Tony Lankester bids National Arts Festival goodbye

Tony Lankester has resigned after 12 years as National Arts Festival CEO
Tony Lankester has resigned after 12 years as National Arts Festival CEO
Image: File Image

Being the National Arts Festival CEO was the “most incredible 12 years of my adult life”‚ Tony Lankester said after resigning from his position to take on a new job in the UK.

“I am extraordinarily grateful to the festival team‚ the artists and audiences who have made it all so worthwhile‚” Lankester said.

“Steering this ship has been a privilege and has resulted in a ton of memories‚ moments‚ friendships and learning experiences I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

“But I feel it’s the right time to move on and to give the festival space to bring in some new energy and ideas.”

The arts festival in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) managed to put on its shows in 2019 after a mammoth effort to ensure water and electricity for its patrons.

While not referring to this directly‚ Lankester said: “The national arts landscape is a tough one‚ and the job hasn’t been without its frustrations. But art always wins through and prevails.

“I’ve always had a sense that I’m merely the custodian of this very special festival –it existed for 33 years before I joined‚ and will continue to flourish and thrive for many decades.”

Lankester will start his new job in October in the UK.

Festival chair Ayanda Mjekula said Lankester had been a “revelation” since his appointment and thanked him for setting a high standard which “will be extremely difficult to rival”.

“On behalf of the artists, we thank you for the vibrancy‚ the freedom and the creativity which you allowed them to pour in.”

Mjekula said the festival was putting together a team to ensure a smooth transition.