Countdown to Mitchell’s Plain fest begins

Rozario Brown, founder and director of DStv Mitchells Plain Festival, happening at Westridge Gardens this weekend.

Cool as a cucumber and ready to serve is the way social entrepreneur Rozario Brown, founder and director of the Mitchell’s Plain Festival, answers your phone call at about 7am two-days ahead of an extravaganza, which 40 000 people are due to attend at Westridge Gardens this weekend.

He has been working on this year’s DStv Mitchell’s Plain Festival since last year when the gates closed on the 2015 event.

Securing the venue, stages, permits and main sponsors are at the top of his to-do list to kickstart his planning.

“Once these partners confirm their support, you start planning around this,” he says.

Before an events permit is issued, the festival’s application to host the event goes to several different City departments and stakeholders for comments, which can take up to a few months.

Comments include recommendations to make the festival safer, disaster risk-free and health and safety compliant.

Only after the departments have done all of their checks and balances and the event organisers provided all the relevant documentations and assurances, is the permit issued.

“This is a very vigorous and thorough process to ensure the safety of the public and participants,” says Mr Brown.

And he needs public liability insurance in case anything goes wrong.

“Hosting the festival is an expensive exercise and it can only be viable if you have sponsors and partners to help you absorb some of the costs,” he says.

Without sponsors, it could easily cost up to R2 million to host the festival, but with the help of festival supporters, the hard costs Mr Brown and his team are liable for amount to about R850 000.

This year’s festival coincides with the 40th anniversary of Mitchell’s Plain and its attendance has been growing consistently at a rate of more than 4 000 additional festival-goers attending every year.

Last year’s festival had a record attendance of more than 37 000 people through the gates over the three days.

The festival prides itself as one of the safest events of its kind in South Africa, with no serious incidents having been reported since its inception.

Mr Brown attributes this to only employing hundreds of reputable security staff, neighbourhood watch members, support from the local South African Police Service, Metro police and law enforcement officers.

“More importantly, the festival is a dry event, meaning that since inception, we have never had a beer garden, any form of liquor sales and a zero tolerance to illegal drugs and substances,” he says.

“We also employ the services of only the best and most reputable medical support services, for example, St John, to handle all medical emergencies and consistently have an ambulance ready and on standby in the event of any eventualities.”

St John is a leading international supplier of first aid courses, first aid kits and community health care training.

Mr Brown says the phenomenal growth rate and record attendance figures can only be attributed to the great partnerships being formed between the festival and the local communities.

Hundreds of individuals and organisations benefit annually as a direct result of the festival – whether it is in the form of spot prizes, including complimentary trips to destinations locally and abroad; complimentary accommodation at some of the best and most luxurious hotels in and around Cape Town; free toiletry hampers handed to every patron; complimentary restaurant vouchers; complimentary shopping vouchers and gift cards; trips on the Blue Train; and free flights to any destination in South Africa.

“Our most loyal supporters and followers know that many of them would be departing from the festival with something in their hands and that is exactly what the organisers of the festival, Cycle of Life, intended when it initially developed this event – giving back to the people and creating a culture of caring and sharing,” he says.

The festival is fast gaining a reputation as the “Festival of Giving” and this year, that culture of giving will continue.

Organisers encourage the support of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and they have, for the past three years, sponsored the Heinz Park Primary School Grade 7 prom.

The school is located within one of the poorest communities in Cape Town, which borders Mitchell’s Plain and Philippi.

This year, the prom was held at the Cape Sun Hotel in the city centre, on Friday November 18, coinciding with the media launch and gala dinner of the festival.

The main objective of the partnership is to ensure a fitting send-off for all Grade 7 pupils and to remind them that there are opportunities beyond Heinz Park.

“We encourage these youngsters to work hard in order to enjoy the fruits of their benefits,” says Mr Brown.

The Plainsman has been the proud print media sponsor of the festival since its inception in 2008, and Chantel Erfort, editor of Cape Community Newspapers, which publishes to Plainsman, agreed that the relationship was more of a friendship than a partnership.

Speaking at the gala dinner and media launch of the 2016 DStv Mitchell’s Plain Festival on Friday evening, Ms Erfort said the festival was a bringing together and celebration of the talent of residents and the small business community of Mitchell’s Plain.

Among the other speakers was Heinz Park Primary pupil Anelisa Lengisi, who said they were indebted to Mr Brown for encouraging them and always believing in the pupils.

“May you grow from strength to strength,” she said.

One of the main objectives of the festival is to create part-time employment opportunities for almost 1 000 local residents.

These jobs are created in the more than 140 participating stands and exhibition spaces, in the security department, on the stage and entertainment area, the cleaning department, the catering department and through employing external car guards and cleaners.

“We are extremely proud of the fact that more than 60 percent of our participating SMMEs, exhibitors and traders, are returnees,” says Mr Brown.

“Some of these traders joined the festival six years ago and come back year after year.” Some major brands and companies, who have supported the festival consistently, include Nedbank, Clover, Albany, Vodacom, KFC, Liberty Promenade Mall, Golden Feather Spur and Agri-Seta.

The City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government count among some of the festival’s regular supporters and partners. This is the seventh year DStv is the main and title sponsor.

So, as the countdown begins, Mr Brown expects to receive 20 to 40 phone calls a day, ranging from ordinary people to councillors, marketing managers, CSI managers, other event managers, company chief executive officers (CEOs), ministers and media representatives.

And he expects to drive between 200 and 300 kilometres a day.

Mr Brown attributes his “gorgeous waistline” to eating anything on the go, although he does try to stay away from bread, potatoes and too much sugar.

While Mr Brown says he never loses his temper, he adds that: “I do get irritated by incompetent people who refuse to seek help even when they realise that help is needed.

“I have a special kind of resentment towards people who continue to tell lies even when they are caught out,” he says.

The festival’s success is built on trust, he says, adding that he has learned to play his cards right to ensure the best of Mitchell’s Plain is showcased.