The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival has recently drawn to a close and while they are measuring the success of their 2016 presentation, other festivals with similar concepts start hitting the last nail in the coffin.

The debate catches fire, questioning the future of arts festivals in South Africa. It comes as no surprise to me that Aardklop National Arts festival (annually hosted in Potchefstroom) wants to change their direction and close the current concept and model for good.

The question remains if corporate social investment can be viable through national arts festivals?

The answer to this fairly debatable question underlies in the presence of a creative economy within the festival concept.

But what is a creative economy?

creative economy is based on people’s use of their creative imagination to increase an idea’s value. Compared to creative industries, which are limited to specific sectors, the term is used to describe creativity throughout a whole economy.

The term ‘creative imagination’ will then refer to the art forms performed during such festival, assuming that the concept of the festival was to celebrate, develop and invest in the arts.

How to identify the presence of a creative economy?

It is important that the basic outlines to any participation in a creative economy are taken into consideration when a company makes a decision to invest in a festival as part of their CSI strategy.

The basic impact on the economy has to relate to economic indicators such as producer outputs, consumer expenditure, employment and trade.

Economic growth as a whole must therefor be beneficial and measurable to the community or location the money was invested in.

If the above economic indicators within the arts are not primarily visible or measurable, no creative economy is present. If the economic indicators are only or primarily focused and measurable around economic activity not related to the arts, but spin-off activities from the core concept, the investment is primarily based on a non-sustainable periodic market, boosting the economy on another level for short-term period activation.


This is why the festivals depends more and more on investments, partnerships and sponsors, due to no sustainability factor that are generated to the economy as a whole after the specific activation was executed.

It becomes a rhythm in planning the next year’s festival, rather than the implementation of the generated talent from the festival into the marketplace to feed the economy as a whole.


When will the “economy as a whole” be affected?


The economic environment where money was invested in during the festival must now move forward. Businesses need to capitalise in the boost they received during the festival and develop their businesses.

This is what the festival committee NOW needs to focus on before they intent planning the next festival.

They need to engage local businesses that piggy banked on the festival to invest in discovered talent and artistry.

What artist or art form has the potential to become sustainable economic activities that can daily contribute to the economic environment? Connecting this talent in building towards the need of 1 000 000 entrepreneurs in South Africa will solve and stabalise our economic climate.

The solution – Case study:

A saxophone player was discovered through the festival committee and drawn sufficient crowds, showcasing his unique talent.

The festival committee engage the hospitality industry to help build this saxophone player’s career.

Different hotels and shopping centres in the surrounds now employ him on contractual basis.

He create a unique ambience while people enjoy their shopping or stay during scheduled days of the week and add loads of value to the hospitality and retail industry of the community.

His growth in personal finance boost economic growth.

The festival committee monitor, evaluate and report his economic contribution through a real-time M&E tool where stakeholders and sponsors can also engage to view their extensive return on investment.


The full circle:

This artist become a well-rehearsed drawing card and sharp act for the next festival, delivering pro-bono shows, keeping the festival real and almost independent.


This solution may sound like an idealistic dream that will hardly become a reality. The irony however is that there are already festivals like the Northern Arts Festival in Port Elizabeth that took this direction and gave

the platform needed to artists who is now international renowned with extensive international awards behind their names.


In contrast, I would think that after investing 18 years in a national arts festival like AARDKLOP, a kind of sustainable creative footprint would be visible in Potchefstroom. I mean, if the core investment were utilised to grow the creative economy of Potchefstroom, the heart of the festival would still be pure and sustainable?


The future of national arts festivals is to put that action plan together that will grow closer to the heart of the start.


Become less dependent from sponsors and let them naturally engage into the economy, the CREATIVE ECONOMY.


Forever Friday is a chartered BRANDING | MARKETING | EVENTS | CSI company that build monitoring and evaluation frameworks for any CSI focus. We also execute full real-time M&E and reporting with our innovative software.

Let us DISCOVER, CONCEPTUALISE, DESIGN, EXECUTE and NURTURE your CSI focus or strategy for CSI engagement.

JJ van Niekerk
Forever Friday: National Brand Manager