Written by Kerry Peter (Kerry Peter Word Weaver) & images by Robyn Oosthuysen (Design Ardour)

Bringing a unique new vibe to Grahamstown, the Festival Gallery is an exciting new creative space that brings together coffee and art in an upmarket and eclectic environment to love. Combining the creative talents of Louise and Nick Poole, the National Arts Festival’s Tony Lankester, Tori and Craig Stowe’s The Corner and the essential ingredient of Garvey McConnell’s Home Made Coffees, 38 Somerset Street has the air of a match made in heaven.

With the warmth of wooden cladding, stunning lighting and an unmistakably Victorian facade, owners Louise and Nick Poole have paid attention to detail right from concept through to upmarket execution. The Festival Gallery, curated by Carmen Ford, will feature local and Eastern Cape artists with fresh exhibitions going up on a rotation of every six to eight weeks. Currently on display are local artists who appeared on the National Arts Festival Fringe exhibition. According to the NAF CEO, Tony Lankester, the intent behind the gallery space is to celebrate homegrown talent and to showcase Eastern Cape artists , thus extending the Festival reach to 365 days a year.

The Corner brings to Grahamstown Tori Stowe’s signature beautiful objects with the intention of championing local artists and crafters and gracing Grahamstown with upmarket and beautiful gifts and coveted items to buy. Many of Tori’s new products are created expressly with Grahamstown in mind, offering one of a kind gifts from the City of Saints.

And of course we all love art AND coffee. Sisa Mapetu will be the friendly face and front man at the 38 Somerset Street branch of Hand Made Coffee, so while you’re browsing grab your fix for the day. Hand Made Coffees come out of a small boutique roastery situated at the mouth of the Keiskamma River in the Eastern Cape. Garvey, the specialist roaster at Hand Made Coffees, focuses exclusively on espresso and espresso based drinks such as the cappuccino and latte. His blend of purely Arabica beans represents the five growing regions of the world (South America, Central America, Africa, South East Asia, and Ethiopia). And while you’re enjoying your favourite brew, if you’re needing a quick linkup to send an email or to convince your nearest and dearest that you MUST buy a certain artwork, there is also WiFi and plug points to recharge your trusty devices while you recharge your own batteries.

So how did it all start? Louise Poole is an incurable lover and rescuer of old buildings with a talent for looking past years of abuse and neglect and visualising past splendour and future potential, as is abundantly evident in her Oyster Collection of guesthouses in Kenton-on-Sea. “I was looking for office space in Grahamstown when I saw this building and I went home and said to Nick, ‘Unfortunately I am going to have to buy it’.” The rest is history and with Louise’s vision for the restoration process for both the buildings and gardens, she had soon found the perfect creative partners and fellow tenants with whom to share the space. “The tenants are all eccentric in their own ways and we all work well together because we are all simply passionate about what we do,” said Louise. For local architectural lovers, wander into the courtyard where you will find the original tiles on the walls, which were a subtle exterior design element, have been rejuvenated as a sentimental reminder of the era in which the place was built.

If you’re a local, watch this space carefully, one of the three upstairs offices is still free to rent and Louise’s creative mind is now focussed on offering the garden space for functions such as weddings … and there are whisperings about a new restaurant down the line too.


(Open 11 August – 7 October 2015)
A showcase of the work of Eastern Cape artists who are both new and established exhibitors on the National Arts Festival Fringe Art programme. While there is no conceptual theme unifying the body of work that is ‘Exhibition 1’, it comprises a selection from the artists‘ most recent exhibitions staged during the 2015 Festival. We felt this was a fitting way to launch Festival Gallery – a new and unique space and initiative to support the growth and promotion of visual art in Grahamstown.

Participating artists: 
Anelisa Nyongo (Hamburg), Anthony Harris (Nelson Mandela Bay), Antoinette Pienaar (Grahamstown), Bolekwa Ntamo (Hamburg), Bruce Little Originals (Grahamstown), Chanelle Staude (Grahamstown), Donve Branch (Nelson Mandela Bay), Lisa Nettleton (Port Alfred), Monique Wiffen Rorke (Nelson Mandela Bay), Ndileka Mapuma (Hamburg), Nomathemba Tana (Grahamstown), Nombuyiselo Malumbeso (Hamburg), Nomfusi Nkani (Hamburg), Noncebo Deliwe (Hamburg), Nosithembela Ngcayi (Hamburg), Peter Midlane (Grahamstown), Raymond John Westraadt (Nelson Mandela Bay), Regina Gongqa (Grahamstown), Sanela Maxengana (Hamburg), Sue Hoppe (Nelson Mandela Bay), Taryn King (Grahamstown),  Tori Stowe (Bathurst), Uyanda Tom (Grahamstown), Violet Booi (Grahamstown), Vukile Teyise (Grahamstown).

For further information go directly to the Festival Gallery page or email Carmen Ford who curates the gallery.


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