Tem­pers flare over ‘dou­ble charge’ at Ob­ser­va­tory fes­ti­val

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - HELEN BAM­FORD

THE OB­SER­VA­TORY Fes­ti­val of Art kicked off last night amid threats of court ac­tion and wide­spread un­hap­pi­ness over the R20 cover charge.

Road clo­sures also in­fu­ri­ated res­i­dents try­ing to get home af­ter work yes­ter­day.

Sev­eral busi­ness own­ers slammed the or­gan­is­ers for not com­mu­ni­cat­ing prop­erly and be­ing dis­or­gan­ised, but the gate fee drew the most crit­i­cism. Most of the sub­urb’s Lower Main Road falls within the fes­ti­val area.

Mike Web­ber-Har­ris, owner of the In­de­pen­dent Arm­chair The­atre, said they had to charge pa­trons an en­trance fee to cover the cost of their bands so fes­ti­val go­ers would land up hav­ing to pay twice.

They had spent the whole year try­ing to give a plat­form to lo­cal artists and had been hop­ing to make some money af­ter com­ing out of the quiet win­ter sea­son.

Web­ber-Har­ris said they re­alised the or­gan­is­ers had had to pull the fes­ti­val to­gether at the 11th hour af­ter the pre­vi­ous project man­ager, Chakan His­lop, was asked to step down for non­de­liv­ery.

Neil van Vu­uren, owner of Obz Café, which also charges an en­trance fee for live mu­sic, said he had a reg­u­lar cof­fee trade on a Satur­day who would now have to pay to get into the fes­ti­val area.

The gate fee would also af­fect peo­ple want­ing to go to the hair­dresser, book shop or gro­cery shop.

“In a way it will keep the riffraff out but it’s un­for­tu­nate that there will be a dou­ble charge,” Van Vu­uren said.

Pre­vi­ously known as the Obzfest, the pop­u­lar long­stand­ing fes­ti­val has be­come no­to­ri­ous for pick­pock­ets and crime.

Van Vu­uren said there had been threats of a court in­ter­dict to stop the fes­ti­val tak­ing place.

“But we came to our senses be­cause we want to make it work.”

The or­gan­is­ers had also tried to get a per­mit to sell al­co­hol on the Vil­lage Green but busi­ness own­ers had signed a pe­ti­tion to pre­vent this.

Fes­ti­val pub­li­cist Myrna Burgess said the cur­rent team of six had had to put the fes­ti­val to­gether in three and a half weeks af­ter His­lop was asked to step down.

“We’ve pulled rab­bits out of hats for this and I’m con­fi­dent it will go off well.”

She said they had no bud­get when they started which was why they had to charge an en­try fee.

PIC­TURE: MX­OLISI MADELA

NO WAY: Ob­ser­va­tory res­i­dents are up­set about the road clo­sure.

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