There was much fretting ahead of 2019’s National Arts Festival in Makhanda. Would the town be able to cope with the annual influx of visitors given its protracted water crisis? Would 200,000 people still want to attend? If they did, could they afford to come?

Under these circumstances, I found that studying the programme in anticipation of the event (which boasts as much variety and depth as ever) created more consternation than in the past. Previously, it was simply a case of Fomo: too much to see, too little time. In 2019, however, the questions were more material, perhaps even existential. Would the artists have the audiences they deserve and the incentive to return? Would the Eastern Cape get the economic boost it needs? What does the future hold?

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