Inaugural SAFFA Festival celebrates South African culture and community on the Isle of Man

Cotton Cuddles

The Isle of Man witnessed an extraordinary celebration of South African culture and community recently, as the inaugural SAFFA Festival took centre stage at The Nunnery. Sponsored by Standard Bank and organised by Isle Settle in collaboration with the Isle of Man Chapter of SA Chamber of Commerce UK, the festival looks set to become an annual event on the island’s cultural calendar.

The Festival coincided with South Africa’s Heritage Day and Braai (barbecue) Day, adding a special cultural dimension to the festivities. Her Worshipful the Mayor Natalie Byron-Teare and Deputy Chief Minister Hon Jane Poole-Wilson graced the event, reaffirming their support and recognition of the vibrant South African community’s contributions to the Manx economy and society.

Deputy Chief Minister Jane Poole-Wilson, who welcomed visitors in Afrikaans

Speaking at the festival, Hon Jane Poole-Wilson said, “There is a significant South African population on the island – our largest population from beyond the British Isles – and it is a population that makes an incredible contribution to our economy and our community. South African people are present in every corner of the island and every aspect of our lives, and South African businesses continue to flourish, and make a huge contribution to our economy.  South African people and businesses are key to our dynamism in financial services and the digital sector. There are many impressive entrepreneurs amongst the South African diaspora. South Africans make a crucial contribution to our health and care sectors, and are incredibly active in our charitable world.”

The Festival’s debut exceeded all expectations, with tickets for both the daytime celebration and the evening rugby screening selling out. Over 800 attendees embraced the daytime festivities, while 350 gathered in the evening to watch South Africa face off against Ireland in the Rugby World Cup.

Former All Black player Mark Robinson refereeing a game of U8 tag rugby

A highlight of the event was the Potjie Master Competition powered by Robinson’s, where culinary creativity reached new heights. The winning team from Seaboard wowed judges with their lamb potjiekos (slow-cooked stew) presented in a large gem squash—a nod to South African heritage.

The Kids Zone, powered by Tax Consulting SA and Expatweb, buzzed with activity, featuring cricket sessions with former South African cricketer Peter Kirsten, a fun tag-rugby game with former All Blacks player Mark Robinson, birthday celebrations, cupcake decorating, Playball, lawn games, face painting, and crazy golf.

The “Local is Lekker (nice)” market showcased nearly 40 small businesses, offering a vibrant mix of South African and Manx makers, bakers, artisans, and crafters. Attendees browsed and shopped for art, jewellery, handbags, confectionery, crafts, and much more.

Delicious South African delicacies such as milk tart, koeksisters, malva pudding, biltong, boerewors rolls, and Durban curry were among the culinary highlights. Festival-goers also savoured Afro Caribbean cuisine, crepes, coffees, smoothies, shakes, and more. The Ravenscroft Braai Day Boerie Bar and Train Smokers BBQ on a train were particularly popular.

Lush Bakes

The Department for Enterprise’s Domestic Event Fund supported the safe transport of guests from Lord Street, providing a complimentary service for attendees.

The day’s magnificent weather complemented the picturesque surroundings of The Nunnery, offering festival-goers a perfect September day on the Isle of Man.

Festival organiser Vanessa Naude from Isle Settle expressed her gratitude to both the South African and Manx communities for their support. The festival’s success enabled a generous donation of £963 to the Isle of Man Foodbank.

The festival’s ethos of community and inclusiveness resonated with attendees. Vanessa Naude said, “We wanted to thank the Isle of Man for embracing and welcoming us by creating an event that brings the vibrant and colourful food, culture, and entertainment of South Africa to those who might otherwise never have the opportunity to experience it. We hope to attract more people of all nationalities next year and to bring an even more diverse and colourful event to life.”

Peter Kirsten, Leon Henery and children enjoying a game of cricket

Festival visitor Kyle Brits of Suntera Global commented, “I never imagined standing on this tiny island in the middle of the Irish Sea with boerewors roll in hand singing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and Arrane Ashoonagh Vannin, flanked by Manx and Saffa residents, after having been welcomed (in Afrikaans) by the Isle of Man Deputy Chief Minister, Hon. Jane Poole-Wilson. What a truly heartwarming experience.”

The SAFFA Festival’s inaugural edition stands as a testament to the power of cultural exchange and community spirit. With a resounding success in its debut year, it’s poised to become a cherished annual tradition on the Isle of Man’s cultural calendar.

The Four Musketeers – a blended Manx and South African entrant in the Potjie Master Competition

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