The 2021 Toyota SU Woordfees will not take place in the planned format from 17 to 24 September in Stellenbosch. However, an exciting alternative is in the works. More details about this country-wide, Covid-safe celebration of the arts will be revealed soon.
The cancellation of the physical festival, which requires months of planning and preparation, became inevitable as a result of the impending threat of a third wave and the slow vaccination rollout.
“There are several reasons why a physical festival is no longer possible in 2021”, says the director of the Toyota SU Woordfees, Saartjie Botha. “When President Ramaphosa announced on the 30th of May that the country will move back to level 2 restrictions to try and contain an approaching third wave, it became abundantly clear that there would be no way to guarantee the safety of Stellenbosch residents, audiences and artists if we went ahead as planned. Stellenbosch University’s Campus Health also made it very clear that at this stage it is impossible to ensure that a mass event in September would be Covid-safe.
“We waited until the last possible moment before taking the decision to change the mode of the festival for 2021 because artists and the Stellenbosch economy need a festival to thrive. Our sponsors, however, cannot be associated with an event that has the potential to be a Covid superspreader, and it is not financially viable to run a festival given the current audience capacity restrictions.
“We usually host the annual Woordfees WOW Carnival and at least one other open-air mass concert with a combined potential capacity of 6 000. The current capacity restrictions – even at the most lenient level – do not allow for more than 500 people, which would sink the financial feasibility of those productions before we started.
“The picture is even bleaker when you consider indoor spaces: A theatre such as the Adam Small Auditorium, with a capacity of 324, can only accommodate 49 audience members under social distancing protocols. In order, therefore, to realise the same income as a sold-out performance before Covid-19 restrictions, tickets would cost around R990 each.
“But I am thrilled about our alternative festival plan for 2021. I can’t wait to unveil our new projects for the rest of the year. As long as there is art, there is hope and new possibility.”
The 2021 Toyota SU Woordfees will no longer take place from 17 to 24 September, but information about a big new festival initiative will soon be announced in the media and on all digital Woordfees platforms.