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Goodbye Grahamstown

by Zoe Henry / 17.07.2009

On their album Carnival, Fly Paper Jet wisely sings “Don’t go to Grahamstown outside of festival time; The High Street will make you cry, it’ll make you cry.” These are a couple of lads who know what they are talking about. On the last day of festival it feels like the town has had the wind knocked out of it. There’s a melancholic air around everything as festival goers say their goodbyes and traders put up desperate sale signs. “Everything must go. 50% off!” Many folks have decided to leave early and miss the traffic, so the final weekend isn’t nearly as raucous as one would imagine. The theatres have smaller audiences and the music venues are nearly empty. Even Dear Reader who played to a packed venue a couple of nights before can only attract about thirty stragglers. Many of the good shows have moved on, commencing national tours. But if you’re willing to take the risk poking around the burnt out embers, you might find something worth seeing. Paul Grootboom’s Cats and Dogs was such a thing. Theatre Noir based on an underground comic book about a superhero from the townships. Only such a comic book doesn’t exist. Love, shebeens, semi-organised crime, and superhuman strength – Cats and Dogs entertains and endears. Those of us that are left try to make these last days count, but most of the fun has been milked from this festival. A heavy sadness descends upon most areas of social gathering and is strongly felt by everyone except those that are too drunk to notice a difference. Just a stones throw from where Dear Reader is playing the last gig of the festival. Nearby are the people that are too drunk to notice. The warm, welcoming arms of The Long Table wrap around you and your blues begin to fade to a drunken shade of tequila gold. Every night when the playhouses and music venues have closed up for the night, punters converge at The Long Table. This is where friendships are forged, enmity transforms into camaraderie, and ideas are born for productions to be showcased at the next National Arts Festival. But for all the madness, gladness and sadness, was this year’s National Arts Festival a success? The numbers say yes. There was a 13.21% increase in attendance since last year. Of course you can’t keep everyone happy all the time. The upset with the Village Green being uprooted from the city centre and placed in the suburbs left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths. Primarily the traders who rely on the spill over traffic from the Green. But in the end, most of the festival goers left happy. Especially the drunkards at The Long Table.

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