In the Limelight: From small beginnings, FynArts in Hermanus, celebrates its 11th festival in 2023

The FynArts Festival has grown from its inception in 2013, as way to attract visitors to Hermanus, during winter and encouraged them to stay over – to a fusion event. It is arts festival and winter school and attracts thousands to its outdoor public sculpture flagship event, Sculpture on the Cliffs.  FynArts festival director, Mary Faure, talks about the genesis of the festival, the 2023 edition and future plans for FynArts  

TCR: What inspired you to establish FynArts in 2013, as a fusion festival of arts festival and winter school?  At the time you were you were the chairperson of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau. Can you tell us about conceptualising the festival?

Mary Faure: Yes, the aim was to create an arts event that would attract visitors, during winter, who would spend more than one night in Hermanus.  In putting the festival together, we were cognisant of international festivals and summer schools and that they offer short courses and workshops and demonstrations- which are hugely popular. People like to learn something – information or a skill. It made sense to us, to include workshops, talks and demonstrations- related to the wide ranging ‘festival events’ events of art exhibitions,  music and dinners already on the programme.  These ‘winter school’ events have proved incredibly popular and have contributed hugely to the growth and  development of the festival which  has developed a track record of presenting a quality programme of exhibitions, concerts, talks and presentations, workshops, demonstrations and films, as well as events for children.

TCR: South African novelist Christopher Hope who is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature was instrumental in establishing FynArts. How did his involvement come about?

Mary Faure: Christopher lives in France in a tiny village called Caunes-Minervois. I met him at a book festival and mentioned that I wanted to start a festival and he suggested that we do not keep the focus solely on books as there are many book festivals. He coined the name FynArts and it felt right immediately.  He was my online advisor, mentor and supporter for the first festival. His advice was invaluable due to his experience in attending art, literary and music festivals due to his very talented family. His son is Daniel Hope, the acclaimed violinist.  During the second year, the festival was strengthened by Christopher joining Richard Cock, Mandie van der Spuy, and Marilyn Martin (now deceased) on a non-executive Advisory Board. Chantel Louskitt has been involved with the festival from the outset – first as the tourism staff member responsible for websites and social media. In 2018 she joined FynArts as administrative co-ordinator and is now the left and right hand of FynArts. Her dedication, drive, common sense, skill set and personality have been central to the past decade of fabulousness. Hermanus is home to a vast amount of intellectual and arts-related residents who have offered suggestions, to be included in the festival. The advice and support of all of these wonderful people has been invaluable to the past decade, and I know it will continue for the next.

TCR: What was the inspiration for Sculpture on the Cliffs? It opens at the festival and stays up the whole year at Gearings Point. It is free to view and wheel chair and pram accessible.

Mary Faure: I love public art. It is far less threatening to view than walking into a gallery and depending on the placement can enhance the experience of a venue or area. Since moving permanently to Hermanus I had thought the spectacular rocky cliffs could be the perfect setting for sculpture. I was advised to speak to local award-winning sculptor Jaco Sieberhagen who shared the same vision – and had the knowledge and skill, commitment and passion. Without his enormous and ongoing support for the project, Sculpture on the Cliffs would also never have happened. There are ten artists exhibiting at the 2023 exhibition – invited by the curator, Melvyn Minnaar

TCR: Despite the pandemic, FynArts, continued, with some pivots? FynArts 2023 is a big event – 10 days – more than a 100 events- so it is back to ‘normal’?

This year is the 11th edition of the FynArts festival. We innovated and went virtual during the pandemic and we kept FynArts alive. With lockdown, in 2020, a few days after we received 11 000 programme booklets for distribution, we had to cancel the in-person festival. We launched FynArts Select– a series of live talks, performances and lectures on Zoom that were ‘attended’ from across the globe. These events are archived and available for viewing on the FynArts YouTube channel.

In 2021, with limited travel, we brought the world to Hermanus with an intimate festival, within the lockdown restrictions. The festival was themed around the art and culture of four countries: Japan, India, Russia and South Africa. For this full 10-day festival of smaller events, we were limited to an audience of only 50 per venue. In 2022 we again had to do a ‘smaller events’ but we presented a full 10-day programme, limited to 50% audiences. All the arts disciplines on our traditional programme were represented during 2021 and 2022. This year, 2023, we are delighted to present the first bumper programme in three years. Judging by ticket sales, so are festivos. 

TCR: How big is the FynArts team?

Mary Faure: On the general planning and logistics Chantel [Louskitt] and I have been working together for the past five years. This year we have two locums until the end of the festival. During the festival, 10 students from the University of Stellenbosch Visual Art, work with us.

TCR: Currently FynArts is a curated festival. There is no Fringe. Everything has been selected. How do creatives go about being considered for the festival?

Mary Faure: There is no Fringe. Being a wide ranging festival we tend to select events, artists and personalities in a way so as to balance the programme. However, many artists do write and let us know their current programmes or exhibitions or make suggestions. We certainly consider each one.  We also ask our current audiences – either in a Mailchimp questionnaire or workshop feedback form – for suggestions of events and/or artists and presenters they would like to see on the programme. 

TCR: Is there a process so that creatives may submit work? Hermanus is an hour and a half drive from Cape Town. Any plans to increase the theatre and music offerings and again what would be the process to be considered?

Mary Faure: We would love to increase these components. We will definitely continue putting on music and theatre and extend this programme. However, suitable venues are limited and also time slots, as the festival includes so many different disciplines such as the workshops and talks. All of these also need venues. However, each year we increase the number of events. Artists are more than welcome to contact us: Best time is in August, September. 

TCR: In addition to Sculpture on the Cliffs and some community concerts, all the walk-abouts in the galleries are free. It is free to visit the exhibitions. You don’t currently have a festival market or hub. Plans to put this in place for 2024?

Mary Faure: For 2023 FynArts, we have three free performances and 26 exhibitions. We are actually working out how to cover the courtyard between our gallery and the Wine Glass Restaurant, to use as a hub. Please hold thumbs we’ll manage to do so. I am desperate for a meeting place- a festival hub.

TCR: If corporates want to get involved as sponsors for FynArts, to join your loyal funders, can they get in touch?

Mary Faure: We would love them to get in touch. Finance and budget is always a huge challenge. The ongoing support for the headline sponsorship of Strauss & Co over the past 10 years has allowed us to grow the Presentations and Interviews Series which has grown enormously in popularity over the years. Also, we are very indebted to Pioneer Freight for their invaluable support of Sculpture on the Cliffs as well as to the Overstrand Municipality, BASA and Wesgro for their ongoing support. And we are so appreciative also to Pam Golding and the CPO – without their support it would have been impossible to launch the 2023 programme booklet at the FynArts Sunset Concert, in March this year. 

TCR: Anything to add about the 2023 FynArts festival? 

Mary Faure: In 2023, we are excited to launch a new series – Coffee and Croissants at 8:30am- as a first of the day event- of more current affairs rather than the arts. We have workshops and readings for little children, workshops for teenagers, a family event – introduction to the orchestra and reduced price tickets for scholars at a number of music events. 

Image of Mary Faure- supplied.

Related coverage of FynArts 2023 on TheCapeRobyn: