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Distell is a Stellenbosch based wine and spirits company, with a major investment in the development and recognition of the arts in the Cape Region and in South Africa.

History of Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery (SFW), Distillers Corporation and Distell

Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery

The brainchild of William Charles Winshaw, an American medical doctor who came to South Africa in 1900 at the time of the Anglo Boer War. In 1925, SFW was created with Winshaw remaining as the MD of the organisation until 1962 when, at the age of 92, he retired. SFW, as the name implies, excelled at producing quality wines for the full spectrum of consumer needs. This company was also instrumental in the creation of a major new segment in our alcoholic beverage industry - ciders or alcoholic fruit beverages as we know them. One of the company's key strengths has always been innovation.

Distillers Corporation

The brainchild of South African business giant, Dr Anton Rupert, was registered as a corporation in 1945. Distillers expanded energetically and very quickly set up marketing relationships and partnerships in the wine and spirits industry. Soon this company also became a major producer, focusing on distillates and in particular on the brandy market that it developed from relative obscurity to its current level of prominence. It is renowned for its Bergkelder concept, a marketing innovation that invited wine estates to make use of Distillers' bottling, sales and marketing expertise. In addition, it created a new African icon, Amarula Cream, which today is one of the top-selling cream liqueurs in the world.

In the ensuing years, both SFW and Distillers effectively managed wine and spirits growth in South Africa, despite a restrictive business climate. The successes of both companies contributed largely towards the development of the liquor industry into a major force in the South African economy. In so doing, the companies became major creators of employment opportunities and wealth in South Africa.


Distell was created in 2000 by the merger of Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery (SFW) and Distillers Corporation. These two companies joined forces to form the Distell Group, a move that will would benefit the industry as a whole through its rationalisation, refocusing and effective pooling of resources.

Involvement in Arts and Theatre

While the company, in all its guises over the years, has been involved in the promotion and recognition of excellence in all aspects of South African culture, this section focusses on the investment in theatre and performance. This was done primarily through the Oude Meester Foundation for the Performing Arts.

Theatre Awards

The Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards

In 1978 the Oude Meester Foundation for the Performing Arts, which had been created after Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery took over the sponsorship of the the former Three Leaf Arts Award (first instituted and managed by the United Tobacco Company in 1965-1977). awards, renaming them the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards. (The name derived from Fleur du Cap, an old wine farm in Somerset West and a brand name used by Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery. The Nederburg Music Awards were also sponsored by the company.) In 2000 Distillers Corporation merged to form Distell, and the Oude Meester Foundation for the Arts was renamed Distell Arts and Culture.

The aim of the awards are to recognize excellence in theatre by giving awards to top professionals for distinguished acting, directing and technical abilities in 16 different categories. A Special Lifetime Achievement Award and for a while in later years a People's Choice Award, are usually announced and presented at the ceremony.

They are presented in March every year. Formerly it was an afternoon affair held on a Sunday, but in the new millennium, under the auspices of the Distell Arts and Culture foundation, it became a more glamorous evening affair hosted by a Cape Town theatre, where South African entertainers perform and tickets are made available to the general public through Computicket. All funds generated are donated to development in the performing arts.

Awards presented included:

Among the winners over the years have been:


Besides awarding excellence, the Foundation also sponsors a number of projects. Believing that art is a universal language which everyone understands and can be used as a tool to create jobs, to educate and develop mutual respect for the immense diversity of cultures and people in the country, many arts and culture projects and events are supported throughout South Africa. Among the items supported have been new indigenous plays, contemporary and traditional dance productions, multi-media poetry projects, classical, African and jazz concerts at the many of the Arts Festivals. The festivals include: the Grahamstown Festival in the Eastern Cape, the Aardklop Festival in the North Western province, The Volksblad Festival in Bloemfontein, the Cederberg Festival in the Western Cape, the Hilton Arts Festival in Kwa-Zulu Natal, the KKNK in Outdshoorn, the Kalfie Festival in Hermanus, the Woordfees, in Stellenbosch, the Suidoosterfees, the Cape Town Festival, the Ikhwezi Community Festival and the Imvelo Festival in Cape Town.

Community development projects are supported. These include. The Kayamandi Arts Project, Magnet Theatre Outreach Projects, the Jazzart Job creation programmes and a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) programme done in collaboration with Take Away Theatre Group which run on farms in the Boland community. A number of outreach and audience development projects run by Artscape are also supported, including the Vredendal Community Project. Support is given to the annual Oude Libertas Amphitheatre Summer Season where wine song and dance forms a perfect blend.

For many years the foundation was also one of the sponsers of the South African Theatre Journal.

Capetheatre website

At one stage the following was reported:

A new departure has been an interactive website (at http://www.capetheatre.co.za) by the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards under Distell's social investment initiative. Edited by award winning journalist Marianne Thamm, is an extension of the company's involvement in sponsoring, nurturing and highlighting theatre and theatrical talent in the city. The website features theatre news, a calendar, reviews by the city’s leading theatre critics, interviews and profiles of theatre personalities, restaurant listings and detailed information about forthcoming productions and development in theatre. It also provides extensive information about individual theatres including location and seating capacity.

However, the website no longer seems to exist, for the link takes you back to the general Distell website.



The Distell website at http://www.distell.co.za/

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