In this, the first of a series showcasing locations in Gauteng province, we look at one of the City of Joburg's most rapidly developing tourist and cultural areas, Newtown, located in the inner city.

 

spet-newtown
Market Theatre Exterior
Newtown is a vibrant area with a unique and extraordinary character based on existing cultural facilities, new commercial and residential developments, and a rich historical past.  It's an ideal inner city location with a distinctly European feel with its early post Victorian industrial buildings, period or modern feel, large open spaces, historic houses, pavement restaurants, colourful markets, period buildings and facades. Johannesburg's cultural precinct is set in the heart of the 'old city', with safe and easy access from either the Nelson Mandela Bridge or the MI and Carr Street interchange.

 

Newtown has been in existence since the turn of the century and contains a remarkable mix of old and new. There is the outer casing of the original Victorian park station seemingly abandoned on an open piece of land right next to a new award-winning low cost housing development known as 'Brickfields'. Walls of graffiti, sometimes commissioned sometimes tagged, existing compatibly near public space upgrades and upmarket developments. Recently upgraded buildings sit next to pockets of dilapidated industrial buildings. Rows of single story historic houses, African markets, sophisticated galleries, recycling warehouses, highways, railway sidings, and A-grade offices all add to the texture and
colour of Newtown.

Newtown has been used as a location for one of South Africa's most internationally acclaimed films, Gavin Hood's Tsotsi, as well as the recently premiered Jerusalema, produced by Ralph Ziman, and Malunde directed by Stephanie Sycholt.  With its variety and diversity, it's a popular location destination for TV magazine programmes, music videos, fashion shoots, and commercials (including for Bar One, Nivea, Holiday Inn, Nokia, McDonalds and Guinness). This past month, Newtown was used for Pop Stars, the SABC2 reality show, Khumbulekhaya on SABC1, the SABC variety show Seskhona, a sport channel insert on SABC2 and as a M-tv base for video shoots.  And, of course, e.tv's popular soapie Scandal is set in Newtown.

Location highlights:

Mary Fitzgerald Square:
This is a vast open square, probably Joburg's largest public space.

Museum Africa:
The City's original fresh produce market was built in 1913. The building is unique in Africa in that it has a series of steel arched supports running across a vaulted roof, with no vertical supports, providing a space 200 metres high.

Market Theatre:
The Market Theatre houses three theatres and a gallery, and the complex still retains the ambience and spirit of a marketplace.

Workers' Museum:
This was an original municipal workers compound.
Sci-Bono Discovery Centre: 1n 1906 a power station was built in President Street. This became the Electric Workshop, and is now the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre.

Turbine Hall:
In September 1927, the first section of the Jeppe Street Power Station came into operation. The physical development included the Turbine Hall. The Turbine Hall and South Boiler House are superb industrial buildings. In 2005 the North Boiler House was demolished and in its place a new structure built to accommodate the international head quarters of AngloGold Ashanti.

Old Park Station:
The metal and glass shell of the original old Park Station, erected in Johannesburg in 1897, sits on a heavy concrete platform overlooking vacant land.

Kippies:
Situated next to the Market Theatre, was an international jazz venue of note. Its original old section has attractive small arched windows, and a small domed roof. It was modelled on the classic architecture of the Edwardian public convenience, which can still be seen through the shrubbery in the Market Theatre parking lot.

Newtown Park:
This outdoor venue is grassed and surrounded by numerous buildings all with an industrial feel including Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, Moving into Dance, The Dance Factory and Bassline. A beautiful bronze statue of Brenda Fassie, South African pop icon, is situated outside the Bassline overlooking the Park.

The area is managed by the Newtown Management District who have trained and uniformed public safety ambassadors on 24-hour shifts, strategically placed throughout the precinct, ensuring peace of mind for film crews. As managers of the public realm in Newtown, The Newtown Management District also issues permission for any film shoots taking place in the public space in Newtown, for which there is no charge except for commercial shoots. The office can facilitate permission for shooting inside Newtown's various venues, businesses and buildings.

Contact Manqoba Mkhize for permission to shoot in Newtown's public spaces or Kate Shand for further information about potential locations other than the public space on +27 11 833 6323 or visit www.newtown.co.za.

For breaking news on an initiative to promote Newtown as a film friendly zone, please click here

Click here to view the Newtown Location Gallery.