Artists already being called to submit works for 2020 National Arts Festival

The official opening of the 45th annual National Arts Festival in Makhanda
The official opening of the 45th annual National Arts Festival in Makhanda
Image: Werner Hills

Ever wondered how to get a call-up to the main stage at the biggest arts festival in the country? It’s simple – skill up, think realistically and put in a call.

Not long after the curtain has fallen on the 2019 National Arts Festival, organisers are in preparation mode once again, announcing the call for artists to submit works for the 2020 Festival Main Programme.

Performers have a short window to do so, with applications closing on August 19.

The 2020 National Arts Festival is set to take place from June 25 to July 5 in Makhanda.

The main programme is a platform for works by wellknown or established SA or international artists and has two streams: the curated programme and the festival choice.

The curated programme comprises works selected by the curatorial committee, and spans all genres and types, with a focus on more cuttingedge and provocative works.

The curators will consider all submissions received, engage with artists and producers, and develop a coherent curated programme for presentation at the festival.

This committee and the festival’s executive producer then supplement these pieces with more mainstream pieces, known as the festival choice.

Artists are not, however, asked to distinguish which aspect of the programme they are pitching their proposal at.

At a discussion held at the 2019 festival on the curation of the main programme, curatorial committee chair Brett Bailey told artists that they needed to be realistic about the budgets they were proposing for works.

“It will be of added benefit if artists submitting proposals for costly works are able to come to the table with co-funding in place or ideas about how cofunding could be achieved.

“The festival’s budget is very much a finite one,” Bailey said.

Curator for dance David April advised artists to look at collaboration to add gravitas and experience to their ideas.

Curator for theatre Lara Bye said artists needed broad experience of touring work to meet the professional and personal demands of performing on the main programme.

“A level of technical skill and experience is really important for artists who bring work to the main, because it’s not a mentorship space,” Bye said.

“Artists who have set their sights on the main, but are not yet experienced with touring, may want to try and break out some work on the arena, student and fringe stages, which are a vital part of the ecosystem,” she said. “There are also some exciting programmes that are running through National Arts Festival like the Distell National Scriptwriting Award that can really assist artists in getting themselves ready for the main.”

The curatorial team looks for the following in assessing proposals of works for the programme: premiers of new work, cutting-edge work, strong pieces which have already run on other stages, collaborations, multidisciplinary presentations, diversity and public-space work.

The application form for submitting 2020 main programme proposals can be found on the National Arts Festival’s website.