On designing a ‘future festival’ and the essence of Littlegig

Consciously or unconsciously, we make sense of something by looking for its essence, or its core: that thing which makes it unique. If we can’t find the core, it’s difficult for us to open our hearts, because we can’t really love what we don’t understand.

This can be applied to people, but — of particular interest to me of course — to festivals too: Burning Man (and by extension AfrikaBurn) is dedicated to fostering a platform for radical self-expression and radical self-reliance. Afropunk, a movement which aims to create a safe space for black creative expression, and Oppikoppi, which in its heyday was about Afrikaners rebelling against conservatism.

These festivals are protected by the strength of their essences. So, the sound may have been bad or the food may have run out at a gathering but the essence often eclipses the detail. And so most people will probably return, bringing along their friends. As long as the festival stays true to its essence, this is likely to happen. Stray too far and you lose the love.

Littlegig, the boutique festival I own, has an urban, diverse music lineup, food by top 10 chefs, and a strong emphasis on design. But none of these factors are its essence. I started the festival not because I love festivals but because I’m interested in what’s next.

I have a low threshold for repetition, and a festival is the perfect space to experiment with and showcase new sights and sounds and tastes. And then to do it completely differently the next time. My endeavour from the outset has been to create the future festival: A place where people who have seen and experienced many things can see and experience entirely new things. Or things done in entirely new ways. This is the essence of Littlegig.

“The past is always tense. The future perfect.” — Zadie Smith 

Festivals are of course grand-scale exercises in collaboration, and Littlegig’s creative director Bielle Bellingham directs a team of artists, designers and stylists who have created – amongst others – the following 4 areas:


Creative Team: Interior and experience designer Debra Parkington, JNA Thatching and sculptor Rodan Kane Hart.

The bar is a tactile area made from reeds – stacked, tied, and stretched into extraordinary forms. The thatch contrasts with mind-bending “mirror” sculptures made from distorted stainless steel.


Creative team: Just Like Papa 

This is a curious black box with a Japanese burnt wood finish that unravels after dark to become a campfire experience. In the company of good blokes. With Swedish lanterns, moer koffie and single malt whisky.


Creative Team: Experience designer Lucia Brain, with audio by psychiatrist and sleep expert Dr Kevin Stoloff.

Festival goers will lie suspended in “cocoons” listening to 20-minutes of regenerative brainwave music. A place of surrender, and the Littlegig version of a power nap.


Creative Team: Husband and wife team, artist Justine and architect Sean Mahoney.

Mighty Ndebele is a six-metre tall cyborg who wades through mine dumps in search of gold. Her Mickey Mouse antennae pick up code from wi-fi fallout and with this information she can track the making of history. She comes from Wonderboom, Pretoria where her people await her return with riches for her community.  


Date: 17- 18 February 2018, midday to midday
Venue: Wiesenhof farm, Stellenbosch
Cost: Festival Tickets: R2 450. Basic Camping tents from R1 450. Glamping tents range from R2 950 to R6 450 per tent. Littlegig ticket prices include all food and drinks.

No under-21s.

Book via Quicket. Or check out www.littlegig.co.za for more.

*This article was made possible by Littlegig

*Collage image credits: Namsa Leuba, 3dfordesigners.com, Berta Fischer, Shimmer tavoli – Glas Italia, Last Dance Holographic Dress, Vela Paravent from Arflex, designlovefest, Not Today Magazine, Kisua Hariri, Cristina Celestino for Fornace Brioni, Fred Martins Afro Comb, Eduardo Sancinetti, Gonzaga by Cristina Celestino 2017, Grass Gis, Fernando Humberto Campana Interiors, Absolute Reflection | RKH x JF 2014, Just like PapaDeep Sleep moodboard by Lucia Brain


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