What is Streetopia Obs?

It’s a free one-day community festival organised and funded by AfrikaBurn in collaboration with residents residents & civic organisations based in Observatory, Cape Town, where the streets are filled with art, sculpture, mutant vehicles, performance, music and market stalls. It doesn’t feature big-name acts, or the kind of heavily-branded big stages you might find at other festivals.

Rather, for one day the streets of Obs are turned into a blank canvas where artists, performers, buskers, residents and kids can enjoy the open spaces and do their thing. The aim is to keep it villagey, intimate, spontaneous, open to collaboration, a space for causes and social activism – and completely free.

Where does the event take place?​

The event is based in Observatory, Cape Town, where a number of activities usually take place on the Village Green and along Lower Main Road, and this includes in venues such as participating art studios, cafés and restaurants throughout Obs. To get info on these, check out our Event Guide, which is released one day before our event date and is also available throughout the event area for free.

In 2020, due to Covid-19 regulations, the usual event format of closing streets to enable crowds of many thousands to participate will not be possible. Instead, the 2020 event will see a variety of activities taking place at participating businesses, cafes, bars, restaurants and art studios, with these being brought together in an online streamed event.

When is it?

It usually takes place on the last Saturday of November, though in some years it may take place on the first Saturday of December. The event schedule runs from 10am to 6pm.​

Why just one day? And why finish so early?

Streetopia’s intention is to benefit and be part of the community it happens in, so the reason for an early close (and the lack of large stages with ‘big name headline acts’ and performers) is to ensure that Streetopia remains a family-friendly event which benefits the neighbourhood and so that its schedule provides enough time for the crew and volunteers to clean the area and remove all decor and installations, leaving it in a better state than it was found.

How much does it cost?

The event is free – and always will be – but it costs a large amount to keep it free. As a non-profit community based event that relies heavily on community participation and the spirit of volunteering, nobody’s looking to make any money from the event – but there are always hard costs involved in staging the event. If you’d like to know more about the costs and logistics involved or would like to support Streetopia with funding, please check out our Donate page.

Who organises it?

AfrikaBurn (the organisation that holds an annual arts event each year in the Tankwa Karoo) has its offices in the area, and has long been interested in practicing their desert experiment in town. As such, the event was organised for the first time in 2015 through the collaboration of AfrikaBurn, the Obs Civic Association, OBSID and a range of artists and NGO’s based in Obs – as well as with the participation of residents from Obs and surrounding suburbs such as Salt River, Woodstock, Mowbray and Rosebank.

This collaboration will continue – and preference in terms of contributing activities (and also in terms of the market stalls) will always be afforded to residents of these areas, in order to ensure the event is accessible to those who live closest to the event area. It’s a community and family affair.

Streetopia is a non-profit event: all involved are simply enthused to gather community together and fill Obs with creativity and family-friendly activities – and if the result is social cohesion, then that’s a job well done.

How Is It Funded?

In 2015, AfrikaBurn provided seed funding to the tune of R106 000. Since 2016 the model for funding has been to request support from businesses in Observatory that benefit directly from increased sales on the day of the event and donations from interested parties such as civic organisations. In addition, a portion of funding is raised each year from rentals for market stalls at the event.

In 2016, the City of Cape Town provided baseline support for event essentials that was in addition to the R100 000 provided by AfrikaBurn and funds collected from supporting businesses in and around Observatory. 2017’s event again saw support from the City of Cape Town, and for the 2018 event, the National Lottery Commission has provided a portion of funding. The event is looking forward to strengthening relations with all stakeholders as it grows and becomes an integrated feature of Observatory’s annual calendar of highlights.

As of November 2019 the event has cost R508 000, give or take a few cable ties. In 2020, the event has been fortunate enough to secure funding from the National Arts Council to enable Streetopia to be held online, with a wide range of streamed content to be featured from Obs, as well as participating artists and musicians from other parts of South Africa.