Woodstock Live: Commercial or community?

TAURIQ HASSEN

The historical Trafalgar Park came to life when the Woodstock Live event was launched on Sunday March 20, but this came at an expense.

Closing the park to host a commercial event and labelling it as an effort to bring the community together did not go down too well with locals, particularly because entry was R130 for adults and R80 for 12- to 18-year-olds accompanied by an adult.

Outside the park, the Tatler spoke to Jeremy Davids from Woodstock, who with his two dogs, was ready to run around the park, but he was quickly stopped at the gate and told that if he wished to enter the park, it would cost him R130 entry fee.

“I heard about this concert in the park nonsense. The City of Cape Town wants to make money off everything and then throw in a whole lot of fancy terms, terms our people don’t understand and this makes everything seem okay.

“This is a public space and the City is starting to take spaces away from the people and handing it to outsiders to make money. If this was one of our people applying to host something in the park, they would be turned down immediately. How can you even use the term community if the neighbouring community is not involved?” Mr Davids asked.

Washiela Steenkamp was puzzled when her daughter returned home saying the park was closed for the day and it was R80 to go into the park. Ms Steenkamp then accompanied her daughter to the park and was stunned to see people paying to go into a space that was supposed to be for the public.

“One does not want to make a big deal out of it, but mark my words, this is only the beginning. They will throw stuff like this and say it’s for the community or even artists from the community. But I know artists here, local ones, who were not even approached to take part in something like this,” she said.

“As far as I know, this doesn’t benefit us – nor my children. The City of Cape Town and whoever organised this joke benefits and they use the word community to make everything seem okay.”

Last month the Tatler reported on a management plan that the City of Cape Town released for public comment, calling for ideas on how to use the Trafalgar Park space more efficiently (“Comment on park plan”, Southern Suburbs Tatler, February 28).

The plan was to table suggestions that would draw more visitors to the park and encourage them to make more frequent use of one of Cape Town’s most historic spaces.

In their marketing materials, the organisers of Woodstock Live, used words such as “community event” and “inclusive city”, causing upset among the residents who saw it as a commercial venture.

When the Tatler spoke to the organisers they highlighted only poor attendance and lack of a budget as the main problems experienced at their launch event. Woodstock Live project director Christopher de Vries said: “The event held this past Sunday, was a brand launch to create awareness of the project. Our core focus is to develop sustainable products in the city as this feeds the cultural economy from everyone directly involved in the event and subsequently the immediate physical area surrounding the event.”

Responding to residents’ complaints about the commercial nature of the event, and the fact that they were required to pay to enter a public park, Mr De Vries said organisers had to focus on making Woodstock Live sustainable.

“We acknowledge how sensitive the topic of gentrification is. In order to make meaningful contributions, the project needs to become sustainable. Income derived from ticket sales directly impacts the quality of content and production we are able to offer through the event, and it is of the utmost importance to that we contribute to sustainable livelihoods of the artists on our line-up as well as the suppliers that have come on board with this endeavour,” he said.

Organisers’ first objective was to develop a sustainable model for the event series, with plans in place to allocate proceeds from the event to social beneficiary projects, he said.

The Kaggen Music and Film Trust presents Woodstock Live and according to Mr De Vries, will be responsible for the distribution of the projected revenue with social outcomes partner, The Big Issue.

He added that organisers had chosen Trafalgar Park as it was seen as a “hidden asset within the city” and they wanted to use Woodstock Live to encourage more people to see and use the space.

”The ticket price for the event was specifically positioned, taking disposable income available to residents of the area into account. This past weekend alone saw several other live music event with ticket prices ranging from R150 upwards.”

Nevertheless, the small crowd that did attend gathered in front of the stage and danced away to the music of artists such as Goodluck, Das Kapital, Los Tacos, Mix * Blend and Tresor. Meanwhile, tempers were flaring on Facebook – as more and more got to learn about the Woodstock Live event unfolding in the park.

A group calling themselves XCollectiv launched a scathing attack by posting: “Woodstock Live is punted as an opportunity to establish an environment for creative expression and engagement through spontaneous and meaningful cultural conversations and innovative ideas to promote artistic integrity.

“The organisers go on to say that they ‘acknowledge the past and celebrate the evolution of Woodstock’s thriving for an inclusive approach between creative industry, local residents, business and community.

“This may sound very grand to the unenlightened but what all of the fancy talk boils down to is the continuing legitimisation of the gentrification process which has seen hundreds of families being evicted from the area.

“Tickets for this sham are going for between R80 for learners (accompanied by an adult) and R130 per adult at the gate. The organisers don’t seem to see the irony of talking about an inclusive approach when most local residents cannot afford to attend an event in a public park to which their access is slowly but steadily being limited.”

Attached to the post was a picture of the Woodstock Live poster, to which someone had added a sticker that read: “Non-poor only”.

The post also touched on the subject of gentrification, that has long been heavily debated by those in and around the Woodstock community. In 2014, a group defaced several properties in the area, by spraypainting the term “gentrin**iers” on them, in a bold effort to stage their own protest (“’Anti-gentrification’ graffiti hits Woodstock”, Southern Suburbs Tatler, February 19, 2014,).

The XCollectiv’s post quickly gained support, with people commenting “Concert should be free. The park has lost its soul” and “All Woodstock Poor People, I think we need to bring the Old Woodstock back”.

One comment was directed at the area’s ward councillor: “Where is Brett Herron now? Why don’t (sic) he comment and act on this?”

Mr Herron attended the event and spoke to the Tatler as he was leaving.

He remained in full support of the concept and aims of the event by explaining that events and tourism played “a very large part in growing our economy and creating jobs” working towards turning the city into an “events capital of africa”.

“We have also identified the important role of community events in building a caring and inclusive city. Our strategy has thus been to encourage and support both commercial and community events – to ensure that we creating an environment that sustains jobs and creates new jobs in the events value chain. We will not achieve our objectives of building a city that is inclusive and creates jobs if we only support one or the other of these events. We need both commercial events and community events,” Mr Herron said.

He added that he had not been aware of Woodstock Live ever being marketed as a community event.

The Woodstock Live event was the first of a series the organisers have planned for the area, with later events including a community event specifically for marginalised senior citizens for which there will be no charge for the guests. Mr Herron said organisers were also working on a children’s community event.

With the brand now launched, organisers hope to get sponsors to support the project, helping them to grow and develop the brand.

Mr De Vries said over the next 12 months, Woodstock Live would be rolling out a series of events with content offerings intended to reach not only the creative community of Woodstock but also families, children and the elderly.

“Our children’s music festival will speak directly to starting creative conversations with children at a young age and inviting their interaction in music and other forms of art. The Tea Party is a free content offering through which we intend to contribute to the lives of the elderly in the community through hosting an event in their honour that revisits community care of our elderly as well as dialogue and learning across generations,” he said.

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