The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the business models of many organizations around the world. The Vrystaat Kunstefees similarly has rapidly adapted to these changes, and will be presenting several online initiatives during the second half of 2020.
Many of the digital initiatives we develop will be continued and built into future iterations of the physical festival, when mass gatherings are again allowed. This period of lockdown has provided us with an excellent opportunity to undertake a digital audit and develop significant online artistic offerings that can now be annually presented, not just to local, but also national and international audiences.
These digital initiatives include moving the Vrystaat Literature Festival online through the Vryspraak Digitaal year-long arts programme; continuing our very popular monthly online public arts industry discussions; developing an online Kunstemark shared economy project; presenting Free State Arts and Health initiatives online; an online rapid-prototype Snelstoomsluipkyk theatre and music programme; poetry online; the Pan-African Creative Exchange (PACE) online; the Virtuele Vrystaat Klank & Klassiek; Snelstroom; Inry-toneelteater; and the Crossings arts laboratory.
Vryspraak Digitaal is a digital extension of the Vrystaat Literature Festival, with a variety of online book launches, discussions, poetry readings and performances. These discussions, readings, and performances will be presented using multiple formats, including podcasts, pre-recorded video discussions, radio shows, and live streamed sessions with South African and international writers and poets. In an exciting addition, the Vryspraak program will be developed into a subscription platform where viewers will pay a small monthly fee which will grant them access to all available content, with new book and poetry events uploaded on a continuous basis. All book enthusiasts are invited to bookmark the VS Vryspraak Digitaal (web)page!
The Vrystaat Arts Festival decided that silence was not an option and that we had to engage with all our stakeholders on a public platform to discuss and navigate the current environment. #AprilAanlyn kicked off this initiative and was received with great enthusiasm and saw numerous networks and opportunities manifest. #MeiMenings was the second iteration of this programme and the Vrystaat Arts Festival will continue each month with a series of discussions that is designed to keep artists and entrepreneurs as well as our communities connected during these times of change. Every month industry experts from across the globe will join in to discuss possible solutions and ideas that inform the industry. Our mission is to connect various forms and disciplines within the arts and make a host of opportunities and platforms available.
The Vrystaat Arts Festival’s arts market will be moving online in 2020, and will continue as an ongoing initiative once physical festivals are able to be held again. The first phase of this transition will be to provide a separate webpage on the Vrystaat Arts Festival’s website, which will host individual ‘market stall’ and the items they sell. Sellers will have their own contact and payment details for each ‘stall’, and will be responsible for delivering items to their clients. The second phase will involve developing a fully-functional, online storeroom/artsmarket, similar to other share economy businesses models such as Uber and Airbnb. The users, when approved, would upload their own content and pricelists (images and costs of items for sale), with a central purchasing point linked to the Vrystaat Arts Festival, which then pays the seller once goods are purchased and delivered, and taking a 15% cut to run the business.
In the past few months, the world has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and as infections rise we have been learning to adapt to its new reality. The Free State Arts and Health initiative recognises how important it is for us to continue with our arts centred community mediations during this time. In April 2020, FSAH hosted an online discussion on Online Community Engagement during the Covid-19 Pandemic. During this discussion, many strategies as to how to move forward with our projects on online platforms were discussed, including developing proposals for Poetry Online, a Kidney Dialysis Project; Platfontein Print Project; FSAH Summit (Online), and an Arts in Medicine Fellowship.
The Snelstroom Sneak Peak is an appetizer of what is to come from the Vrystaat Arts Festival’s October online offerings. This festival will be showcasing a few bespoke, curated and experimental work to the public from May until July, to trial the possibilities of online performances and paypoints. There will be several formats delivering high quality artwork to audiences. Live streaming, radio theatre, and pre-recorded work in ways you’ve never seen theatre before. Our partnerships with Think social media, The Rabbit and Creative Kilowatt has been instrumental in developing these platforms, which will in particular support local Free State theatre, dance and music to start off with.
The pandemic may have stopped us from all gathering in Bloemfontein to witness poetry in it’s finest form in July, but it definitely could not stop us from creating online platforms for audiences from different countries to experience and share poetry. Yes, the culture of Spoken Word must continue. We’re excited to still be able to develop a curated poetry program featuring talented local and international poets, as well poetry discussions and workshops. We’ve prepared amazing content for you to stream, as well as snap your fingers to, so make sure you don’t miss out.
The Pan-African Creative Exchange (PACE) Entangled (Aug 2020) is an online arts market/ provocation for the inter-disciplinary arts in Africa. PACE Entangled aims to increase the global reach of Africa’s arts industry to the broader world and to contribute to the continent’s development of future work through grants, sponsorship and various other endowments PACE Entangled (Aug 2020), will showcase the highest quality productions from Africa to national and international presenters, producers, buyers, artists and the general public online. PACE Entangled would be used to incorporate the eight aspects of PACE through innovative thinking and restructuring. This includes online components such as showcases of tour-ready work; showcases of works in progress; new work pitches; producer shadowing and exchange program; critical debate/round-table discussion sessions; networking programmes; marketplace; and key PACE Entangled programming events.
The Virtuele Vrystaat Klank & Klassiek (VVKK) is a new initiative of the Vystaat Kunstefees to enhance classical music and sound arts in the Free State. It offers lovers of serious music the opportunity to immerse themselves in a pre-paid, online event that does not require them to divide their attention with other art forms. The online festival will be a combination of pre-recorded and live sessions, and include interactive digital foyers where audience members can meet prior to each show, and live Q&A sessions with the artists after each performance. VVKK will provide a platform to local and national artists with an added attraction of international performers. The first edition of VVKK is planned for September 2020, to celebrate classical music and sound art as an extension of the Vrystaat Arts Festival. The festival is determined to give music-lovers the opportunity to experience music and sound art of an international standard, and provide work opportunities for artists and technical personnel.
The Vrystaat Arts Festival turns 20 this year and although the festival cannot proceed in its recognisable physical form, it will take place in a digital form. Using learnings gathered from the Snelstroom Sneak peak, the festival will be creating new digital platforms to support work made by the tremendously resilient artists and stakeholders who are part of our programme. The Snelstroom programme will be filled with familiar and new faces. You will be able to watch live performances and see collaborations across the globe, with artists creating something new for all to enjoy. You will be able to attend courses and speak to people you never thought you would be able to previously. The programme is designed to make everything as accessible as possible, including ingenious low-tech platforms, new web-series and audience participation in the creation of new work. Create short films and be part of our film component or test your writing skills in play-readings. Snelstroom is made by everyone for everyone. This year we invite you to not only attend the festival, but take your rightful place as not just a participating but a co-creator of experiences as well. One festival, many stories and 2020 is no different.
In partnership with the University of the Free State and Aardklop, the Vrystaat Arts Festival is exploring options to hold a drive-in theatre for live music and drama. The grounds of the UFS would be used as the site, with audiences permitted to drive in with their cars to experience the performances, similar to an old-time drive-in theatre. A stage and large screen would be constructed with a radio station used to broadcast the sound into the cars through the radio. Live footage will be projected onto the screens, with a potential sale of online tickets as well for those who cannot attend physically.
Crossings will create an opportunity for young artists to connect and cross over into each other’s spaces via the internet with the intention of creating new works. Young choreographers, lighting designers and composers will share ideas online with the intent to finally create three new contemporary dance works. The background of each artist guides and influences the creative process leading to new cross-cultural outputs. They bring their concepts and ideas to each other both via the Internet and face-to- face, and together with a young creative facilitator work towards creating new, innovative work.
Thank you for your continued support, in this, the twentieth anniversary of the festival in 2020.