A black and white get-together in People’s Front Rooms

November 2004 -


At the end of September 2004, Will Janssen, programme manager of Culture International at the DOEN Foundation, visited the Front Room Festival in Darling, South Africa.

Darling is a town in the Swartland region of South Africa. It lies about 80 kilometres north of Cape Town and has a population of 8,500. This town represents South Africa in a nutshell, as the black and white communities live divided from one other - by a railway line. Darling's main claim to fame is that it is the home of writer and entertainer Pieter-Dirk Uys, who bought the train station and converted it into to a theatre. This theatre formed the central hub of the Front Room Festival that was held here at the end of September.

The Front Room Festival was a joint production by Dutch, South African and English artists. The public could enjoy productions in various disciplines such as music, dance, theatre and literature. These productions were put on in eighteen different front rooms and sitting rooms scattered throughout Darling. The white artists put on their shows in Darling's black neighbourhood and vice versa, with audiences being ferried between the different locations by bus. In this way, a special, light-hearted atmosphere was created in which people from different cultural backgrounds could get together and get to know each other.

two 'Front Rooms' in Darling

This year was the first time that the Darling Foundation organised the Front Room Festival and there are now plans to hold it every year. The festival is supported by the DOEN Foundation.

Will Janssen is programme manager Culture International, Doen Foundation