Soweto festival squanders opportunity

Soweto festival squanders opportunity


Johannesburg - It was a festival full of high hopes and big dreams that were bitterly and abruptly crushed on Friday.

The inaugural Soweto International Jazz Festival was officially cancelled yesterday because of logistical delays, which the organisers said were out of their control.

The festival had a reportedly slow start from the get-go as the first day of performances on Thursday began several hours late.

It went downhill from there and the organisers announced that the Friday leg had been cancelled.

They explained yesterday that, because of the delays, they could not get the necessary permission from the City of Johannesburg’s joint operations committee.

International music acts such as Charlie Wilson, Deborah Cox, The Neville Brothers and Bob James, who were already in the country, had to hang about and find other ways to pass their time in Johannesburg.

Nolan Baynes, the general manager of International Arts Solutions, said: “We deeply regret the loss of the economic impact this festival was due to have on the local community. We privately invested close to R15 million. The festival was due to employ 150 local musicians and 300 local suppliers.

“All our suppliers were from Soweto – to a cost of R4 million to R5 million for security, cleaning, fencing, stages, sound and catering services staff. We had 22 vendors set up, including for food, and arts and craft. We also had an event mentorship management programme that had engaged with 50 students from the Soweto Skills Academy.”

Baynes said the organising company had been advised by its attorneys that it had legal grounds to pursue the matter further, and would rigorously defend all of its legal rights in the next few days.

“The team worked diligently over the course of 11 months to ensure that we delivered a world-class festival and gave everyone the best possible experience. Our team worked extremely hard to meet this momentous expectation and to ensure all the rigorous standards were met. Unfortunately, due to matters out of our control, we don’t believe that goal can be accomplished right now,”
he said.

Cox said: “I am extremely disheartened that the festival was not allowed to happen. I was looking forward to performing for the amazing people of Soweto and Jozi.”

Local jazz artist Ernie Smith also expressed his disappointment about the cancellation, saying that it was a “lost opportunity” for local artists and the community.

Baynes said that, by bringing the international offering to Soweto, the organisers had hoped to give the Soweto community and South Africans a “world-class event that not only entertains, but also empowers and uplifts the community”.

He said everyone who bought tickets for concerts on Friday, yesterday and today will be given full refunds via the online ticketing agent Webtickets.