever you need to go at R70 a trip (within a 5km radius) and R100 within a 10km radius. To book call 083 658 7991
FESTIVAL FOR FAMILIES
Culture-craving families will find that there’s something for everyone with the Standard Bank Children’s Art Festival. Hosted at St Andrew’s School, the line-up accommodates children from 4-13 years old through a number of programmes. From the day programmes for the littlies (including meals) to the boarding experience for 12 and 13 year-olds, the Standard Bank Children’s Art Festival includes crafts and workshops as well as supervised Festival visits for the older children. In addition to the Standard Bank Children’s Arts Festival and plenty of family-friendly shows, a Fun Fare operates on Fiddlers’ Green throughout the Festival.
BOOK YOUR TICKETS
Tickets to the main shows can sell out very quickly, the online programme and booking portal is already open for booking, so visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za to grab tickets. They go for between R20-R130 each and all Festival ticket purchases are now Snapscan-enabled. There is also a physical box office at the Festival, where visitors can go and purchase tickets. Watch Twitter @artsfestival and read the daily festival newspaper, Cue, for daily deals and freebies.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE FEEDS
Follow the Festival’s feeds and be part of the community on:
The National Arts Festival runs from 30 June-10 July 2016.