In 1971 the Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival requested that a open air theatre be developed in St Georges Park and this request was approved by the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee. The driving force behind this was Bruce and Helen Mann, doyens of the theatre in PE. The theatre comprises a stage and grassed area with grassed tiers where seats are placed.
It is utilised by the Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival which stage their annual Shakespear play there, but is open to anybody wanting to hire the venue for an event.
In August last year I did a post on Art in the Park that takes place in St Georges Park every first Sunday of the month. Gavin Tonks, the founder of Art in the Park, commented on the post and gave some information on how it started. Seeing that this weekend has the first Sunday of the month and that Art in the Park will be taking place, I thought I would post Gavin’s comment.
Gavin Tonks said …
“I actually started Art in The Park in 1977 with the Autum festival which ran for one week and it was only under the old St Georges Cricket stand pavilion, it proved popular and we did it again the following year.
I had to get special permission to trade on a Sunday and we put it under the auspices of the EPFSA Eastern province Fine Art Society and the then treasure Jerry Boulton.
I managed to get permission to run it on the First Sunday of the month which was my slogan , as it was too complicated to put up dates.
I started it with 5 crafters, pebble people, a macrame person [think it was Mrs Shepard], a potter Mrs Zeelie,Mrs Deysel who crocheted spanish dolls and a toy maker renet Bray I think was her name plus the art and craft stuff I brought along, and my accountant Edna Williams who did the books and made sure everyone was paid.
It grew over the years and many people earned a living from the Park and gave up full time employment as they only needed the one sale day to generate sufficient income, [between the 80s to the 90s]
There was much controversy the traders who came later had as much right to sell as it came down to what people bought as no sales, the person did not come back so the very people of PE made the park what it is or was.
The popularity made the council spend money from the bequeathed estate [name eludes me but I think they put up a plaque] to upgrade the paths and fix up the flower beds and the old band stand
There was a City Councilor at the time and the City Parks director and Clayton Halliday who supported me on the venture and assisted me to get the permits and stuff to trade,I was 18 at the time and enjoyed wonderful support from the Editor of the Herald and the other Old Newspapers the Weekend Post and the Evening Post and the Afrikaans daily as well.His name also eludes me but they all got behind me to make it happen.
It took almost 3 years to get the project up and running and another 2 years before it became entrenched as a Sunday outing where half of PE would come and see what was going on.
Many people had an affordable way to sell their goods I think the first months I charged R10.00 a day for the stall, and all the money went to the EPFSA plus I instituted a bursary scheme from the profits as part of the deal with them., I do not know how many students have benefited from it, as I left the association and the Park because I actually never made a cent out of my creation.”