Make This the Year

How to do the National Arts Festival 2016

It’s one of the country’s biggest bucket-list cultural and social celebrations but arriving without a plan has its couch-surfing consequences.

The National Arts Festival’s website is loaded with information on how to get to the Festival, and there is an active community of experienced Festival-goers on Twitter and on the Festival’s Facebook page. Chatting on these platforms will help sideline procrastination and get the ball rolling for a Festival that shouldn’t be missed: 



There are numerous flights into Port Elizabeth and East London from all the major airports in South Africa. From the airport, a 130km trip in a hire car will connect visitors to Grahamstown. The  National Arts Festival and Blunden Tours operate a bus service between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth Airport (the last trip serves the 20:00 flight) with a single fare of R300 and R600 return. Prior booking is essential on 0860 002 004. Van Rensburg Shuttle Service operates between PE and Grahamstown as well. Contact 083 654 3242 or

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 along the way. Visitors coming from Johannesburg or Bloemfontein, should make a beeline for Smithfield and their annual Platteland Preview Festival, which falls on 24-26 June this year. The small town hosts artists en-route to the National Arts Festival in return for a very special sneak-peek at their shows.  



As a small town, Grahamstown gets creative when it makes room for the Festival visitors so 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 at

For an immersive experience of the town and its people, a home stay will connect visitors to accommodation in Grahamstown’s township homes. See for more. 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 (57km away) or Kenton-on-Sea (59km away). 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 or and



Festival-goers without wheels needn’t be concerned; the Festival works with local travel operators to create the Festival Hopper – which is free to use (although tips are gladly received 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 at R70 a trip (within a 5km radius) and R100 within a 10km radius. To book call 083 658 7991



Culture-craving families will find that there’s something for everyone with the Standard Bank Children’s Art Festival. Hosted at St Andrew’s School, the line-up accommodates children from 4-13 years old through a number of programmes. From the day programmes for the littlies (including meals) to the boarding experience for 12 and 13 year-olds, the Standard Bank Children’s Art Festival includes crafts and workshops as well as supervised Festival visits for the older children. In addition to the Standard Bank Children’s Arts Festival and plenty of family-friendly shows, a Fun Fare operates on Fiddlers’ Green throughout the Festival.



Tickets to the main shows can sell out very quickly, the online programme and booking portal is already open for booking, so visit to grab tickets. They go for between R20-R130 each and all Festival ticket purchases are now Snapscan-enabled. There is also a physical box office at the Festival, where visitors can go and purchase tickets. Watch Twitter @artsfestival and read the daily festival newspaper, Cue, for daily deals and freebies.



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


Twitter: @artsfestival

Instagram:  @nationalartsfestival


The National Arts Festival runs from 30 June-10 July 2016.



The National Arts Festival is grateful to the National Lotteries Commission, the Department of Arts and Culture, Eastern Cape Provincial Government, and Standard Bank of South Africa. 

Released for the National Arts Festival by

Rabbit in a Hat Communications

Sascha Polkey

021 300 0052

083 414 0552

About National Arts Festival

The National Arts Festival is an important event on the South African cultural calendar and the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent.

The 2017 National Arts Festival runs for 11 days from 29 June - 9 July and is held in the small university city of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, 130 km from Port Elizabeth.

The Festival consists of a Main and Fringe programme both administered by the National Arts Festival Office. The full programme comprises drama, dance, physical theatre, comedy, opera, music, jazz, visual art exhibitions, film, student theatre, street theatre, lectures, craft fair, workshops, tours (of the city and surrounding historic places) and a children’s arts festival.

The event has always been open to all regardless of race, colour, sex or creed. As no censorship or artistic restraint has ever been imposed on works presented in Grahamstown, the Festival served as an important forum for political and protest theatre during the height of the apartheid era, and it still offers an opportunity for experimentation across the arts spectrum. Its significance as a forum for new ideas and an indicator of future trends in the arts cannot be underestimated.

The National Arts Festival is grateful to the Department of Arts and Culture, Eastern Cape Provincial Government, M-Net and Standard Bank of South Africa.

National Arts Festival
National Arts Festival
PO Box 304
Grahamstown, Ec 6140
South Africa