1 July 2004
The 2004 National Arts Festival, a week-long explosion of theatre, music, dance, film and more, kicks off on 1 July with up to 600 main and fringe events on offer at the Eastern Cape university town of Grahamstown.
Started in 1974 as a project of the Grahamstown Foundation, and renamed the National Arts Festival in 2002, the week-long celebration of arts has evolved into the leading arts festival in southern Africa.
Now as many as 100 000 supporters flock annually to the picturesque university town, home to Rhodes University, to experience one of the world’s most diverse displays of creative talent, representing the full cross-section of South Africa’s cultures.
The festival provides the opportunity for non-stop theatre, live music, a vibrant street and night life with techno raves, pubs, Mediaeval banquets, cyber cafes, buskers, walking tours, lectures and plenty of craft shopping.
The 2004 festival features an extensive line-up of South African and international events, mixing new talent with established stars, capturing the spirit of the moment for a broad spectrum of audiences.
The festival celebrates its 30th anniversary – and 10 years of democracy in South Africa – with about 1 800 performances in total, ranging across theatre, dance, opera, cabaret, art, classical music, jazz and poetry and representing all of South Africa’s creative centres and disciplines.
Grahamstown, founded in 1812 by Colonel John Graham as a military base during clashes with Xhosa inhabitants, grew into a commercial centre with the arrival of the 1820 British settlers.
However, when the Frontier wars ended and gold and diamonds were discovered elsewhere in the country, the town was marginalised. As a result, Grahamstown missed out on the modernisation of South Africa’s main centres, and today still resembles an English 19th century cathedral town in the midst of the Eastern Cape countryside.
The festival is sponsored by the Eastern Cape government, Standard Bank, the National Arts Council, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the SABC.