Arts festival bites the dust
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.
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