Big plans for festival as Mitchell’s Plain turns 40

* The team behind the DStv Mitchell’s Plain Festival, Ivan Kleintjies, Sharon Austin, Junaid Robertson and founder Rozario Brown.

The organisers of the DStv Mitchell’s Plain Festival have something big planned for this year’s event as part of celebrating the community’s 40th anniversary.

“Every year we try to do something different, but this year, we have to do something big,” said Rozario Brown, the founder of the festival, of which the Plainsman is the print media partner.

The annual festival, which started in 2009 to celebrate the Mitchell’s Plain community, has grown well over the years, with over 30 000 people attending the event annually, which runs over a summer weekend in late November/ early December at the Westridge Gardens.

The increasingly popular festival hosts live entertainment acts, a variety of carnival rides, demonstrations and expos from the South African Navy, the South African Air Force, SAPS and stalls offering eats as well as an array of goods for sale.

Mr Brown, who is from Eastridge, said part of the mandate of the festival is to portray Mitchell’s Plain in a different light. “When people read in the papers about Mitchell’s Plain or see it on TV or hear about it on radio, it’s always crime, grime, violence, gangsterism and drugs.”

He said he wants show the greater community that Mitchell’s Plain can host a professional, safe and fun event.

Mr Brown said over the seven years that the festival has been held, not one serious incident was reported. “I think we were relatively successful in showing the world that Mitchell’s Plain is not just about crime, grime, gangsterism and drugs. It’s also about hosting safe and professional events – that we can celebrate without violence and without drugs and alcohol. There is no alcohol allowed.

“We have already debunked the myth that Mitchell’s Plain is an unsafe place. It’s a great disservice that has been rendered to the community when people say Mitchell’s Plain is not a nice place to be.”

He said Mitchell’s Plain has its challenges, but it is no different from the challenges faced in neighbouring communities.

The festival is well-supported by many, and has even been visited by President Jacob Zuma, Premier Helen Zille and Mayor Patricia de Lille.

The event is also supported by the City of Cape Town, which provides infrastructure for the festival.

Gareth Bloor, the Mayco member for tourism, events and economic development, said last year, the City contributed R250 000 that covered electricity services, the supply of electrical fittings, generators and City services.

The City’s Special Events Committee approved a three-year agreement for 2016, 2017 and 2018 for a contribution of R300 000 towards the event. The total cost to run the festival is about R780 000.

Mr Brown said the success of the Mitchell’s Plain festival is attributed to the fact that it builds bridges between communities, and the giving nature of the event.

“Most of the things we take for granted, but through the festival, we are able to see how we change people’s lives. In 2010 we gave a house away in Watergate Estate to a backyard dweller. We’ve sent couples to Mauritius, to Joburg. The people who win these prizes have never experienced things like this before.”

He said he would like to see more local corporate companies get involved with initiatives like the festival, and give back to the Mitchell’s Plain community.

He said about 80 percent of the event’s infrastructure and entertainment is locally sourced.

He said he is excited to be celebrating the Mitchell’s Plain community’s 40th anniversary, and is already working on getting as many local people to perform as possible, and to get more tourists to attend.

“We are celebrating good things in Mitchell’s Plain – talent, and where people come from. And we can celebrate in peace. I would like to wish the people of Mitchell’s Plain well and thank them for making the community what it became over 40 years.

This year’s DStv Mitchell’s Plain Festival will take place from Friday November 25 to Sunday November 27 at Westridge Gardens.

* The Plainsman is running a series of articles to celebrate Mitchell’s Plain’s 40th anniversary. However, there seems to be some discrepancy as to how old the community of Mitchell’s Plain really is. Mr Brown said he started the festival in 2009 in celebration of what he believed to be the area’s 35th anniversary. He said he spoke to local councillors who informed him at the time that the area is 35 years old. However, extensive research undertaken by the Plainsman in 2000 for the paper’s 21st anniversary, which was marked with a souvenir edition on October 25 2000, showed that the area was officially opened by former prime minister Balthazar Johannes (BJ) Vorster in April 1976.

Mitchell’s Plain Sub-council chairperson, Eddie Andrews, concurred, saying the first residents moved to Westridge in April 1976, but development of the area commenced some years before, as far back as 1971.