Media statement by the Outreach Foundation

For immediate release

14th Annual Inner Cities High Schools Drama Festival kicks off in Hillbrow

 For immediate release: 2 September 2018

 A record number of schools are participating in the unique Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, from 31 August 2018 to 8 September 2018 at the Outreach Foundation Hillbrow Theatre.

 The youth from the inner-city of Johannesburg and further afield are acknowledged for their leadership, courage, creativity and talent by performing their stories on stage in front of a large audience and an esteemed panel of adjudicators including Mpho Molepo, Baby Cele, Bongani Gumede and Gcina Mkhhize Olifant.

 Dumisani Dlamini, the acclaimed actor, remains the loyal Inner-City High Schools Drama Festival Ambassador and has, in the weeks leading up to the festival, visited each of the inner-city schools participating, to encourage learners in their play creation and to inspire their creative journeys.

 The theme for 2018 is African Futures and is aimed at giving the students the opportunity to engage, investigate, research and unpack various ideas and stories that ‘speaks to them’ regarding the theme. Thinking about African Futurism is not limited to imagining advances in science and technology, but is intended as a way for the learners to explore how they imagine themselves, their communities and their environment in the future, using the many languages and materials of theatre-making.  It is hoped that this exciting theme will open their imaginations to create inspiring new imaginary worlds.

 The festival aims to change lives, inspire creativity and promote positive change for the students that participate.

“The Outreach Foundation is thrilled to yet again host the festival,” says Gerard Bester, Manager of Outreach Foundation’s Performing Arts Department.

 “And we very pleased that the partnerships formed to bring this festival to life are growing. Our partners are the Department of Arts and Culture, Rand  Merchant Bank (RMB), the Market Theatre Laboratory, Bread for the World, Exclusive Books, Assitej South Africa, the Johannesburg International Arts Alive Festival and now the Ford Foundation and Drama for Life.

 Bester explains that the festival offers dramatic arts experiences and skills directly to inner-city schools, while the outreach programme offered before the festival provides drama training to inner-city learners where they are assisted, guided and mentored in the production of the plays they enter into the festival. This programme is a response to the reality that most inner-city high schools offer little to no arts and culture education. Learners are unable to partake in cultural activities as part of their education or investigate possible future careers in the arts through exposure to arts and culture training. This festival aims to bridge that gap.

 The team of 31 facilitators who go into inner-city schools to work with the learners on a weekly basis before the festival, is made up of a combination of facilitators from the Hillbrow Theatre Project, young artists working in the city and second-year Market Theatre Laboratory students. Eleven former Market Theatre Laboratory students are employed to work in various schools. This is a point of pride for the festival as it is now able to provide paid work opportunities for young artists in the city.

 “The impact of the partnership between the Market Theatre Laboratory and Hillbrow Theatre has been far greater than I initially imagined – I am amazed and delighted by how many alumni continue to work with schools in the inner city, and how it has re-shaped and focused the career trajectory of many of the Lab students who have participated. I look forward to building on this partnership to provide more opportunities for young people in the city to experience the arts.” Clara Vaughn – Head of the Market Theatre Laboratory

Polished stage performances are only one aspect of how the creative process benefits young participants. During each outreach programme class, each participant has to contribute to an exercise. This instils a sense of responsibility and builds confidence for those who are shy.

 Tapiwa Towindo (19) says that festivals are very important for children who have a passion for the arts.

 “It gives them a voice to share their art with the audience. It also creates a lot of awareness and teaches people not to undermine children because the stuff we are putting on stage is extremely powerful. Grown-ups tend to turn a blind eye to children. The art is a great medium for the youth and the adults to meet and have a conversation about the social issues that we are faced with today because when the adults go, the world is going to be ours.

 “I think art festivals are really, really important in that transition of power and responsibility from the adults to the youth. Also, it is important for kids to get noticed as I was. I was fortunate enough to get noticed. For people who have dreams about pursuing a career in the arts, festivals are a good place for that to happen. They are good for noticing talent and also for the message you are trying to convey.

 “The audiences are also extremely important because, without them, there is no one to appreciate the art. There’s a saying that goes, ‘if a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one to hear it, did it really fall?’ So, the audiences are there to make sure that the tree did fall”.

 Says Thabang Phakathi, Project Coordinator of the Festival: “It always surprises me at the talent we unearth through the inner-city drama festival. There are so many children who have so much to offer but have never been given the opportunity to show what they can do. This festival gives them the chance to shine. It gives them a chance to reimagine their futures”.

 For more information visit www.outreachfoundation.co.za or search for @HillbrowTheatreProject and @OutreachFoundation on Facebook or Thabang Phakathi on 072 816 2616 or 011 720 7011.