Grahamstown National Arts Festival 1st timers guide
I have been to this festival many times before and I keep going back. Each year becomes an improved version of the previous year. This is by far my favourite arts festival in South Africa. I love it because it has managed to live up to it’s name and intended purpose. It gives you nothing but a great showcase of the arts. The artist calibre keeps improving every year and it has seen a lot of new artists being placed on the map. It is really a good platform to unearth raw talent. Therefore it guarantees you a good time, authenticity and value for your money.
If you will be going to the festival for the first time, the information below will help you get your head around things and enjoy the shows more instead of over thinking your every move. This is here to ease your worries, so kick back relax and let the good times roll:
Get Tickets well in advance
It’s always better to know the line up of the festival and book your tickets well in advance so that you can catch all the shows you like. This will also influence the number of days you will spend at the festival and assist in making sound decisions and cut unnecessary costs.
Get acquainted with the rules of engagement
These are put in place so that you can ensure that you are always on the right side of the law. You always get Do(s) and Don’t(s) for most festivals and this one is no different, get to know these and adhere to them at all times. These will tell you what is accepted behaviour during the festival in general/ they will be specific to a particular show. As insignificant some may seem to you, however the adherence is always advisable.
Lock your accommodation booking
Once your tickets for the festival are booked, it is now a good time for you to book your accomodation, to avoid missing out on all the best deals and comfortable accomodation. The best option is to book via bookings.com, my favourite because they always have the best deals and they have the free cancellation and pay later options. This gives you an allowance to change your booking as often as you like with no charges.
Plan your outfits wisely
It is common knowledge that the festival always happens in the middle of winter, however during that time Grahamston often offer best of both worlds (summer and winter in one day). So bring some light clothing to wear during the day as it tends to get warm and I know you would not want to miss out of wearing your summer clothes in the middle of winter. However it is advisable to always pack more warm clothes as it can get pretty chilly there, especially in the evenings.
Dress for comfort
My favourite phrase, for me this could mean anything but in this instance this means one need to dress comfortably and trendy to stand out from the crowds. The fashion scene in Grahamstown can be a bit confusing for outsiders, which is why you need to be comfortable in your own skin first.
You can never run short of layer items in Grahamstown or you will wish you had stayed at home instead. A minimum of 3 layer items is ideal for your time there, trust me you will need them when the weather becomes chilly and when it rains.
Bring the right bag
As much as we would like to believe that we live in a safe country, there will always be pick pocketing incidents in crowded places. Do not underestimate small towns like Grahamstown, there are always those few individuals that are there to commit crimes. Therefore it is advisable that people must carry the right bag for crowded places. Sling bags work better, also pickpocket safe bags/ backpacks are the suitable options. If not, try to carry a bag that has a secure zip that goes all the way.
Know your surroundings
Because the festival is spread all over town, attendees are advised to keep a map of all the venues where the shows will be held especially the first timers as crowds can be very intimidating when you are lost. Better yet always carry the business card of the hotel you are staying in so that you can call then to ask for directions to your next desired destination/ back home.
Always have cash
They say cash is king, and I believe them because I have had my fair share of situations where the only way out was cash and I did not have a dime with me. Our dependency to bank cards becomes a curse sometimes. In a small town like Grahamstown one really needs to keep cash as most shops/ stalls will only require cash. This will also come in handy when using public transportation
Know the line-up
It helps a lot to be in the know of the happenings around, get the brochure for the festival and ensure that you familiarise yourself with it so that you can easily prepare and time your movements between shows.
Establish a meet up point
Because you will be moving around a lot, there will be times where you will lose your friends, be it that their battery or yours died, they were watching a different show or you simple wandered off. It is then to your best interest to arrange a meet up point and time to manage any further inconveniences that may result from other members going missing.
Let your hair down and enjoy the festival
If you’re constantly worrying about this and that, you will never enjoy the festival. Things may go wrong anytime/ nothing could go wrong but you can deal with that when it happens. You’ve come this far so the least you can do is make the best of it and enjoy to the fullest. Enjoy the thrill of moving from one show to the next with minutes to spare. Strike conversations with strangers, make new friends, anything, just enjoy and leave your best life while you are there.