From all the comments about the Shell Festival, one thing is clear. There is still room for a Festival in Jeffreys Bay but the fabric or nature of the Festival has to change.
It is simply not good enough that the Shell Festival is primarily about stalls selling goods ranging from cheap sunglasses to rare succulents. There has to be more on offer at a Festival in Jeffreys Bay.
Entertainment and good food seems to attract people to festivals if one looks at the KKNK in Oudshoorn and the Grahamstown Arts Festival. As Mike Truswell puts it, not even the Shwarma King bothered to come to the Shell Festival this year. Also noticeable by their absence were some of the big art galleries in South Africa who used to send paintings by top South African artists to display and sell at the Festival.
Yet there are still positives as well. The Shell Festival still attracts feet into the town. According to organiser Carina Strydom an estimated 25 000 – 30 000 people attended the Festival. Some of the businesses in Da Gama Road did a roaring trade over the weekend so the original vision of the Shell Festival which was to bring feet into the town during quiet times, is still working.
The trick is how to leverage this into more feet and to offer the Festival goers more than what is currently on offer.
It must also be accepted that just about every town has a Festival and that Jeffreys Bay is in a competitive market. What cannot be accepted though, is that smaller towns like Addo, Kirkwood, Somerset East and even Loerie have more successful Festivals than Jeffreys Bay.
What does Jeffreys Bay have to offer that no other town has? What is unique about Jeffreys Bay that can attract more people to a “J’Bay” Festival?
Funny enough Jeffreys Bay is still highly regarded around the world as a shell collectors dream, with many rare shells still washing up on the beach year after year. With the right insights and thought, the Shell Festival could still prove to be aptly named.
Jeffreys Bay offers a Festival that is situated on one of the best beaches in the world. And, apart from Port Elizabeth, how many other towns actually hold a Festival right next to the beach?
Trevor Watkins managed to introduce sports to the Shell Festival with volley ball and touch rugby on offer. This initiative needs to be supported and grown for future Shell Festivals.
Port Elizabeth’s Splash Festival has a big enough water sports budget to hold open water swims that
attracted hundreds of swimmers. Having a budget to bring in world champion open water swimmers like Petar Stoychev also attracted television coverage.
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(Above: World Champion open water swimmer Petar Stoychev was a major attraction at the 2010 Splash Festival in Port Elizabeth)
Is the way forward to drive water sports as an integral part of the Shell Festival? Surf Lifesaving Competitions, rubber duck races, open water swims, stand up paddle races, surf contests and jet ski races could all be major draw cards to bring people into the town and to the Festival.
Evening entertainment is the other missing ingredient. Private venues like Potters Place and Jolly Dolphin need to be part of the solution. Three evenings of excellent live bands and shows must be on offer. Local bands must play. There has even been “battle of the bands” at previous Shell Festivals that were very popular.
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One of the best nights ever in Jeffreys Bay was the night Johnny Clegg and Savuka played at Main Beach….for free.
Obviously one needs a big budget to attract the big names, but there is no reason why Jeffreys Bay cannot offer a Shell Festival that attracts the big sponsors. We just need to work together and make it happen. If Loerie can with the Naartjie Festival, so can we.