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Woordfees receives financial injection

February 25, 2015 in Sonder kategorie

Stephanie Karikatuur

This year, the Stellenbosch University Woordfees (word festival) received a financial windfall through the WF20, an initiative of the chairman of the Woordfees advisory committee, Rudolf Gouws.

”Frankly, we shamelessly adopted the model used by the Clover Aardklop National Arts Festival, which for the past six years had been using ‘AK21’ to generate additional revenue for their festival,” Gouws said grinning widely. His wife and brother are both directors of Aardklop, and “we believe the country’s arts festivals need to work together and learn from each other, rather than compete against each other”.

The WF20 is a simple concept according to which art lovers each donate R20 000 to the Woordfees every year. The money is used to sponsor a particular production.

“Twenty people have already bought into the initiative. We started the project this year and hopefully more people will become involved in future,” said Gouws, who retired as chief economist of Rand Merchant Bank in 2009 and is associated with Stellenbosch University as professor extraordinary of economics.rudolf gouws small

Donors receive certain privileges that include being able to book tickets to shows one day ahead of the public; receiving invitations to the Woordfees programme launch; and having access to the hospitality suite at the Woordfees. Also included are special parking at the festival grounds; invitations to wine and music days; opportunities to meet the artists; and tickets to suites at the Spier Amphitheatre.

However, these privileges are not why people are prepared to become donors. “They do it to support the arts,” Gouws explained.

This year, the Woordfees is being presented for the sixteenth time; the reason for the ’16 ounces’ theme. Despite strong attendance figures that increase annually, this festival – like almost every other arts festival across the world – is continually seeking new sources of revenue. Modern patrons such as Gouws and other sponsors accordingly play an important role to lighten the financial burden on these festivals.

“That is not unusual. The arts have always had patrons, both male and female. Among those are the Catholic Church and the de’ Medici family of the Middle Ages,” Gouws said. “If we want to see theatre and other art, we need to dip into our pockets and produce.”

In the past, regional arts councils such as the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB), the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal (PACT) and the Performing Arts Council of the Orange Free State (PACOFS), through their ballet, opera and theatre companies, provided artists with a fairly stable source of income. Some of these councils also commissioned new productions. However, since the regional councils dissolved in the 1990s, national arts festivals have become a lifeline to many artists.

With the dissolution of the arts councils, government funding dried up almost entirely, and although it has been difficult to access significant amounts from the National Lottery, somehow it was possible to maintain existing or newly formed opera and ballet companies, including symphony orchestras – mostly under severe financial pressure. Given the large number of new theatre and music productions it is evident that artists will not allow their voices to be silenced by financial constraints.

But should government not step in again to support the arts through structures such as the arts councils?

“As the need is equally pressing in many other areas, it would be difficult to convince government of this. Moreover, the capacity for corruption in state structures would seem to be too discouraging to explore this idea further. I believe it would be more advantageous if those who are able to do so, join forces and make things happen,” said Gouws.

He believes cooperation between the various arts festivals is important – not only because costs may be shared when presenting co‑productions – but also because expertise could be exchanged in the process.

“To this end, Marguerite Robinson who is programme consultant of Aardklop is one of the Woordfees adjudicators.”

In 2011, the SU Woordfees won a kykNET Fiestas award as the most popular arts festival in the country. The Fiestas recently announced that the Woordfees was again one of the best festivals in the country. The winner will be announced in March.

“We are fortunate in that geographically we are conveniently located, which gives us a slight edge over other arts festivals. People from Durbanville, Gordonsbaai, Somerset West, Paarl, Wellington, Cape Town, and even from the Cape West Coast are within easy drive of Stellenbosch to come and see our shows. Our so‑called swallows – foreigners who live here for the South African summer – are also keen festivalgoers. An added advantage is that people who visit the Woordfees have easy access to the ocean and mountains.”

Although Gouws’s love of the arts embraces all genres, he evidently prefers classical music.

Paging through the Woordfees programme, Gouws said: “Just have a look at the incredible classical music programme. Nina Schumann and Luis Magalhães, Roelof and Zorada Temmingh … to name but a few. No, it’s impossible to single out a performance. Everything here is wonderful. We are fortunate to have someone of Peter Martens’s stature in charge of things. As cellist and director of the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival, Martens has a packed programme and is on tour continually. In addition, he does exceptional work for the Woordfees.”

According to Gouws, his role as chairman of the Woordfees advisory committee is “to help open doors through my associations in the business world and to assist in coordinating a few things. However, Woordfees director of 2015, Saartjie Botha, and her team manage to do such incredible work that my role really pales next to theirs.”