Festival General Information

Established in 1993, the Festival aims to bring the pick of south Africa’s high quality performing art to KwaZulu Natal.

This primary aim is enhanced by all other aspects of the festival: art exhibitions, quality craft, food and drink, live music. It offers the opportunity to showcase the cream of South African theatre and to support South African writing. The staging of an event such as this presents its own set of challenges however – various venues have to be modified – from classrooms to marquees, dining rooms to gardens – everything is converted to ensure that members of the audience will enjoy the best possible performance at The Hilton Arts Festival – whether it be from a technical or artistic aspect – and of course, to provide audiences with affordable ticket prices. The Festival also faces the eternal challenge of remaining ‘new’ – and every year a wide variety of different productions of all genres, largely South African but, depending on funding, sometimes international, are sourced, ensuring that South African audiences remain challenged, provoked and entertained during their time at this unique event. It’s all there – from music to cabaret, comedy to tragedy, dance to drama.

It’s not all fun! The hard work that goes on behind the scenes serves as a breeding ground for developing new young technicians, artists, playwrights, and actors and also provides a unique opportunity to introduce the next generation to the magic of theatre – after all they are the audiences of the future.

To this end, the festival runs two days of age and content specific theatre for young people. South African iconic singer and white Zulu, Johnny Clegg, coined the word “Jongosi”, and allowed the festival to use it as the umbrella term for this unique youth programme. The word comes from the Afrikaans, meaning “jong os” but has been absorbed, along with Clegg, into Zulu culture. It is a celebration of all that is young, new and vibrant. The festival’s Jongosi programme embodies the same values and helps to expand young people’s views of the world.

And of course the Festival provides employment – from the many thousands of bed nights which are generated throughout the district – in bed and breakfasts, hotels, private homes and holiday homes to the bustling restaurants and shopping centres who all benefit from the influx of people from throughout the country, to the village of Hilton.  The Festival has many loyal business partners:  businesses large and small, national and local, who lend their support in kind or by way of a financial contribution. Of vital importance is the business partnership that exists between the Festival and Hilton College. Not only does the College host the event, making its grounds and facilities available to stage the entire Festival, but since its inception has underwritten the costs involved. Furthermore, the blue chip standing of the College, its history of excellence and the guaranteed efficiency of its administration and transparency of its audited accounts, means that any funding for a project run under its auspices will, without doubt, be utilised for the purposes it was given. See Partnerships for further details.

Dr John Kani, an icon in South African theatre, said at the opening of the 2008 Hilton Arts Festival ‘The partnership of artists and business is as old as the Bible, if not older. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and all the other artists of their time did not paint those great paintings in the hope of selling them to some buyer or art gallery so that they could live. Oh no, they were commissioned to produce that work …This then proves, without doubt, that the partnerships between business and the arts are essential for the development of art and artists in our country.’

This unique Festival offers you the opportunity to invest in our future, in the soul of our nation.