The market, which hosts about 300 traders, crafters, food vendors and artists during the course of the 11-day Festival, will move off Rhodes University’s campus to the playing fields of Victoria Girls High School in Beaufort Street.
“The move is the logical next step in the evolution of the Market and its offering – we want to create a convivial village atmosphere that gives our visitors plenty of space and nooks and crannies to explore,” Festival CEO Tony Lankester said. “We’ve spent the last six months thinking through the change and looking at different approaches – and now we have a year to bring those plans to life. Instead of two or three large marquees, we’re going to explore different ways of hosting our market: multiple smaller tents, different trading zones, a food court, performance stages, family zone, beer tent and exhibitions. This new space lends itself to some innovative design and layout that we’re looking forward to exploring.”
The new Village Green will cover an area of just over 20 000m2. This will be its third move since its inception as a small craft market inside the Grahamstown City Hall. In 1989 it moved to Fiddlers’ Green in the City, adjacent to the Bowling Club and, in 2009, it made a move onto Rhodes campus. At that time the change was driven by the need to expand and resulted in a near doubling of the trading space, although some criticized the move as taking the market away from the city centre and further from the residents of Grahamstown’s townships.
“We heard those criticisms and, while the move was necessary at the time to ensure the growth and sustainability of the market, we now feel the time is right to establish a fresh market in a new home. Victoria Girls High School is a long-time supporter of the Festival and has been the home to hundreds of performances and exhibitions over the years. By putting our flagship market on their campus we are creating a great opportunity to refresh and revitalize what we offer festivalgoers,” Lankester said.
Victoria Girls High School headmaster Warren Schmidt said that the School Governing Body had carefully considered the proposal, and were delighted at the prospect of hosting the new Market. “There will have to be lots of careful planning to make it a smooth transition, but we’re really looking forward to having the Market on our campus,” he said.
Rhodes University’s Executive Director for Infrastructure, Operations & Finance, Dr Iain L’Ange, wished the Village Green well with its new site: “We are pleased that we have been able to assist the National Arts Festival with a site for the Village Green market for a number of years, and we recognize the need for a new model. The University wishes all stakeholders in the new venture everything of the best.”
The Village Green was established in 1989 as a means for local service organisations to raise funds to support their community projects and, over the past few decades, hundreds of thousands of rands has been invested in dozens of projects and initiatives.