The National Arts Festival’s Transnet Village Green Market has moved from Fiddlers Green in the centre of Grahamstown to Rhodes University campus. The new digs are more spacious and promise a “family-friendly” environment and a bigger sales platform for South African crafts makers and vendors.
According to Festival CEO Tony Lankester, the move to the Great Fields Complex at was prompted by the need to “turn the Craft Market into something bigger”; one capable of competing on an international scale. Lankester said that the previous location at Fiddlers Green was “shabby, rundown and cramped [with] nowhere to move”. Rhodes University partnered with the Festival organisers in order to open up the campus to the townspeople ensuring that “everyone comes to Rhodes as equals”—an issue that was apparently emphasised by Rhodes Vice Chancellor Dr. Saleem Badat. Lankester admitted however, that there had been a lack of communication between the organisers and the community about the move.
This was on the backdrop of a meeting which was held on 16 June by members of the community, who were disappointed about not being kept in the loop. The community was only notified of the change through recent advertisements. Khaya Thonjeni, a member of the Grahamstown community, said that there was a perception in town that people would lose their festival income with the Market’s relocation to the more leafy Rhodes campus. Townspeople are “more comfortable [with] where it was, because Rhodes has a way of doing things,” Thonjeni said.
Luvuyo Booi, a young casual also expressed his unhappiness about the relocation and said many people such as himself faced constant harassment from security personnel when they are on campus. He said that at Fiddlers Green in town they could “move around freely like everybody else” but on campus they are treated with suspicion and in constant fear of arrest. Booi said move also made it difficult for him to earn an income as he used to wash cars near Fiddlers Green, which is impossible on campus.
Not everyone is so despondent of course. Dylan McGarry, a street performer and puppeteer said that the move was “good for street theatre” because the Great Field Complex provides a big field and stands for the street performers. He said that the positioning of the old venue was not “very equitable” but it was “less segregated at the centre of town” therefore there would need to be more publicity to bring the town’s people onto campus, who still “don’t feel they have access to Rhodes University”.
The Village Green Market is one of the most popular aspects of the Arts festival and seems to have found a comfortable new home on Rhodes campus.
- Reported and written by Chwayitisa Futshane, Colin Wardle, Ongeza Ndlakuse and Jane Mathebula.