The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the arts industry and communities cannot be overstated.
Let’s start with the fact that the arts are privately funded in most cases in South Africa and even the 2020 Budget Speech did not include a mention of funding for arts.
The latest development in the Covid-19 saga in South Africa means that many people will have to give up their tickets for a range of shows and concerts which have been cancelled or postponed. Entire festivals are also set to be postponed, creating a situation where public interest and exploration of art and creativity is going to be a needle in the haystack
WHERE FOR ART THOU?
One of the country’s leading art platforms, the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) has already been culled.
KKNK have decided that the festival in Oudtshoorn will not continue as planned from March 23 to 29. The decision happened after in-depth consultation with health authorities, local government, the main sponsor, Absa, partners and other stakeholders.
“It is in the public interest of everyone involved in the festival – artists, business partners, visitors and residents of Oudtshoorn – that we made this difficult decision,” says the artistic director of the festival, Hugo Theart.
All stakeholders from the various sectors affected by the decision – artists, festival-goers who have already purchased tickets, suppliers, and other partners will be informed of the road ahead as soon as possible. The last-minute cancellation was needed, and several possibilities are on the table to ensure no-one loses out.
“The outcome will be determined by guidelines from the national government, and the extent to which the Covid-19 pandemic develops internationally.”
Another festival that might be cancelled is the Free State Arts Festival.
The festival director say it will be a major setback for artists and performers, not just because it severely impacts their income, and the platform the festival provides. That includes the opportunity to travel abroad with productions or exhibitions thanks to international partnerships.
The Free State Arts Festival council will make their decision public on Wednesday.
NOT SO LEKKER
Even new successful events like Lekkerland Carnival in Dullstroom has been postponed due to the latest developments and governmental restrictions on public gatherings.
“Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Lekkerland Carnival 2020 has been postponed until further notice,” organisers say.
“With only 12 days to go to the festival, this is very unfortunate and a #NotSoLekkerrr turn off events. For us as organisers – the health and safety of Dullstroom residents, our festival attendees, staff, service providers and artists are paramount. On Sunday 15 March the South African Government made an announcement declaring a national state of disaster which prohibits any mass gatherings of 100 or more.
“Unfortunately we have no choice but to push the pause button on Lekkerland Carnival 2020 and postpone to a later date. Awaiting the statements of various government ministers, we will take a few days to look at alternative dates for the event and will make those dates available as soon as we have the clearance to do so.
“All tickets already purchased will be valid for the new date. Those who cannot make the new dates will be given a refund and can simply email us at email@example.com for information on how to go about it.”
This impacts a lot of people, including independent food providers at these kind of events. Stall operators pay a lot of money to be able to have a stand at these events, and last-minute cancellations have an impact on their pockets.
“With concerts and events we plan months ahead, and there’s simply no last-minute gigs for us. I think the next two weekends will see me lose about R25,000,” says Jan Fourie, who bought into a Chip Stix franchise.
“People don’t realise that we pay for a spot at public events, were’s not selling for free. I also don’t have alternative employment, and my two staff members will also be unemployed due to this. I pay them daily fees when we’re at shows or festivals, and one of the women uses this money to pay her tuition at a college in Alberton, since it’s part-time weekend work and pays well. That is what saddens me the most,” Fourie adds.
The upcoming Boys2Men and Lighthouse Family tours have also been postponed.
“We are working to reschedule the tour and all tickets will remain valid for the rescheduled dates. Further information will be sent directly to ticketholders as soon as it becomes available,” says Big Concerts, arguably the county’s biggest importer of international acts.
Theatrical productions have been almost halted entirely across South Africa with theatres offering refunds for tickets purchased. It’s a blow for performers who work under contract, and their work requires the public to buy tickets.
One of Johannesburg’s biggest theatre producers, VR Theatrical, has cancelled all shows – but they are trying to support their performers.
“Performing artists get paid when they perform. Currently actors, musicians and dancers are prohibited from doing it. If you have tickets to a live event affected by Covid-19 please consider donating your ticket rather than requesting a refund. This will enable us to keep artists afloat in this upside-down time. The livelihood of performing artists is at stake,” says Jaco van Rensburg, director at VR Theatrical.
Another measure VR Theatrical is taking to help performers is selling music from previous shows.
“We did not intend to release the double album of Here’s to you – The Simon and Garfunkel songbook for digital download, but in an effort to assist our freelance artists financially, we are donating 50% of sales to keep this amazing company of performers afloat,” said VR Theatrical’s Wessel Odendaal.
With under 100 seats, one theatre that will stay open is Cape Town’s Gate69.
“If history has taught us anything, it’s that acting out of fear during turbulent times is a mistake.
“Yes, Covid-19 is frightening, but not as frightening as an economy grinding to a rusty halt. We must all get up, put on our big girl panties, go to work, wash our hands and save as many jobs as we can if we are to survive what’s coming for us. It’s business as usual for us.
“We are implementing the following measures consistent with everyday preventative actions to help prevent the spread of the virus,” says owner of the dinner theatre Brendan van Ruyn, better known as Cathy Specific.
These measures include hand sanitizer available at all times around the venue, and daily rigorous cleaning. Staff will wear gloves and masks to prevent any human contact with food.
“Being a boutique theatre, Gate69’s capacity is under 100 individuals per night. Gate69 has always been a safe space, and we intend to keep it that way, but we can’t do that without the support of our community. So, keep booking your tickets, in times of trouble, laughter is the best medicine, and ain’t nobody got more laughs than Gate69,” says Van Ruyn.
SIP WINE FROM HOME
While self-quarantine means it’s possible for you to sneak a drink with your head over a laptop, the winelands are set to become ghost towns.
Supporting them from home is one of the few ways to help. The wine industry is South Africa’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products and the value-chain employs close to 300,000 people.
La Motte Wine Estate in Stellenbosch is closing all operations until March 23.
The closure follows information from a guest who visited the estate on March 9 and who since tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. La Motte received this news on yesterday.
Although all members of staff who have been in contact with the guest are under immediate self-isolation, and best practice with regards to health and safety was already implemented on the estate, as a further precautionary measure, it was decided to temporarily close the La Motte hospitality offering.
The situation will be monitored and reassessed in a week, after which an updated status will be communicated.
“The safety of our guests and staff is our priority”, says La Motte CEO Hein Koegelenberg. “We are careful to not instigate panic, but for now and as far as it is in our hands, we would rather close our tourism offering and implement the necessary protocol. I am optimistic that guests to the estate will soon again be able to enjoy the relaxing and entertaining experience they’ve come to know when visiting La Motte.”
The offerings temporarily closed include the La Motte Tasting Room, Museum, Farm Shop, Hiking trail and Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant.
The hospitality team will be in touch to reschedule existing bookings. While La Motte wines are available from leading retailers and wine boutiques, the complete collection is also available online and orders via la-motte.com offer free delivery for any 6 bottles or more.
Delheim Estate is not under quarantine and none of their staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus to date – but they also closed shop.
“In the light of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s national address on Sunday, and as a leading tourist destination in the Stellenbosch Winelands, we have made it top priority to protect our valued visitors, staff and their families from possible transmission by closing our hospitality sector until March 27,” Delheim says in a press statement.
“A Dutch tour group (The Dutch Wijnacademie) visited earlier this month, and some of the visitors have since tested positive. As this happened prior to our President’s travel ban announcement and many visitors from high-risk countries visit us daily, precautionary measures were taken on March 9 to reduce risks. We took it upon ourselves to step up our Health & Safety on the farm with proper informative and risk review meetings; increased staff training (twice during last week) and additional sanitation and hygiene measures across the entire estate. As a family farm, living and breathing our brand, we don’t take this virus lightly and the safety of our staff comes first,” the statement concludes.
NOT WORK AS USUAL FOR ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALISTS
Weekly entertainment journalists are privy to pre-screenings of movies and a variety of other events.
So far Nu-Metro, Ster-Kinekor and United Universal Pictures have canceled all screenings for journalists. This means traditional print and online media won’t have the usual content.
The Citizen’s City editor, Thami Kwazi says: “We already made a last-minute plan to maybe look into covering more streaming or even revisiting old films. We carry film reviews on Fridays – when new films get released. This week we won’t be able to. The good news is, we can make it work.”
But major events like The South African Film and Television Awards have also been postponed. It’s an important platform for the arts. It also means that ad revenue will be lost.
“In light of the announcement made by President Ramaphosa and the Government’s strict actions in response to the Covid-19 (“Coronavirus”) outbreak, the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) would like to inform you that the 14th Annual South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs14) will no longer take place at the Sandton Convention Centre on 27 to 28 March, Further details will be communicated in due course,” the Department of Arts and Culture said in a statement.
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