History of the Arts Festival
|Des Khoury, who was actively involved with
Creative Arts and the Arts Festival from its very beginning - also
an acclaimed musician, sculptor and artist.
The southern African Arts festival is based on the St. Hill Festival in
Britain. It was the brainchild of Debbie James in South Africa and composer/musician Duncan Lorien from the UK, who was previously involved with the
St. Hill festival. Composer, musician, and expert on ethnic music, Robin Hogarth,
current President of the St. Hill festival readily agreed to join the committee during
the time he was in South Africa and a very strong committee of (mostly) OT's was
put together. (For more information about Robin, click here: Robin
The first festival was held at Summerhill, an Applied Scholastics school in Midrand,
just outside Johannesburg in 1999. Unlike St. Hill, it was decided that the
festival should be held over a weekend, with concerts on Friday, Saturday and
Sunday evening and workshops through the day on Saturday and Sunday. This
formula has proved to be very successful with all the people that have
attended our festivals.
|Niel Malherbe -a veteran and still keen Arts
Festival supporter and part-time painter. Niel served on the committee for many years.
We are fortunate in having a real depth of musical talent in Johannesburg as
well as poets and actors. The workshops have also been very successful. A number
of artists with failed purposes have been rehabilitated and others who did not
realise they had artistic talent have been spurred on to produce all kinds of
|Chris and Hero Dresser, founder members
of the Arts Festival Committee. Chris is a writer, film director and
published poet with numerous international awards to his name.
Our second festival was also held at Summerhill school. For the third festival, we were asked by the Executive Director of
Johannesburg Day Org, Albert de
Beer, to hold it on the site of the soon to be opened new Johannesburg Ideal
Org, at that time, still incomplete. We managed to use the shell of the main building, which was previously the
famous old Kensington Golf Course clubhouse, where many of the world's top
golfers have played from time to time. We had to use all our ingenuity to set
the place up, but the result was excellent.
Since then, the festival has been held at the beautiful premises of
the now completed Church of Scientology Johannesburg, with great success
and enjoyment for all.
|Rhona Smit, whose involvement with the Arts
Festival and Creative Arts dates back to the early years. Rhona
served on the committee for many years and still runs workshops at the Festival and helps wherever she can.
Over the years we have had all kinds of workshops. These range from the
regular ones such as music, dance, acting, writing, painting, poetry and photography, to all
kinds of unusual activities. These have included Judo, Aromatherapy, how to
become a disc jockey, drumming, screenwriting, computer skills and so on. All
workshops include the ways in which the person delivering the workshop, uses LRH
tech in the application of their skills. Where possible the products of the
workshops are then performed or displayed in the Saturday or Sunday night
concert. The workshops come up with new angles to their subjects every year, so
repeat attendance at a regular workshop is never a wasted experience.
The evening variety concerts have become more and more professional and are a
highlight of the festival. Top South African performers and international stars
have participated and made them an event to look forward to each year.
At every festival, top, qualified auditors give metered interviews intended to
pick up losses and failed purposes in art. These have achieved remarkable
results and do not always have artistic outcomes. A couple of attendees have
subsequently joined staff. Others have gone back onto auditing or training lines
at the Orgs and others have revived their careers as artists.
Each year, the Festival seems to get bigger and better than ever, and the
expectation is that the trend will continue!
|Shelley Ashurst - veteran Arts Festival committee
member and Executive Director.
The history of the Arts Festival of Southern Africa could not be complete without mentioning
Shelley Ashurst. Shelley served on the Arts Festival Committee for 10 years.
During that time, she held various executive positions on the committee, moving
up to Executive Director of the Festival for the last 5 of those years. This
effectively made her the longest serving committee member and Executive Director
Shelley's own artistic flair and love of the arts was amply demonstrated in
the care and attention to detail that she gave to every aspect of the Arts
Festival. Under her leadership, the festival flourished and grew bigger and
better and more professional each year.
Her organisational skills and ability to run a team resulted in well-run
festivals, with all staff knowing exactly what they needed to do well
beforehand. Any crises were smoothly and quickly handled behind the scenes, in
the true spirit of "the show must go on."
Shelley has now handed over her many hats to other arts lovers, but she will
always be remembered for her stellar contributions to the Arts Festival.
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