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'An exciting ride into the future': The National Arts Festival goes digital

17 May 2020 3:32 PM
Tags:
National Arts Festival
Makhanda
arts and culture
COVID-19
SA lockdown
Virtual National Arts Festival
vFringe
Monica Newton describes adapting to a virtual format and providing an income for artists with the vFringe platform.

The National Arts Festival in in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) is a highlight of South Africa's creative calendar every year.

In this year of Covid-19 it will be very different, as the festival adapts to go digital.

The Virtual National Arts Festival. Image credit: National Arts Festival

Refiloe Mpakanyane speaks to Monica Newton, who was appointed CEO in December.

She says the organisers realised that they could not simply transplant live pieces as is for online presentation.

As a result they curated "an entirely new festival", inviting entries from artists working in the digital space or those happy to re-conceptualise their work

RELATED: Will the arts survive COVID-19 pandemic?

Newton describes it as "an exciting ride into a digital future".

The festival will have a series of components including the traditional sponsored showcases, as well as the digital arts festival and the critical thinking platform

All of those kinds of elements that audiences are generally used to seeing will be there, but the content will be very different this year. We'll have a series of static galleries and also 3D exhibitions, webinars, talk shops, workshops and interactive content as far as we can.

Monica Newton, CEO - National Arts Festival

A very exciting new platform that we've just announced is the vFringe, which is our attempt to say to artists we still want to create an open access platform for you where you can bring your work and you can generate a bulk of the income. 90% of the revenue will go directly to artists and 10% to us just to cover some admin costs.

Monica Newton, CEO - National Arts Festival

She says the vFringe will create a local platform for prerecorded work and also streaming to a limited degree.

Newton also talks about a discussion she had with artists who are breaking new ground in the digital domain.

The message they sent very strongly to the arts community is 'don't waste the opportunity to experiment'... They were so excited that there are not gatekeepers, no rules, you can just basically take the space...

Monica Newton, CEO - National Arts Festival

But it is a very difficult time for the arts and related sectors, there's no question... An entire value chain of people lost opportunities literally overnight. That was one of the major rationales not to cancel the festival. We had a bit more time than others had to rethink what we could do.

Monica Newton, CEO - National Arts Festival

The festival kicks off on 25 June.

Find more info at nationalartsfestival.co.za.

Listen to the conversation with the festival CEO in the audio below:


17 May 2020 3:32 PM
Tags:
National Arts Festival
Makhanda
arts and culture
COVID-19
SA lockdown
Virtual National Arts Festival
vFringe

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