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March 16, 2012

The makings of a Capetonian carnival: Interview with Jay Dowes

Cape Town Carnival CEO Jay Dowes is excited about bringing this popular cultural event to the Fanwalk

Feather-clad dancers, magnificent floats and music vibrating through the city streets ... these are the crowd-attracting characteristics of the annual Cape Town Carnival.

This year’s event takes place on Saturday, March 24, 2012 and has moved from its birthplace in the pulsating Long Street to the chic Fanwalk in Green Point.

An event of this nature can only be successful if planned and implemented by a strong, passionate and dedicated team. We sat down for a chat with the CEO of the Cape Town Carnival, Jay Dowes, to find out more about the carnival and how Cape Town inspires her.

What are your top five entertainment spots in Cape Town and why?

It is difficult to choose out of so many great places, including Long Street in the city centre, Somerset Road in Green Point, the Camps Bay strip, Mzoli’s Place in Gugulethu; to mention just some of the entertainment areas in Cape Town. We have casual to gourmet restaurants and plenty of places to dance and party too.

Of course, the Cape Town Carnival is my favourite night time entertainment hot spot; it has glamour, dancing, floats, music, great restaurants and clubs to choose from, as well as the fabulous outdoor street vibe.

Because I have children I particularly enjoy events that I can take them along to. It is great that we have sports events that turn into parties. There’s the annual International Jazz Festival, the Switching on of the Lights in Adderley Street and I love the many concerts dotted in parks around the city.

As the CEO of the Cape Town Carnival, you are a vital part of bringing this popular mega event to the Mother City. What significance does this event have for Cape Town and South Africa?

The Cape Town Carnival will be held for the third this year on March 24, 2012. It has grown substantially in glamour and professionalism in a short time. It attracts tens of thousands of local spectators. We trust that as the scale and quality improves each year we will increasingly attract Gauteng and other South African spectators as well as international travellers. This will benefit all of Cape Town’s businesses and contribute to the growth of our economy in many ways.

The broader benefits underlying the festivities is the social development we enable, the jobs we create and the skills that are developed through our five months of dance rehearsals, costume production, float building, craft merchandising and performer development.

The more world-class events we have in Cape Town and South Africa, the more people will visit our country and spend their money here.

The theme of this year’s carnival is Cape To Cairo: An African Odyssey. Why was this theme chosen and how will it represented?

We are celebrating the diversity of South African culture and placing it firmly in the African context. We want to distinguish ourselves from other world-class carnivals to attract people to South Africa and specifically attend the Cape Town Carnival.

The Carnival procession is made up of 11 pods; each consisting of 6 lead dancers, a float and 150 community performers, interspersed with bands, bikes, stilt walkers and the like. Each of the 11 themes will represent an aspect of South African and African culture, music, dance and costume.

Cape Town hosts many festivals and carnivals each year, the Cape Town Festival and the Community Chest Carnival, to name a few... How do we fare in comparison to international events of a similar nature?

We have great events in Cape Town. The City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government have been working hard to develop integrated events strategies and activities throughout the year. This is what we really need. We have all the natural resources to attract visitors to Cape Town and we are heading in the right direction to give substance and professionalism to our cultural and entertainment offerings.

What is your vision for the Cape Town Carnival going forward?

We believe Carnival culture has potential for enormous social and economic benefits all year round for the city and people of Cape Town; and what a fun way to achieve this. These benefits can be brought to the table through the months of preparing a fabulous, professional, exciting entertaining mega event. We need the support of the South African government and businesses to achieve this. We hope our vision will inspire all the people of Cape Town to get on board with us to achieve our goal.

This quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe aptly describes our vision: “It is not enough to take steps which may someday lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise.”

What is your best kept Capetonian secret?

The amount of fabulous dancers, performers, artists and creative thinkers in the city.

What is the best compliment about Cape Town you’ve heard from a visitor or local?

The Deputy Consul General for Brazil, Pedro Menezes, told me that Cape Town was his favourite city in the world; even over his home town, Rio de Janeiro. He cited the natural beauty, the quality of all our facilities and the people of Cape Town. This comes from a man who has lived and worked in many of the large, great cities of the world. So come on Cape Town – believe in yourself, laugh and welcome all to our fabulous city.

How does Cape Town inspire you?

Cape Town really is a great melting pot of all the cultures which make up our fabulous South African identity. We have been a divided city but there are many that are working hard to change this. I am inspired by efforts to do so.

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