Illa Thompson
Column 100
November 2016
My relationship with Durban – my home town – is much like having a tempestuous lover: she is simultaneously astonishing, frustrating, remarkable, stormy, passionate and intense. There are times of extreme joy and enchantment, side-by-side with moments of powerful anger, rage, irritation and frustration.
Working in the creative industries in Durban – most of the time it feels as though our cup is half empty. However in the past few weeks, it as though our cup is not only half full but overflowing with abundance. There are times when our frustrating little city and our fragile and erratic industry totally gets it right.
A series of joyous recent events affirmed why I will be loyal to my tempestuous lover that is Durban.
I attended the opening of the new music block at DHS. Charming and gracious DHS old boy Chris Seabrooke, whose generosity has already funded the Seabrookes Theatre at the school, has once again dipped deep into his pockets to sponsor the most incredible state-of-the-art new music centre which boasts an enormous studio which could double as a public recital venue, and a series of well-equipped rehearsal, practice and teaching rooms. It is beyond rare for a sponsor of this magnitude to be making such a generous donation with no strings attached and no expectations of anything in return. Natalie Rungan, who has been tasked to head the facility, publicly thanked him in song at the opening ceremony. Her words of thanks echo our gratitude and delight at this generous and meaningful gift which will change the lives of generations of DHS learners with an interest in music.
Another launch in Durban this time of a new comedy initiative. The tenacity and vision of local comedy entrepreneurs Jem Atkins and Jess Knauf caught the eye of national comedy and event promoters Whacked Management – headed by John Vlismas and Taffia Keight. They have pledged their support and commitment to growing comedy in Durban. The result is On Fire Comedy – a newly-energised management agency which will focus on providing platforms and festivals for comedians in KZN . The launch was efficient, slick and impressive – a proud showcase of great ideas, new partnerships and exciting projects.
I was invited to a day-long workshop to consider a framework for the monitoring and evaluation of publicly-funded arts culture and heritage. Having attended zillions of similar sounding events, I went with a heavy-heart and a fair amount of reluctance anticipating another half-backed inept waste of time. I was beyond pleasantly surprised to find this session to be vastly different. The South African Cultural Observatory is based in the Eastern Cape. Supported by the Department of Arts and Culture, it comprises a team of engaged proactive academics who are committed to the research and analysis of the creative industries. I left the session with a spring in my step having learned and benefitted from a well-structured thoughtful and meaningful programme.
My final affirmation was closer to home – in my neighbourhood in fact. As a quantum opposite to the more formal launches – our now-annual Halloween event in Ferguson Rd is a fun participative activity for Glenwood families. The neighbourhood is on show, and our road looked fabulous. We dressed our street in self-made decorations created from recycled and found materials. Residents get involved to make the decorations, adorn the street and organise the evening’s programme of events. On the day we open up our homes to strangers with armfuls of benevolence and goodwill.
Durban my tempestuous lover – today you have affirmed me. Today, as significantly I write this my hundredth column, I remember why I love you. Today you make my cup runneth over with the abundance of affirmation, delight and joy.
And in a country where the dark clouds look increasingly ominous, long may this euphoria continue.