BWW Interview: Danny Wimpey of JANNIE DU TOIT at Lockdown
BWW: As a long-time leader in the entertainment industry, how has this pandemic affected your day-to-day working life?
Jannie: I have missed the Karoo and Oppiwater festivals so far. Another festival in Bloemfontein is postponed. Many shows are canceled. People are concentrating on online performances, which were rare in the past. I don't perform much online, but I am planning a lot more now. I am launching a support fund for the Pierneef Theatre in Pretoria, getting some together for an online concert, to keep up the spirit of the theatre, but also generate income for the theatre. This is happening all over.
BWW: In what way do you see the arts adapting, or want them to adapt as a response to this crisis?
Jannie: It's branching out wider into other mediums. For me live shows are what I love, the connection with the audience. However, online is a new way to reach people, and opens new markets for example in small towns, especially for someone in a niche market like me. I hope that these things will be temporary, and we can go back to the intimacy of live performance soon.
BWW: Have you been working on anything during this time? If you have, can you give us some information about it?
Jannie: I am busy working on my online presence and preparing a show for later in 2020 which will tour in December, along the Cape Coast. The songs have all been written by Marie Tredoux, who is not well enough known, despite her incredible songwriting. I will be working with the accordion maestro, Sergio Zampolli. We met in 1988 when we first recorded Marie's music together, but this is the first time that it will just be the two of us on the stage together. I will be celebrating my 50th year making Afrikaans music next year and I am working on a show with Chanie Jonker on piano and Susan Mouton on cello, celebrating the highlights of these 50 Years.
BWW: What have you seen of the effects of the lockdown on the entertainment industry in general and the theatre in particular?
Jannie: Many people have lost work and money. Some help is coming through different avenues, and the cancellation of shows has allowed us to claim, so hopefully, artists get something back. It's sad not to be on stage. My last performance was a month ago and I miss it already. I think the bigger acts and producers must have lost a lot of money. The big Afrikaans festivals, Innibos, held in June each year has had to hold off deciding to go ahead and will do so only 6 weeks beforehand. It's a very challenging time.
BWW: Has there been any response from the music industry to the crisis that you can tell us about?
Jannie: I have released music through the local industry, but I am not in it specifically, so I can't really comment. There's marketing on social media, but not much of an organized response.
BWW: You have run a successful B&B, Agterplaas, in Melville for many years, the crisis must have severely impacted it. How have you adapted to this challenge?
Jannie: We are going to have to adapt. The recession earlier in the year affected us and it's been tough since 2008. It was improving then the recession came, and then the pandemic. I began making some changes, and things improved but then bookings were canceled, and it became clear that we are headed for deep trouble. There is help for the tourism industry, and we are applying for it, but we are not in a good place now. Something huge like this is potentially a 'reset' button. Banks will probably give us leeway but that won't last forever. It's very tough. I can keep on with my music but for the guest house, it is a matter of hard issues. The guesthouse's 21st-year celebration last Wednesday, April 1st was a bit ironic and certainly bittersweet in our current situation.
BWW: Do you have any advice for others in a similar position?
Jannie: Everyone is in the same situation; we must keep going as best we can. That's all we can do.
BWW: What impact do you think our current situation will have on the future of music, theatre, film, and television?
Jannie: I believe in that 'reset button'. It will be a new start bringing about wonderful things. Invention and creativity are a response to a crisis, and people will have to reinvent themselves. I don't think I would have kick-started all the things I am planning, if not for the situation. This is how creatives respond.
BWW: And to end on a more personal note, how are you keeping busy during the lockdown?
Jannie: I work around the clock. I am working at 4.30 am and stop around 7 pm. My days are full of planning. In addition to the other shows, I am preparing my Christmas show with Breathe, a young Black South African a Capella group. Part of my day is keeping at bay my problems with the guesthouse. I am looking at my online marketing of Agterplaas B&B, which is very costly, but critical. We aren't doing anything special. My wife and I are staying with my sister, and work together doing the cooking and so on. I feel very privileged to work at home with my wife. She is Therina Wentzel du Toit, the National Director of the National Council for People with Disabilities. Their main or flagship project is Casual Day, and they've recently been approached by Disney to work together on it. This was an incredible opportunity for them, but of course, the shutdown has severely impacted that. So, she too is working very hard, trying to find other sources of funding.
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