Get in gear for the National Arts Festival 2018

2018-04-05 20:00
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Get ready for the National Arts Festival 2018. (Photo: Supplied)

Cape Town - Get your creative juices flowing as you get in gear for the 44th National Arts Festival set to take place between 28 June and 8 July. 

Over 11 days, the world’s arts spotlight shifts to the small Eastern Cape city of Grahamstown, for a Festival packed with theatre, dance, visual and performance art, film, music and more.

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"Catch the Standard Bank Young Artist’s as they unveil their new work. Experience riveting performances by Featured Artist, Mamela Nyamza. Reflect on the programme and expand your mind with the Festival of Film and Ideas and explore the exciting new Creativate Digital Arts Festival – where technology and creativity meet. And of course, don’t miss the Standard Bank Jazz Festival; an extraordinary expression of jazz talent from our own continent and beyond," say the Festival organisers.

Tickets will go live for booking on 2 May - click here to book and to get more information about this year's programme, accommodation options, transport and how to experience the Festival.

To avoid some serious arts #FOMO, plan a short vacay to the artsy town. Here's a starter-pack to help you get planning: 


South Africa’s major airports all service airlines flying to Port Elizabeth and East London. After touching down in either of these destinations, the trip to Grahamstown is about 130km. Hire a car or jump on board a shuttle. There are various tour and bus companies that provide airport shuttles and transport in and around Grahamstown - see the details in the National Arts Festival’s Hospitality Brochure here.

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A drive to Grahamstown from Cape Town is 872km via the Garden Route and from Johannesburg 992km via Colesburg.  Make a road trip of it and stop off to explore SA along the way.

Visitors coming from Gauteng or the Free State, should make a beeline for Smithfield. The small town hosts artists en route to the National Arts Festival for free in return for a very special sneak-peek at their shows. 


Grahamstown certainly knows the drill after hosting the Festival for the last 43 years. Festival visitors can expect accommodation ranging from upmarket B&B’s to student residence rooms and self-catering houses.

Accommodation in the town fills up fast - with repeat Festival fans and artists reserving all their favourite spots well in advance.

The Festival provides a list of accommodation agents and establishments who can assist in connecting Festival-goers to their nests – download the accommodation brochure here.

For an immersive experience of the town and its people, a home-stay will connect visitors to accommodation in Grahamstown’s township homes.

The Grahamstown Hospitality Guild not only assists visitors in finding accommodation but also grades all of their members’ accommodation annually.

Going beyond, families can combine a beach holiday with their Festival by staying in nearby Port Alfred which is 57km away or Kenton-on-Sea, 59km away. This is also a good option for those on a budget with large houses available to share between groups of friends or artists.

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Visitors can even blend a bit of history into their Festival experience by staying at the legendary Pig and Whistle Hotel in Bathurst - 45km.

There are also numerous game farms and farm stay options on the outskirts of Grahamstown; for these and many other options outside of the town, visit Makana Tourism, call 046 622 3241/ 046 625 1235 or visit for Port Alfred, and see or call 046 648 2411 for Kenton-on-Sea.


The Festival works with local travel operators to create the Festival Hopper – which is free to use (although tips are appreciated by the drivers) – and travels from venue to venue. Cabs on Call also offer private and direct trips for one to two passengers to wherever you need to go, charged at varying prices. 


All ticket bookings can be done via website, or through the Festival call centre on 0860 002 004. Tickets range in price, with discounts for pensioners and students. Once at the Festival, there are a number of physical box offices where visitors can purchase tickets using cash, cards or Snapscan.

First time Festival-goers might find it strange to book their flights and accommodation before seeing the programme – but they needn’t worry. There is always plenty of edgy and exciting work on the programme and lots to do in between the shows. 


Known for its icy cold nights - despite the often warmer days - be sure to pack in a warm jacket and some woolly accessories. There are also lots of local spots to thaw out in, including pop-up restaurant The Long Table, sushi at Cape Town Edge and during the day, visit the ever-popular and varied options at the Village Green. 


Follow the Festival’s feeds and be part of the community on:


Twitter: @artsfestival

Instagram:  @nationalartsfestival or #NAF17