Two years ago, I attended the first iTownship Wine Festival in Gugulethu. It tried very hard, but there were a lot of things wrong with the organisation, the venue, the publicity and the attendances which were poor. I wasn’t too surprised when it wasn’t repeated the following year.
However, when I heard that Mzoli Ngcawuzele was relaunching it with the help of the Cape Wine Academy (who organise the Soweto Wine Festival), I was much more hopeful of success. Mzoli is a marketer extraordinaire and a hugely successful businessman, mainly because he listens to what people want and then tries to give them it. His version of the festival rocked Gugs this weekend and was a vast improvement on the previous attempt.
Specifically, the administration and organisation were slick and efficient with all exhibitors praising the backroom staff for keeping the event running smoothly. The marketing and PR were hugely successful with column inches and promotional puffs over a wide range of publications and the use of social media was outstanding with @gugsloveswine trending on everyone’s twitter stream on Friday night. The space was busy, but not unbearable and the atmosphere was vibrant with most guests happily chatting and asking questions – it certainly helped that most of the counter staff were black, which was not the case at the last event and was a significant factor in helping to put people at their ease and giving them confidence.
Here are a few thoughts about the festival and where it goes from here:
• Securing sponsorship from TOPS at Spar was a crucial success factor for the festival. The fact that they have signed up for a further 2 years gives the show a terrific boost of confidence said Lungile Mbalo, one of the three organisers.
• The number of exhibitors looks likely to increase – Mbalo says he hopes to double in size next year from only 23 wineries to nearer 50. Nederburg made the most of their headline slot and their Food & Wine Matching sessions seemed to be hugely successful. At the first show, KWV were a main sponsor and hopefully they won’t be maintaining their ‘watching brief’ next year.
• Mbalo says that one of the main things they hope to achieve with this festival is to encourage more black people to taste, learn and enjoy wine, thus enabling them to fully participate in this important income stream for the Western Cape. Nederburg’s mini-classes were very popular and there must surely be room to expand the number of these break-out workshops for the next event.
• It was great to see the Cape Wine Academy collecting information and handing out literature. If it was possible to run some of their courses in Gugulethu, then this would be a wonderful result.
• The food tent needed some work to it. When we visited, there was one superette-style shop selling pies and chips and what looked as if it was going to be a Spur, but nothing was happening. It was a good sized tent and there was definitely space for more food outlets, particularly township cuisine, thus bolstering local business.
• The programme states that it hopes to increase tourism to the whole Gugulethu area and Mbalo mentioned such attractions as Mzoli’s, Sivuyile Craft Centre and the Gugulethu 7 monuments and trail. It would have been great to see a Gugulethu Tourism stand somewhere and would have been more relevant than the National Parks stand (although all credit for them for taking part).
• Mbalo estimates that approximately 40-50% of attendees came from Gugulethu and the rest from outside the area. He sees this as a massive positive in terms of integrating communities and giving a shot in the arm to the local community and its tourism – something which has severely suffered in recent months.
Were you there? What did you think – let us know if you had a jol!
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