Thursday, September 2, 2021

The 2021 Woordfees becomes South Africa's first-ever arts festival pop-up channel with Woordfees TV running on DStv from October.

by Thinus Ferreira

In a South African television first, the 2021 Woordfees at Stellenbosch is expanding into a DStv pop-up channel from October with 120 hours of carefully curated arts content as MultiChoice and the country's first festival TV channel.

Woordfees TV as the pop-up channel will be known on DStv, will run on DStv channel 150 from 1 to 7 October as the first-ever dedicated arts festival channel on South African television and will be available to DStv Premium and DStv Compact subscribers with content from the festival that has been specially recorded for the channel.

In Namibia, Woordfees TV will air on GOtv channel 15 with access for all GOtv Max subscribers. A selection of content will also be available on DStv Catch Up.

Woordfees TV will carry content ranging from theatre, writers and books to dance, lifestyle, stand-up comedy, contemporary and classical music, film, discourse, and visual arts. 

Woordees TV will celebrate the arts and the diversity of talent and creativity of local artists, with a strong focus on quality-Afrikaans books, theatre, music, and film. 

Woordfees TV will broadcast predominantly in Afrikaans but will also include English and multi-lingual works. All Afrikaans narrative works produced by the Woordfees festival, such as plays and discussion, will have English subtitles.
"A large variety of content by local producers have been curated to reflect the interests of our loyal festivalgoers," says Saartjie Botha, Woordfees festival director.

"The programme will appeal to the culturally curious and all lovers of the arts, books, music, good food and wine."

"People from different walks of life, backgrounds and languages will be able to come together around their love of the arts to experience beauty, spectacle, debate, provocative ideas, and community. Lifestyle-orientated content will focus on scenic Stellenbosch and surrounds where the festival usually takes place."

Origin story of the jump to TV
Saartjie Botha told TVwithThinus that the Woordfees approached MultiChoice with the idea of expanding the festival into a third-party TV channel on DStv, where Aletta Alberts, MultiChoice's head of content who sadly passed away recently, said "Why not?" and who helped us tremendously to get this TV extension off the ground.

About the new challenges she says "we're used to organising an in-person festival but this is something radically different. We've never before produced TV content on this scale".

"The other big challenge is of course to make the finances work. We're dependant on ticket sales and we have to sell a lot of tickets. In this TV model there isn't ticket sales. We hope that we'll be able to cover the gap in ticket sales with advertising [on the channel]."

"We won't have ad breaks during programmes but in-between different programmes there will be commercials and we hope that not just for us but for the arts in the future it could become an alternative revenue stream," she says.  

"One of the world's biggest performing arts festivals, the Edinburgh Festival, started after the Second World War, and also after WWI there were interesting movements and innovation in the arts. Our artists are going through deep water."

"Our artists and South Africa's artistic community is standing ready to explore the world since Covid but we do need money to do that."

Although the first TV edition is an experiment, Saartjie Botha says that "I hope our loyal festival-goers will move with us to this new platform".

"We're an arts festival. We're not a TV channel. We will stay true to our DNA and character and we'll always remain a festival. This is an experiment on other platforms. We see it as the best alternative for the current climate."

"As we work on this format and in this medium, we're literally seeing doors opening and new opportunities waiting in the wings."

"I think there's a big need under South African audiences - not just Afrikaans viewers - for local content. This platform, in a very modest way, is an opportunity to bring more local content to our audiences."

TV production 
"We knocked on the doors of TV producers," Saartjie Botha explains about the technical aspects of bringing Woordfees TV and its content to life on DStv.

"We have some media companies helping us with the production of content. Marche Media is doing content for us, Homebrew Films is doing a number of things for us, Stark Films in Johannesburg is doing work for us, and then we have some smaller companies also helping us."

"Since it's a third-party channel on DStv we have a channel playout company receiving the content and broadcasting it on the channel."

"We also got strong guidance from MultiChoice on how to package everything and I take my hat off for their patience - TV is a whole other landscape and we're learning a lot of lessons as we go along."

"Even if we never do this again, something of the incredibly orderly structure of TV, will be incorporated into how we approach festivals in future and how we approach content in future since content is packaged much more economically for TV than for a festival."

"The other interesting thing is that at a festival you always have options. With the linear programming of a TV channel you have just one option at a specific time. We had to think very hard about how do we schedule this channel so that it suits everyone who would enjoy watching it."

The Woordfees TV programme line-up will include:

Writers’ festival
Writers, poets and thought leaders on the Woordfees TV channel include Lien Botha, Andries Bezuidenhout, Nataniël, Nathan Trantraal, Joan Hambidge, Zandra Bezuidenhout, Bernard Odendaal, Ashwin Arendse, Veronique Jephtas, Dominique Botha, Jolyn Philips, Hilda Smits, Rudie van Rensburg, Erns Grundling, Ingrid Jones, Reuben Riffel, Max du Preez, Oscar van Heerden, Albert Grundlingh, Louise Viljoen and Willem Anker.


The theatre series includes:
The award-winning Valsrivier (based on Dominique Botha’s acclaimed novel) with Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Tinarie Van Wyk Loots and Stian Bam, theatre direction by Janice Honeyman, and film direction by Christiaan Olwagen.
The 2020 Fiësta Award winner for Best Production: Die poet, wie’s hy?, a celebration of poet Adam Small’s work, starring Dean Balie with theatre direction by Frieda van den Heever, and film direction by Christiaan Olwagen.
Reza de Wet’s classic play Mis with Nicole Holm, Martelize Kolver, Jane de Wet and Laudo Liebenberg, theatre direction by Wolf Britz, and film direction by Jaco Bouwer.
Adam Small’s celebrated Krismis van Map Jacobs with June van Merch, Ilse Klink, Dann-Jacques Mouton and Elton Landrew, theatre direction by Jason Jacobs, and film direction by Jaco Bouwer.
Ferine and Ferase with theatre legends Andrew Buckland and Sylvaine Strike, theatre direction by Toni Morkel, and film direction by Jaco Bouwer.
Satirical game show Off the Record with Standard Bank Young Artist winner Jefferson “J Bobs” Tshabalala and guests.
Hannes van Wyk in the popular one-man show Sê groete vir ma.

Classical Music
A variety of concerts including the world-renowned Stellenbosch University Choir; pianist Megan-Geoffrey Prins; Italian opera arias with baritone Theo Magongoma, soprano Kimmy Skota, and tenor Arthur Swan.

Also seen will be the Cape Town Baroque Ensemble with Handel’s London operas; mezzo-soprano Minette du Toit Pearce accompanied by Phillipus Hugo; pianists Nina Schumann and Luis Magalhães; and Zorada Themmingh on the organ of the Moederkerk in Stellenbosch.

Contemporary Music
The contemporary music series include:
A celebration of David Kramer’s 70th birthday with Emo Adams, Loukmaan Adams, Robin Auld, Schalk Joubert and friends in the tribute: Boland to Broadway.
Karen Zoid performing 20 of her greatest hits with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.
Karoo Suite – an ode to the beauty of the Great Karoo in word, music, and spectacular images with Coenie de Villiers and Deon Meyer.
Luna Paige, Ramon Alexander, and Frazer Barry exploring the origins and showcasing the variety of Afrikaans music in Smeltkroes.
Also on the music menu: Amanda Strydom, Spoegwolf, Die Heuwels Fantasties (with Francois van Coke, Tarryn Lamb and Jack Parow), jazz, cabaret, folk, swing, and poems set to music.

Stand-up Comedy
Thirteen of the country’s most popular stand-up comedians: Marc Lottering, Schalk Bezuidenhout, Nik Rabinowitz, Shimmy Isaacs, Alan Committie, Bennie Fourie, Alfred Adriaan, Melt Sieberhagen, Kagiso Mokgadi, Joey Rasdien, Hannes Brümmer, Conrad Koch and Wayne McKay.