What do you need to bring to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival?


The Grahamstown National Arts Festival is now officially an institution. This year marks the 40th anniversary since the inaugural festival was held in 1974 for the official opening of the 1820 Settlers National Monument.

This landmark edition offers a programme featuring some of past festival’s most accomplished alumni as well as a focus on fresh young artists with The Fringe and the Standard Bank Young Artists Awards.

The festival is still the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent and sees the population of Grahamstown doubling over the 11 days it runs.

So if you’re a first-timer, or you did it all wrong last year, here is a reminder of what essentials you’ll need to survive the Grahamstown National Arts Festival


  • The Festival Programme: This contains vital information on both Main and Fringe events (such as times and venues). You can order a copy from the Festival Office before you go or purchase a copy at any of the Information Centres.
  • The Map: Even a small town like Grahamstown can seem maze-like during a festival, so don’t get lost! The venue map can be found in the booking kit and loose copies are also available at the information centres, hotels and residences.
  • The Hopper Bus Timetable: You might need to give your feet a rest sometimes, so check out the timetable for the convenient hop-on hop-off festival buses – which are printed on the back of the loose venue maps.
  • The Cue: It’s no fun to be left behind, so make sure you get a copy of ‘The Cue’ (the daily festival newspaper) so that you can keep abreast of any festival updates and programme changes.
  • The Right Attire:  You’ll need sunscreen for when it’s hot, but also scarves, gloves and warm jackets for when it’s (inevitably) cold. Ladies, I also highly suggest flat shoes.
  • Padkos: Festival days are long days, so keep yourself going with snacks. There are ample restaurants, bars and kiosks all over the festival venue as well.
  • A Backpack : Nothing screams festival ‘noob’ more than walking around with festival paraphenia-laden arms, so get a backpack.


The festival is taking place now, 3 – 13 July 2014, so if you haven’t already, hurry up and book your tickets. Check out our accommodation suggestions for Grahamstown while you’re at it.

And trust me on the sunscreen.

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