Press Release: The relief fund that is helping dozens of South African poets survive lockdown

The following press release was written for Hear My Voice and used to amplify the reach of their Poetry Relief Programme. For information on how we can assist you with your own communications strategy, please see our services here.

In a recent survey conducted on the impact of Covid-19 on the cultural and creative industries, 94% of respondents reported having lost work that was scheduled for this year (South African Cultural Observatory). While many programmes have been instituted to assist the arts sector Hear My Voice, a non-profit organisation which focuses on developing and supporting spoken word artists, has implemented the only Relief Fund in the country aimed specifically at assisting poets.

Cultural and Creative industries across the world have been some of the hardest hit as a result of nation-wide lockdowns’ and social distancing measures – prohibiting live performances and events.

Thousands of creative practitioners are currently sitting without the ability to earn an income and poets are often left out of funding opportunities. We wanted to find a simple, yet effective, way to help the sector. Something that kept both poets and poetry lovers in mind” - says Ishmael Sibiya, Executive Director at Hear My Voice.

The Poetry Relief Fund web-series was launched on 16 April 2020 with just an initial R16 000, contributed by Hear My Voice. Since then, with the help of Poetry Potion, The Market Theatre, Windybrow Arts Center , Poetry Africa and a host of individual private donors, the fund has grown to just shy of R70 000, meaning that 70 poets will be financially benefitting from this initiative. With little to no relief, for the often-overlooked sector, the lifeline extended by Hear My Voice is contributing greatly to the continuation and celebration of local spoken-word artists.

The Relief Fund pays poets an honorarium of R1000 per online-event, and hosts live-streamed poetry shows with up to five poets per episode. The initial season hosted poets from Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape, Free State, KwaZulu Natal and Northern Cape; and included 15 Female, 8 Male and 3 Genderqueer/non-binary individuals, who were predominantly made up of youth ranging 18 – 25 years old. Poetry took place in a diverse range of languages and celebrated cultures and stories from across South Africa.

Episodes eight and nine, of season two, will be aired via the Hear My Voice Facebook & Twitter page on Tuesday 2 June 2020 and Thursday 4 June 2020 at 19:00. Hear My Voice is committed to helping as many poets as possible, and so continues to work towards securing further funding. Should this materialize, another wave of open applications will be accepted, and poets who are unable to secure an income during this time are encouraged to take part. Those who wish to donate to the cause can do so by using PayFast, PayPal or donating directly to the Hear My Voice bank account.

Further details on the Relief fund can be accessed here:

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