Plan B: National Arts Festival

Image: Mark Wessels/Supplied

Plan B: National Arts Festival reimagined once more

Time for Plan B! The 2021 National Arts Festival is set to move into an online space for the second time this coming July.

Plan B: National Arts Festival

Image: Mark Wessels/Supplied

The National Arts Festival’s hopes of having a live audience element at the 2021 Makhanda experience fell through by the Level 4 lockdown measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday 27 June.

A hybrid event

Disappointed but undeterred, the National Arts Festival decided to host the festival fully online from 8 to 31 July.

Already envisioned as a ‘hybrid event’ with both live and online shows, the festival had planned to stage a small live programme in its home town of Makhanda from 8 July and, prior to that, had flighted a live programme of shows. Working quickly, the team moved to record all these shows for inclusion in the online programme. Now the festival will be fully online for its second stay-at-home edition.

Fortunately, the festival was held online in 2020 and the infrastructure was built and refined last year.

National Arts Festival CEO, Monica Newton acknowledged the exceptional resilience of the artists involved in the project.

National Arts Festival 2021

“Together with our team, they are working incredibly hard to ensure work is filmed with all the professionalism and passion they had planned to put onto their live stage performances. Everyone has just taken a deep breath, adapted their plans and moved forward. After a devastating year for the arts, it felt very important to us to honour our commitments and financial obligations to all the people involved in the 2021 festival. We also have a great programme so the show simply has to go on!” 

The reimagined festival will be hosted on the festival’s website and visitors to the experience will be able to securely purchase tickets and watch their shows off the same platform. A new addition to the festival is a ‘live stream’ element with shows being broadcast live into the homes of online audiences.

The programme

The festival will still showcase many of its planned shows such as The Ecstatic (a Swiss/South African pantsula dance piece), Van Wyk, the Story Teller of Riverlea (a tribute to author Chris van Wyk), new work from Tony Miyambo and Phala O Phala; Commission Continua, and the reimagined work AnotherKind by Distell National Playwright winner Amy Louise Wilson.

The festival programme will, as always, feature both curated works and an independently presented fringe festival. Visitors can also look forward to a number of online workshops, events and discussions, many of which are free. 

Ticket details

Tickets for shows are between R40 and R100, but avid art lovers will be able to buy an R1000 festival pass which will give them access to all the shows on the curated programme and Standard Bank Jazz Festival programme, or they can get a Jazz pass for R800.  Fringe ticket prices, with 90% of the sales going to artists, range between R40 and R80 per ticket. 

The full National Arts Festival Online programme comprises 96 curated works, workshops and exhibitions on the online programme and 127 shows on the fringe. The new 2021 National Arts Festival has been reloaded and is open for bookings at