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“Writing Beyond the Fringe” initiative ideal international platform for SA writers

June 22, 2009

national arts festival logoPhillippa Yaa de Villiers, who was the first winner of the National Arts Festival’s Writing Beyond the Fringe initiative, has returned from an international residency at the Possa Porta writer’s festival in Belgium. This was part of her prize.

She says that attending the festival was “tremendously affirming”, while she was honoured to represent South Africa at an international literary festival. She spent a month-long residency in Belgium, and was one of 124 international authors who also attended the three-day festival.

Phillippa adds, “I had always envied Europe because the arts are so well funded, but when I saw that proliferation of product and the small audience that everyone was competing to attract, I felt lucky to come from a country where so many stories are still waiting to be told. There is a passion here, and an urgency, which adds meaning to the work”.

This year, the National Arts Festival Fringe received a boost with the newly formed parternship between the Representation of Flanders in the Belgian Embassy and the Festival itself. This sponsorship constitutes about R1 million and is spread over several development projects, including Writing Beyond the Fringe.

Phillippa described the initiative as “[allowing] people who want to be writers to imagine and live out their potential without going through the usual tough channels”. An experience such as this would feed into writing and also raise standards and hopes.

Kurt Egelhof, Brink Scholtz and James Cairnes are three other South African writers who received prizes from the De Buren digital authors Radioboeken programme as part of the Writing Beyond the Fringe prize. They, together with de Villiers, will present their work on the Fringe Festival Readings programme, and every one of them will have their manuscripts produced as Digital Radio Books – these will be translated into four different languages, and made available as CDs and free Internet downloads. The writers also received a cash portion of 3 000 Euros.

Belgian writer Jef Aerts is to participate in the National Arts Festival as a way of reciprocating the exchange between the South African and Belgian partnership – he is a published writer and freelance editor, and has, since 1998, given workshops on prose, drama and autobiography.

He will join the four winners and South African author Niq Mhlongo during the Festival in the readings and conversations that take place at The Highlander from 7 to 9 July. Admission to this offering is free.

For more information, visit the site or phone 046 603 1103. The National Arts Festival runs in Grahamstown from 2 to 11 July.

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