The Cape Town festival was established in 1999 because of the Planet Hollywood Bombings in 1998 at the VA Waterfront, Cape Town. It started as the One City Many Cultures by Ryland Fisher, then editor of the Cape Times, to address cultural intolerance and racial violence. From 2003 to 2007, Yusuf Ganief, ex-GM for the Association of Marketers, was appointed CEO.

Currently, South African artists suffer from a devastating economic dilemma because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Arts Industry, especially musicians, has been one of the most affected sectors in society. Negative factors include the lack of operating arts venues, with many facing bankruptcies; audience and restrictions on gatherings; closing down of restaurants; fear of audiences to attend functions and concerts; insufficient government and corporate support. Negative economic factors have forced 40% of musicians to quit their careers. 90% of musicians have suffered financially from a lack of income with 50% selling their musical instruments and sound equipment to pay rent and make ends meet.

As one of the leading non-profit role players in promoting, developing, mentoring, and upskilling local artists in Cape Town, the CTF has realigned its core industry function to provide regular live and online performance platforms, income-generating employment, equipment training, and mentorship for artists through Community Arts Festivals, Beyond Busking Festival, Beyond Busking Festival Day and EMPLOI.