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Wordfest’s National Authors Programme Cancelled After NAC Withdraws Funding

Alert! On 24 May, Books LIVE received the sad news that this year’s Wordfest National Authors Programme – part of the Grahamstown National Arts Festival – has been cancelled due to the withdrawal of funding from the National Arts Council. In an email kindly passed on to us by Colleen Higgs, Wordfest convenor Chris Mann conveyed his apologies and revealed that, while the authors programme may be off, the rest of Wordfest will take place as usual.

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Thando Mgqolozana, who launched his debut novel A Man Who is Not a Man at Wordfest in 2009, argues that the cancellation of Wordfest will badly affect both publishers and authors and will be “taking away the hope” of writers who are trying to get published. Authors scheduled to attend the 2012 festival included Books LIVE members Terry Crawford-Browne, Denis Beckett, Hamilton Wende, Siphiwo Mahala, Dawn Garisch and Brent Meersman.

The National Arts Festival takes place from 28 June to 8 July.

The National Authors Programme, one of the most significant events in the Wordfest line-up, has been cancelled.

Chris Mann, Wordfest convenor and honorary professor of poetry at Rhodes University said the programme had been scrapped because the anticipated funding from the National Arts Council (NAC) had not been received.

Mann discovered on Friday, June 1, that the government-mandated council had not allocated Wordfest the R250 000 it received in previous years.

A word from Chris Mann:

The National Arts Council has provided the core funding for Wordfest with one or two interruptions over the last twelve years. Unfortunately this year is one of those interruptions. Without due warning and quite late in the day Wordfest and a number of similar projects received news that funding would not be forthcoming. This means that the Wordfest author programme as attached will not unfortunately take place. The rest of Wordfest will however take place as usual and will comprise the following:

1. Wordfest Eastern Cape

2. The Readers and Writers Restaurant.

3. Singer-songwriter daily programme as organised by the National Arts Festival.

4. Van Schaik bookshop.

5. Think Fest! lectures throught each day as organised by the National Arts Festival.

6. An international Shakespeare conference.

7. Two DALRO Lectures, featuring Pieter Dirk Uys, who is launching a book, and Janet Suzman.

8. Workshops all week for arts practitioners in Seminar Room One as organised by the National Arts Festival.

9. Art exhibitions courtesy of the National Arts Festival.

10. Displays by publishers and the National English Literary Museum in the venue.

My apologies for any inconvenience and frustration but we have not been able to rectify the lack of funds at such short notice. Core funding for a national literary festival by an arts council is standard international practice. It enables the organisers to build secondary funding and to plan in advance. We will approach the National Arts Council again and hope to show how their core grant has a multiplier effect. Wordfest has for example spawned a provincial and seven district literary festivals.

We encourage the writers, publishers and other word- lovers who have helped build up Wordfest over the past decade to stay with us.

Here’s a look at what the programme would have included:

CANCELLED – WordFest 2012 Authors Programme

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sophy</a>
    June 26th, 2012 @16:38 #

    Here is SA PEN's official statement on the cancellation:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    June 26th, 2012 @17:47 #

    At the risk of sounding like Colonel Blimp: this is a bloody disgrace.

    The magnitude of the high-handedness of the NAC becomes apparent when you look at the amazing line-up that's been cancelled. So many voices that need to be heard, esp with the platform the Festival makes available.

    What really sums up the shortsightedness of the NAC in a nutshell is the cancellation of Siphiwo Mahala's launch of African Dreams. Some of its stories are set in Joza Township in Grahamstown, and are clearly autobiographical. Picture it, it's the Eastern Cape, where education is a shambles, it's G'town, a town deeply divided by poverty and history. Now young word enthusiasts get a chance to listen to the stories of a local writer, who grew up on the same streets as them, whose first short stories were published in a Rhodes journal -- and now he's a published and respected literary and cultural figure, reading and talking about THEIR lives, giving them a voice, aspirations. I think this is what Thando means when he says this will "take away the hope of aspiring authors". Really badly done. I get a pain in the stomach just thinking about this.

    Oh, and the motivation -- to give the dosh to "organizations that hadn't received funding before" is PATHETIC. Shows zero understanding of the need to build, nurture and sustain a cultural vehicle.


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