Sara has been adding colour to creative landscape
BUSINESS LIVE / 22 FEBRUARY 2018 - 05:30 / STRUAN DOUGLAS
Newtown-based South African Roadies Association offers on-the-job training, international exposure and theory to empower young people
The South African Roadies Association (Sara) based at a historic and beautifully graffitied building under the bridge in Johannesburg’s Newtown is the only South African black-owned and managed training and development academy for the technical and production services sector of the creative economy.
Founder Freddie Nyathela started his career as a roadie. During the 1980s he toured all over Southern Africa as roadie with pop group Harari.
When Sipho Hotstix Mabuse performed in the 1990 festival in Swaziland alongside Eric Clapton and Joan Armatrading, it gave Nyathela the opportunity to work closely with international technicians. He studied the music industry further through books.
"It was the purpose of the apartheid system that black people must dance and act and the technical production side must be a whites-only affair. This encouraged me to set up Sara so that the coming generation doesn’t go through the same experiences," Nyathela said.
Sara, a nonprofit organisation, was founded in 1995. The on-the-job training, international exposure and theory formed a holistic roadie syllabus for Nyathela to fulfil his mandate of empowering young people with the technical and production "skills of the future", as he puts it.
From the outset, youngsters were provided with skills in lighting, sound, staging, power, rigging, audio visual and production through accredited Skills Education and Training Authority courses.
Over the years, Sara has built up extensive equipment including backline, full stage, LED and sound.
The gear is available to Sara students for hands-on training, and graduates for hire, so they can kick-start their businesses in the industry. International exposure is a focus of Sara with international production teams sharing their expertise with students. Arrangements with international festivals, such as Roskilde in Denmark, provide further on-the-job training.
Since inception, Sara has produced more than 1,500 graduates. About 40% of them now own their own businesses, while others have accessed the international market. Six technicians and riggers are currently touring with Universal Soulcircus in the US and 11 will depart next week to join the tour.
These young black and otherwise uneducated graduates are receiving salaries ranging from $450-700 a week on 10-month contracts.
"The international exposure is invaluable in shaping young technicians perspective and outlook on life.
It’s a great experience they gain and bring back with them to SA which, in turn, can only benefit our industry and country," said Nyathela.
According to Nyathela, there is no quota system or transformation plan in place for the technical productions sector. Sara supplied 140 technical and production personnel for the opening and closing ceremonies of the soccer World Cup in 2010. The need for a "transformation plan" in the sector was highlighted and initiated at that time.
"It was a long and hard road to come to this point," explained Nyathela. "Finally things are starting to move in a positive direction."
Through close engagement with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Arts and Culture, Sara has formed a "Transformation Forum", which consists of various industry associations. Once the B-BBEE Codes are finalised, they will be gazetted.
Nyathela said: "The industry is big. Opening it up to B-BBEE that benefit ‘black’ South Africans over international companies will only grow it further. It will assist emerging black companies in enterprise and skills development and ensure government departments support the transformation of the industry."
"The South African technical, production, event and creative industries have huge potential for growth, job creation and exporting skills and services regionally and globally. Southern African Development Community countries are looking to SA for equipment, knowledge and skilled production personnel. The fact of the matter is that behind every piece of new technology there must be a person to make it work. Having technical qualifications in a sector where we’ve got lots of technical work is critical," said Nyathela.
In 2014, Sara launched the Live Event and Technical Production Conference, aimed at creating a platform for industry players to meet annually and discuss issues that affect the industry such as education, standards, guidelines and health and safety issues.
In SA there is also a Mediatech trade fair that takes place biannually, while there are many international trade fares, such as Plasa in the UK and Sight and Sound in Frankfurt where the latest industry technology is showcased and there are seminars, workshops and talks by industry professionals in sound, IT and audio visual.
A strong recommendation at conference came from UK’s Creative and Cultural Skills CEO, Pauline Tambling.
Studies in the UK found that by 2020, there will be 30,000 technicians employed in their creative industry. This has caused them to build the Backstage training centre in London, and the world renowned Backstage Academy in Wakefield to service the growing demand in the creative industries.
Tambling emphasised the importance of job-focused skills in keeping the arts relevant in the curriculum. She said: "Although the creative industries are one of the fastest growing employment sectors, the skills needed for careers in these areas are not being taught in schools."
• The 4th edition of the Sara hosted Live Event and Technical Production Conference takes place from May 17 -19. Find details on LETPC 2017: Let There Be Light
Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER