Modelled on the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, the Uplands Festival celebrates it’s 11th birthday over the weekend of 26 – 28th May 2017. What a fabulous achievement for a small country school, it’s a fitting tribute to the hard working committee of parents who saw the opportunity, after two successful fundraising concert events, to launch an annual arts festival in 2006 to raise money and counterbalance the intense sporting weekend at Uplands every May.
Without a doubt, the Uplands Festival is by far the biggest event in White River, drawing people (and not all parents or past parents!) from across the border and from the Highveld. Very often at a social event in Johannesburg, you’ll meet strangers who, on hearing you are from White River, will immediately talk about the marvellous festival they attended there. The Uplands Festival is known far and wide.
For three days, people gather to watch sport ranging from rugby, hockey and netball to horse riding. Market stalls selling a vast array of products to eat, drink, wear, read, look at, smear onto our bodies do a bustling trade. A secure playground for the little ones means that parents can enjoy the Festival for a bit, knowing Junior is having a ball on the slide and jumping castle, under watchful eyes. The CANSA Tea Tent is always a hot draw and an excellent fundraiser. Music is either, well, music to your ears or not but ignore it you can’t – the air vibrates with song.
Cleverly, seeing as this is Currie Cup time of the year, the Beer tent screens the match live. Art patrons and lovers stroll from classroom to classroom discovering new talent and adding to their collection. And oh, the stage shows and live drama – the organisers go to great lengths to procure interesting, top drawer shows from Festivals across SA.
Then, if you have the energy or have had an abstemious weekend, you can mount your bike on Sunday and hit the plantation trails, which usually sorts the kids from the overindulgent bad boys!
But the number one reason to NOT miss this weekend in White River is the ‘hail, fellow, well met’ as you bump into and renew friendships that stretched after the kids left school or you left the Lowveld. There is a definite magnetic quality about the Festival (note, locals refer to it as the Festival, Uplands being superfluous in this context) and the air rings with “Gosh, haven’t seen you since the last Festival,” or “See you next year at the Festival.”
When a quaint country town can draw the likes of Johnny Clegg, the Welsh Male Voice Choir, Jonathan Roxmouth and Joseph Clark to rock the school hall, you know there is magic in the air. Don’t lose out on the chance to experience it for yourself.