Stellenbosch University
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The Woordfees comes of age
Author: US Woordfees
Published: 02/03/2020

The Toyota SU Woordfees​ started as an all-night celebration of Afrikaans poetry and literature in 1999 and has grown into one of the country's biggest arts festivals. In 2019 this celebration of the arts attracted some 70 000 visitors and sold out 332 performances. In 2020 the festival turns 21. This coming of age is being celebrated over 10 days with more than 500 productions in 16 categories across 75 venues in Stellenbosch.

On any given day, you can attend a pop, rock, hip-hop or jazz concert, enjoy a classical music performance, taste top food and wine, brighten your day with stand-up comedy, experience outstanding theatre, listen to a political debate or join in a discussion with a panel of writers.

Festival director, Saartjie Botha, talks about what makes the festival so special.0TwpY7GV.jpeg

What is this year's theme and what did you want to achieve by choosing it?

The theme is “Keep moving and keep making a noise" and is taken from Jan Rabie's short story “Ek het jou gemaak" (I made you.) It was originally published in the short story collection 21, which is regarded by many as the start of the important “Sestiger" literary movement in South Africa. This theme recommits the festival to its bond with literature and the word and communicates strongly that the arts matter and has much to share.

How does the Woordfees differ from other national arts festivals?

We are not a holiday festival. We do not have stalls or a festival market. In addition to theatre, art and contemporary music we offer programmes featuring renowned writers, rich and thought-provoking discussions and film, dance and classical music

What do you see in the future for the Woordfees: immediately and in the short and long term?

We want to be known as a festival that continually challenges and renews. We want to give strong strategic support to the arts industry. We want to provide a platform where artists can showcase their work, make a name for themselves and be seen. We want to actively use the power of the arts to strengthen social cohesion in our country.


Please give TEN tips for how to get the best out of the 2020 festival - and experience (and survive) all the fun and excitement.

  1. Plan – there is so much to choose from. If you do not plan your day well, you are going to miss opportunities.
  2. Use the shuttle service – it is the best way to avoid traffic congestion and will spare you the frustration of searching for parking.
  3. Be on the lookout for free shows – there are many quality free events.
  4. Take a chance – buy a ticket to a show by an artist that you have never heard of.
  5. Keep an eye on social media and our festival newspaper, Ink, for schedule adjustments, extra shows and other changes.
  6. Put aside time to take a breath and experience being part of our festival.
  7. Enjoy the good food and wine available in Stellenbosch before or after a show.
  8. Treat artists with the respect that they deserve. Don't fan yourself, look at your cell-phone or talk to a friend during a performance. You disturb the artists and your fellow audience members.
  9. Be open to new perspectives, new worlds and new ideas.
  10.  And most importantly: Enjoy every moment!

Festival guides are available at the Woordfees Office, (Erfurthuis, 37 Ryneveld Street, Stellenbosch). Tickets are available from Computicket. The complete festival guide can be downloaded at