Philip Stein

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Philip Stein (1926-2010). Bookseller, entrepreneur and arts sponsor.


Born in Piketberg in the Western Cape on July 29 1926. His parents had come to South Africa from Lithuania in the early 1920s. In the mid-'40s the family moved to Johannesburg. Stein died on the 4th July, 2010 two weeks after his wife of 60 years, Shirley. The couple had 5 children.


He studied history and music at the University of the Witwatersrand.


Always a booklover, his first job was at The Vanguard Bookshop in Hillbrow and when the shop was eventually bought out by CNA, Stein joined the company as book buyer and later retail books director. In 1962 he founded the CNA Literary Award. After many years in publishing, until a serious illness led to his retirement in about 1980.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

While recovering from his illness, he came up with the idea of a series of theatre awards which in 1983 he sold to the then MD of AA Mutual Life, Brian Benfield. The result was what began as the AA Life Theatre Awards in 1983 in Johannesburg. From here, he created Vita Promotions which for a period of almost 20 years created a whole range of privately funded projects. These included the Vita Theatre Awards (the name of the sponsoring company would change intermittently over the years), both regional awards in the various provinces, and ultimately national awards; the Vita Art Prize and exhibition; the Vita Craft Now awards and exhibitions; the Market Laboratory Community Theatre Festival, the Windybrow Arts Festival and the FNB Dance Umbrella.

Awards, etc

At the 2007 FNB Dance Umbrella, a special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Stein, for his role in creating the Vita Awards, the Dance Umbrella and many other related projects.


Report by Adrienne Sichel published in The Star, 5 February 2013.

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