Our story

The Toyota SU Woordfees

So much more than
an arts festival

The Toyota SU Woordfees is a unique collaboration that brings together a town, a university, artists, audiences and communities from across our country and many parts of the world to tell the stories of our borders, our differences, our similarities, our fears, our joys, our refuges, our triumphs and our strengths.

The festival transforms the university town of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape winelands into a whirlwind of energy and creativity as artists, audiences and communities collide in a joyous celebration of theatre, music, art, film, dance, discourse, literature and poetry.

The Woordfees started in 2000 as an all-night celebration of Afrikaans literature, but over the past two decades it has grown into one of South Africa’s largest multilingual arts festivals. In 2020, over 500 performances and events were hosted in more than 70 venues in and around Stellenbosch.

During the Covid pandemic, the festival lived on in innovative new formats. In April 2021, the Flikker & Flash pop-up performances took place in empty shops and in the streets of Stellenbosch. The festival made history in 2021 when it became the first South African arts festival to be presented on a pop-up television channel. Woordfees TV was broadcasted from 1 to 10 October on DStv Channel 150. This pioneering project was such a sucess that a second Woordfees TV festival will be aired in July 2022. An in-person festival will take place during October in Stellenbosch.

However, the SU Woordfees is so much more than a festival. This extraordinary enterprise, which forms part of the division for Social Impact and Transformation at Stellenbosch University, is also the home of several long-term projects that make a real difference in the lives of thousands of people.

Our impact

The Words Open Worlds (WOW) encourages learners a love for words through reading, spelling competitions, writers’ visits and creative writing projects. WOW reaches over 2 500 schools and 270 000 learners, across South Africa annually.

WOW also opens up the world of tertiary education to young people from backgrounds of severe disadvantage by providing bursaries, academic support and mentorship to help them access and complete their studies at university.

During the festival, WOW offers learners, teachers and principals from schools in the region the opportunity to attend discussions, academic debates and performances as part of the Woordfees commitment to supporting and stimulating interest in the written and spoken word.

A festival in your living room

Woordfees TV was the first arts festival in South Africa and Namibia to be hosted on a pop-up TV channel. Toyota SU Woordfees TV was initially scheduled to be on-air from 1 to 7 October, but due to popular demand for the repeat of a great number of shows, the festival broadcast period was extended to 10 October.

The TV festival programme included a wide variety of genres: writers and books, theatre, dance, lifestyle, stand-up, contemporary and classical music, film, discourse and visual arts. There was a strong focus on quality Afrikaans books, theatre, music and film.

SU Choir

The SU Woordfees manages and co-ordinates the celebrated Stellenbosch University Choir which swept the boards at the 2018 Llangollen Eisteddfod in Wales winning the top awards for Youth Choirs, Mixed Choirs and Open Choirs. André van der Merwe won the Jayne Davies prize for Best Conductor at the Llangollen Eisteddfod. The SU Choir has been number one on the Interkultur ranking list of a 1000 international choirs since 2012 .

This remarkable choir is supported by the SU Woordfees and is comprised of 120 Stellenbosch University students from across all academic disciplines bonded together through their love of music and song.