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Six groups move closer to R80 000 grants

The final day of the ACT | UJ Arts & Culture Conference saw creatives from across the country battle it out in the Pitch Perfect session. Groups that were formed prior to, or at, the conference each had three minutes to impress the judges with an interdisciplinary project idea, but only six of them have moved closer to one of the two R80 000 grants.

Sponsored by the National Arts Council (NAC), the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) and Nedbank Arts Affinity, a total of R160 000 will be made available to two innovative interdisciplinary projects that were developed during the BASA Hatchery sessions at the two-day #creativeintersections conference.

“It has been close to two decades since the National Arts Council (NAC) was instituted, and in that period, we have seen how the local creative community has come together to form a dynamic industry,” says the NAC CEO Rosemary Mangope.

The NAC’s vision is to promote, through the arts, the free and creative expression of South Africa’s cultures. To this end we’re continuously looking for new partnerships and opportunities for collaboration. The NAC is thrilled to be supporting this project, which aims to promote excellence in the arts and strengthen the arts and culture sector in our country.

And these partnerships do not go unvalued. “The Arts & Culture Trust is privileged to have passionate partners that share our vision of advancing the creative sector,” says ACT CEO Pieter Jacobs. Jacobs says it’s events like these that offer real benefit to the industry. “The learning and skill sharing platforms offered by the ACT | UJ Conference proactively work towards empowering artists and creative practitioners. And what better way to do this than with practical real-world experiences where stakeholders learn by doing?”

There were 17 groups who presented ‘elevator pitches’ at the conference, ranging from dance and theatre ideas to festivals and cultural exchanges, each group’s spokesperson delivered with conviction and creativity. The nine judges could only select six semi-finalists who will battle it out at the first post-conference Creatives in Conversation on Wednesday, 13 April.

The six groups moving on to the second Pitch Perfect session are, in no particular order: Charismatic Rhythms, a skills transfer project based in Limpopo; Let’s Sing, a training project that uses state-of-the-art technology to teach musical arrangements; Creative Cocoons, a national incubation programme for women, by women; Join The Dots Festival, an annual public arts festival in the city of Johannesburg; Underground Dance Theatre, a dance company that wish to promote the arts through audience development; and Cultural Exchanges, an outdoor arthouse cinema aimed at rural youngsters.

“We believe that this initiative is critical in the progression of the arts industry and South Africa, as art remains a key socioeconomic contributor in our country,” explains Tobie Badenhorst, Head of Sponsorship and Cause Marketing at Nedbank. “As a bank that is committed to the development of the arts, Nedbank is humbled by the talent and ideas presented at the conference and looks forward to partnering with the delegates in their journey towards transforming the art landscape.”

Each group was overjoyed when they received the news that they had moved on to the next stage of the battle, and were all equally relieved to know that at the next Pitch Perfect engagement they will each be given 10 minutes to pitch their idea in full, rather than condensing it into a three-minute pitch, like they did in round one. Kagiso Kekana, the founder of Charismatic Rhythms, says that being shortlisted has encouraged her to continue introducing and exposing young minds to the arts; “The judges saw substance in what I am doing, therefore indicating that I am on the right path,” she says.

Besides making use of interdisciplinary skills and ideas, most of the groups also see their projects as sustainable enterprises that could be markedly kick-started with a grant of R80 000. Social cohesion and upliftment are also noticeable links between the six shortlisted projects.

Keketso Chele of Join the Dots Festival says that if his group wins a grant they will be afforded the opportunity to “create a new platform for artists, which will expose them to new audiences”, while Steven van Wyk of the Underground Dance Theatre says the grant would allow them to build the audience of their award-winning dance company. Van Wyk says that around the country artists battle to build audiences, and this is a problem they would like to solve. “Traditional PR and marketing methods have reached a ceiling for us,” he says. “With the grant, we will run a think-tank with creative minds from the business sector who have found new ways to promote their products. We will look into developing new, experimental ways of doing PR and marketing for theatre.”

Drug and alcohol abuse is the problem Cultural Exchanges, the self-professed Robin Hoods of the arts and culture industry, are setting out to eradicate. Team leader, Molebogeng Sebidi, says the ACT | UJ Arts & Culture Conference offered them real-life skills and ideas to take home and use to develop their outdoor cinema idea. “I am very honoured to have been part of a conference that brings like-minded arts and culture practitioners and administrators together under one roof,” she says. “The experience has provided me with the edge in terms of improving my knowledge of the industry in the country. I’m delighted that I am now one step closer to being able to extend arts and culture programmes to disadvantaged rural areas.”

The second round of the battle will see all six shortlisted projects pitch again and then face a series of questions from the panel of judges. This will take place on Wednesday, 13 April, at the Con Cowan Theatre at the University of Johannesburg’s Bunting Campus. Audience spaces are limited, to book yours contact

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