LIGHTS OUT

Arts fes­ti­val bites the dust

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Front Page - Siyam­tanda Capa and No­maz­ima Nkosi ca­pas@ti­soblack­star.co.za

Af­ter 10 years of host­ing the pop­u­lar North­ern Arts Fes­ti­val, or­gan­is­ers have been forced to close shop as they strug­gle to get enough fi­nan­cial sup­port.

The event was among the en­ti­ties in Nel­son Man­dela Bay whose ap­pli­ca­tion for grant money was only par­tially ap­proved.

North­ern Arts Fes­ti­val founder Billy Paul­son said the 2017 in­stal­ment of the fes­ti­val had been the fi­nal one as he had run out of money to en­sure its con­tin­u­a­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port that was pre­sented to the may­oral com­mit­tee on Thurs­day, the fes­ti­val had been ap­proved to re­ceive only R10,000 from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, while it had ap­plied for R250,000.

In the re­port, cor­po­rate ser­vices act­ing boss Nosipho Xhego wrote that a task team had found that di­rec­tors of the fes­ti­val were do­ing busi­ness with the fes­ti­val through their own com­pa­nies.

Fes­ti­val founder Billy Paulsen said the fes­ti­val had come to an end as it had been ne­glected by the city for the past 10 years.

“This is not a Nel­son Man­dela Bay is­sue but a coun­try­wide prob­lem.

“The gov­ern­ment does not value the arts when we bring bil­lions in rev­enue.

“Eighty per­cent of the fes­ti­val was funded through per­sonal fund­ing and I sur­vived for 10years be­cause I had a dream.

“We, as the North­ern Arts Fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers, with the lit­tle fund­ing that we have, have cre­ated su­per­stars,” Paul­son said.

Paul­son said en­sur­ing that the fes­ti­val took place for the past 10 years had taken its toll.

“I have sold my prop­er­ties and in­vest­ments, I have sold ev­ery sin­gle thing to keep that fes­ti­val go­ing for 10 years.

The fes­ti­val took place an­nu­ally in Septem­ber.

Paul­son said that af­ter last year’s fes­ti­val, which was also the 10th one, he felt he could no longer go on.

“I have achieved my ob­jec- tive and it is now up to the com­mu­nity if they want some­thing like that.”

Paul­son de­nied al­le­ga­tions by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity that di­rec­tors of the fes­ti­val were us­ing their com­pa­nies to do busi­ness with the fes­ti­val and thus ben­e­fit from mu­nic­i­pal fund­ing.

“We had di­rec­tors who were chief ex­ec­u­tives of com­pa­nies and di­rec­tors. Whether the [mu­nic­i­pal­ity] gave me money is im­ma­te­rial. We had three peo­ple on our board and none of them did busi­ness with the fes­ti­val. I don’t know where you get that from.”

Mean­while, Heal­ing Hands founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Mag­gie Ban­ga­ree said the city de­clin­ing its re­quest of R200,000 for the fi­nan­cial year meant it was un­able to op­er­ate smoothly. The city will only give it R10 000.

The cen­tre in Cen­tral func­tions as a safe haven for des­ti­tute women and chil­dren while of­fer­ing out­reach for peo­ple liv­ing with HIV/Aids and also sup­port­ing creches.

Ban­ga­ree said it had ap­plied for fund­ing since the or­gan­i­sa­tion was es­tab­lished nine years ago, but had never re­ceived any money from the city.

“We re­ally don’t know what goes on there, why we are not get­ting the fund­ing, be­cause we have been ac­tive for nine years and we work ev­ery day but they have just been ig­nor­ing us,” she said.

Pre­vi­ously no rea­sons had been given to them about why their ap­pli­ca­tion had been de­clined.

“It has been very dif­fi­cult be­cause we have a lot of oper­a­tional costs in­volved, but we try to make do with be­cause we are very pas­sion­ate about what we do and we have been sur­viv­ing.”

Ban­ga­ree said the or­gan­i­sa­tion needed at least R40,000 a month to op­er­ate.

But with its cof­fers run­ning low, Ban­ga­ree said she had been forced to used her widow’s pen­sion to keep their doors open.

“There is such a great need and we try to do what we can in the com­mu­nity,” Ban­ga­ree said.

United Through Sport SA asked the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for R500,000 but will only be re­ceiv­ing a tenth of that.

Di­rec­tor Nick Mould said the or­gan­i­sa­tion had al­ways re­ceived smaller amounts than those they had ap­plied for from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s grant-in-aid pro­gramme.

“The fund­ing we re­ceive helps us to reach more chil­dren in Nel­son Man­dela Bay with sport, ed­u­ca­tion and crit­i­cal life skills lessons and we are grate­ful for this con­tri­bu­tion from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity,” Mould said.

The non-profit uses sport as a tool to de­velop the dis­ad­van­taged and vul­ner­a­ble youth.

Jim McKe­own, di­rec­tor of the Masinyu­sane Devel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion, said it was not com­pletely re­liant on the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for fund­ing as it gave it R50,000 a year.

“We al­ways ap­ply for more fund­ing ev­ery year but we get the same amount ev­ery year and it’s been hap­pen­ing for as long as we’ve ap­plied from them, which is some­thing be­tween five to 10 years.

“They have al­ways given us money to­wards univer­sity stu­dents and ev­ery lit­tle bit counts,” McKe­own said.

Pen­sioner Vir­ginia Vinqu from the Jerusalem Home Com­mu­nity Care Cen­tre said she was dis­ap­pointed by the fact that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was not giv­ing it the amount it had asked for be­cause it was solely de­pen­dent on the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

It asked for R137,000 and the city is set to give it R20,000.

Vinqu said she had ini­tially had a soup kitchen but when she saw the need from the com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially chil­dren, she de­cided to do more.

Pho­to­graph: WERNER HILLS

HELP­ING HANDS: Mag­da­lene Ban­ga­ree, co-founder of Heal­ing Hands in Cen­tral, hands out food to long-time re­cip­i­ent Onah Baster­man from Schaud­erville. The or­gan­i­sa­tion is strug­gling to do its char­i­ta­ble work

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