Sunset concert series kicks off

Local group Shiraz will play at the nature reserve on Sunday January 13. Pictured, from left, are band members Terry Weyer, Anne Walsh, Helen Dooley and Bob Walsh.

The annual Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve sunset concert series commences on Sunday December 9 with Koos Kombuis taking to the stage, preceded by opening act, the Parel Vallei High School Show Band.

The sunset concert series is a popular fixture on the entertainment calendar of the Helderberg Basin, and it has an interesting history.

Bolander spoke to Friends committee members, Penny Clifton-Smith (chairperson) and Alistair Munday (finance) about the origins of the concert series and how it has evolved over the years.

“The Friends started the concert series back in 1993, and until 1995, funds raised were split between the Helderberg Nature Reserve and Helderberg Hospice,” Ms Clifton-Smith said.

“The concerts started as a typical one man band sitting under a tree playing on a Sunday afternoon to whoever came along,” Mr Munday said

“Today we have a far more structured approach with popular bands including military bands playing during the season. Funds raised are disbursed by the Friends on various projects in the Helderberg Nature Reserve. One of our first achievements was to build the stage and to lay on mains power,” Mr Munday said. “Prior to that bands would come and pitch themselves on the grass with an extension lead from the information centre.”

Turning to the fund raising focus of the concert series, Mr Munday said: “The objective in the beginning was to raise funds for use by the Mike Woods environmental education centre (EEC), but since the transfer of the EEC to the jurisdiction of the City of Cape Town, our main objectives have been to raise funds for special projects in the reserve.”

Funds raised over the years have varied according to Mr Munday. “For example, in 2008 we raised R89 000 and in 2009 we raised R160 000.

Last year, we raised R80 000 but audience numbers have decreased from an average of 5 000 each season, down to 2 700 last year. We did have bumper attendance in 2010, when Shiraz, a popular local cover band that features every season, drew an audience of 1 340 at their concert alone.”

“Although it is not always possible to tie specific projects in the nature reserve to funds raised by the concert series,” Mr Munday said, “significant achievements funded by the Friends include the stage and the road upgrade at the concert area, funding aerial support for fire suppression during a controlled burn in the reserve, a substantial upgrade to the reserve’s information centre, new fencing at the reserve entrance, upgrading of the boardwalks in the reserve, and the construction of 35 new paved parking bays at the reserve entrance.”

Asked about the future, Mr Munday said that it was becoming increasingly difficult to assemble the substantial team of volunteers needed to make the concert season run seamlessly. “One of our biggest challenges is to find volunteers. We (The Friends) have about 5 000 members but to find volunteers is like trying to get blood out of a stone. We appeal to the community to come forward to help run the concert series, so that we can continue to raise funds to maintain this little piece of heaven on earth.”

The rest of the season will feature Shiraz on Sunday January 13, The Jesse Jordan Band on Sunday January 27, Raoul and Natalie Chapman on Sunday February 10, and Mike and the Harmonix on Sunday February 24.

Tickets cost R80 for adults, R40 for children five to 18 years old, and children under five enter free of charge. Season tickets cost R360. Tickets are available from Tixsa.co.za, at the Visitors’ Centre of the Helderberg Nature Reserve, or at the gate on the day of the concert, for cash only. Gates open at 3pm and the concert starts at 5pm. The reserve gates close at 8pm.

There are limited parking facilities for the physically disabled adjacent to the concert area, and there is a drop-off-and-go area as well.