Last-minute Lottery funding for the National Arts Festival

Five days into its 11-day celebration of the arts, the National Arts Festival received confirmation of much-needed funding from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC). The festival, which takes place in Makhanda in winter each year, started on 20 June and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Festival CEO Monica Newton previously told GroundUp they had applied to the NLC for funding in August last year. The NLC had been a regular funder, disbursing R86-million to the the festival since 2003. But the festival organisers were told on 21 May that their funding application for this year’s festival had been declined.

It had taken the NLC nine months to communicate this to the festival, just one month ahead of the festival’s opening.

NLC commissioner Jodi Scholtz had said the request for funding was declined because one of the festival board members was listed on the NLC’s non-compliance register in relation to a separate project.
The festival successfully appealed against the decision. Scholtz said R10-million in funding for 2024 had been signed off on Monday morning and was “being processed”.

Scholtz said the festival had applied for multi-year funding of R56-million, but multi-year funding has to be approved by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition in terms of the Lotteries Act.

During a press briefing at the festival on Monday, Newton confirmed they had been granted R10-million from the NLC, to be used for the current festival and for the Creative City Makhanda project initiated in 2014 to develop cultural and creative economic activity in the city. According to a 2019 report on the Creative City project by the South African Cultural Observatory, this has had some success.

Questions to Newton about whether they would approach the minister for approval of multi-year funding, and about who the board member is who appeared to have been wrongly placed on the NLC’s non-compliance register, went unanswered.


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