Witchfest 2015 from Open Air to Urban: Summary

Witchfest Urban Festival

Let no South African or any other fall under the illusion that pioneering a new festival concept in this country is easy! Witchdoctor Productions, the same who have already hosted international metal acts in South Africa such as Kataklysm, Sepultura, Behemoth, Konkhra and Ministry all as recently as within the last twelve months, have learned in a most dismaying fashion with their planned crown-jewel event: Witchfest 2015. Whilst Witchfest is a festival brand that can claim its own history of events in South Africa, 2015 is the first year that it has offered multiple international acts consolidated to multiple days over one weekend, thus our labeling it as a new festival concept.

Ministry at Carfax in Newtown, 04-03-2015
Ministry live at Carfax in Newtown, 04 March 2015

Having been publicized for a full year already, the South African metal community has indulged a roller-coaster ride of high’s and low’s. Some of the positive changes have included the expansion from the event’s original two-day and local-only format into a three-day concert, and the consequent addition of nine more international acts after only four internationals were originally declared. What was also exciting was the move from the smaller Wolmer Events Arena in Pretoria North to a much larger game lodge setting in Lanseria nearby Johannesburg and within easy reach of the Lanseria International Airport; an announcement which arrived soon after the bulk of internationals were revealed in September. It appears, however, that this was where the first problems emerged.

A sinister plot unfolds

It is unclear whether is was because of the genre of music, or what the genre of the music is believed to represent by those who perceive it from an outsiders view, but within a short span of weeks it became clear that the venue had moved to terminate any ties with Witchfest and Witchdoctor Productions. A threat of legal steps to be taken against this website was also received at our headquarters by a representative of the venue, some months later, instructing that we remove mention of the venue from a news post published at a time when the venue was still in agreement. For Witchdoctor Productions, it appears to have been an uphill struggle ever since.

By the end of October a new venue had been announced, just on the North West Province side of the border with Gauteng Province, still within reasonable travel distance from Johannesburg. By January 2015, that option failed too, allegedly owing to interventions by a group in the area guilty of propagating a nonsecular agenda. Once again, a new venue was booked and again, closer to the city and within easy reach of Lanseria International Airport. By the beginning of March 2015, only weeks before the festival, more allegations surfaced of nonsecular interventions taking place. That venue has subsequently also been reported to have shut down.

A light at the end of the tunnel…

Witchfest overviewFinally, as is in line with our country’s secular constitution and where the festival and it’s attendees can be adequately protected from any nonsecular threat, it appears as though the wishes of South African metalheads will be granted after all. Witchfest 2015 will now be taking place on a smaller property in the heart of Johannesburg itself, owned by the South African government: a public park! Situated in the cultural hotspot and key urban revival district of Newtown in Johannesburg, the festival is taking on a new life and identity as an ‘Urban Festival’. The council has allowed for the public park to be fenced and for campers to set up home for the three days of Witchfest 2015, with easy access to nearby shopping centers, ample off-site accommodation and public transport hubs. Regretfully, the festival has lost its ‘Open Air’ status, but no artists have been shed as result of the announcement and all will appear on stage in the famous Bassline concert hall immediately adjacent to the public park.

Travel and Accommodation

Travelers who have already booked their arrivals at Lanseria International Airport and accommodations in that area are encouraged to contact Witchdoctor Productions at sales (at) witchdoctorproductions.com in order to take advantage of shuttle services being offered by the festival. Members of the public who have yet to finalize their arrangements are now encouraged to travel via O.R. Thambo International Airport. The airport is linked to Newtown district via the Gautrain network.

Whilst the prospect for change is often regarded by most as disconcerting, it is embraced by others as adventurous. We have witnessed a mixed bag of views via social networks since this latest announcement. As for the team at M4A, the only thing we do know for certain out of all of this is that Witchdoctor Productions have delivered all of their events promised so far since emerging on the local scene in 2013, despite having faced some major obstacles already. It appears that they have the resource and the motivation to make it happen!

International line-up includes:

Aborted, Alestorm, Belphegor, Cannibal Corpse, Carnifex, Decapitated, Epica, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Hatebreed, Kataklysm, Restock, Septic Flesh, Skinned

South African line-up includes:

Adorned In Ash, Agro, Bile Of Man, Bleeding Spawn, Boargazm, Bulletscript, Carnage Carnival, Demogoroth Satanum, Desolation, ING, Insek, Junkyard Lipstick, Martin Rocka And The Sick Shop, Maximum Carnage, Mind Assault, Nebula Disrupt, Octainium, SacriFist, Scroll Of Thoth, Strident, Theatre Runs Red, Terminatryx, The Drift, The Slashdogs, The Summer Underground, The Warinsane, Wildernessking.

More festival details, including time schedules, venue address and specifics, and ticketing options can be found via the official facebook event page.

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