The free newsletter aimed at fostering goodwill among residents, merchants and visitors to Melville
Letter from the Editor
I love putting together Melville News because I never know what stories will come in. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, when you’re asking friends, colleagues and acquaintances to do for free what they normally do for money, it makes it harder to apply pressure.
My old faithfuls have again delivered. Jane Griffiths has hardly missed an issue since I launched the newsletter in August 2008; Deon Maas, who lives on an aeroplane despite what he says, amuses me always with his witty contributions. I met him when he was a relative rookie and I was his newly appointed deputy editor on a national magazine and he’d be the first to say I was a demanding boss but mutual respect was earned. I have always enjoyed Deon’s irreverence and he continues to get up the noses of the conservative establishment – no doubt his upcoming book Witboy in Africa will do likewise. I look forward to reading it.
I also coerced comedian Alan Committie to interview himself. I know him not well but as the close friend of a very close friend, I think he felt obliged. I’m grateful to all concerned and also to my friend of long-standing, Rosemary Bosman. Her younger sister and I attended the same junior school in Durban for a couple of years and our study years at university overlapped.
I met Rosemary when I was passing through Johannesburg and again at what was then the Civic Theatre when she and another pal from Durban were indulging in a peculiar pastime of counting who knew the most people that night. Rosemary, I discovered, had just moved into her house in walking distance of mine in Westdene and we became regulars in each other’s abodes. We might not see each other as often as we used to, but email bridges the gap and when I received one of her contemplative late night missives, I asked whether she had any objection to it being published in Melville News. Without missing a beat she asked about the going rate. I duly ignored this query and below you’ll read how she’s embraced the concept of neighbourliness – something we in Melville are beginning to take to heart, or so it seems.
There appears to be renewed verve which hopefully is indicative of a recovering economy and ongoing determination to uplift the suburb and reverse negative perceptions.
The upshot is a colourful wall at Melpark Primary School after-care, initiated by Heike Hofmeyr and members of the community who came together to colour the utterly enchanting drawings from the children themselves. Another initiative that grabbed the imagination of a good number of like-minded people was Marie-Lais Emond’s first social gathering for residents at her Melville Visitors Centre. If the response of those present was anything to go by, these will become a must for those in the ‘hood.
Now that’s the spirit.
IN THIS ISSUE
- Know your neighbour: Georgina Thompson
- Jill Richards: contemporary piano maestro
- Rosemary Bosman at home in her village
- Jane Griffiths on Vegetables for Egoli Gas
- Alan Committie talks to himself
- Deon Maas beards up
- Credits and contact details
KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOUR
Georgina Thompson is synonymous with Dance Umbrella, a globally respected dance platform which also showcases some of the most exciting new talent. Suzanne Brenner found outmore.
A Melville resident for almost 20 years, Georgina was born in Holland but grew up in Bloemfontein. Childhood dreams of being a ballerina were dashed by her height, but fate had a way of making dance her life driving force in any event.
While working in the marketing department of Durban’s Playhouse Theatre in the 1980s, the dance company’s Ashley Killar drew her into their domain. From there things snowballed and in 1991 she joined Wits Theatre and in no time was involved with Dance Umbrella, taking over the reins as Artistic Director in 1997.
Georgina has successfully developed Dance Umbrella from a local Gauteng-based festival into a nationally and internationally rated event. She enlisted support from the Gauteng Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture for one of her favourite projects, Stepping Stones, which oversees the development of young choreographers and dancers, and she has kept alive the young choreographers residency programme.
Her long-term aim to establish a dance development space was realised last year with the opening The Dance Space in Newtown, but funding remains a concern especially since this year is the last for long-time sponsor FNB, but she’ll worry about that after this year’s two week dance fest.
The recipient of multiple awards, Georgina has flown the South African flag in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany and Russia.
When time allows it, she still attends ballet calls, paints and writes.
“I am currently trying Mills and Boon,” she laughs.
Dance Umbrella takes place at various locations in Johannesburg until March 14. For more information call 072 703 9332 or go to www.artslink.co.za
MUSIC ON OUR DOORSTEP
In demand all over the world, it’s a rare pleasure that her community will be able to attend a piano performance by esteemed resident Jill Richards.
Jill was a student at the University of Cape Town when she found her passion for contemporary piano.
Long an exponent of new music, Jill’s reputation was further enhanced recently when the BBC broadcast her performances of works by Feldman, Kurtág and Stockhausen. In 1993, her ensemble was the first South African group to perform in post-communist Russia.
A large number of works – from solo pieces to concertos – have been dedicated to her, among them two sets of etudes by Kevin Volans, with whom she has collaborated since she performed his two-piano work Cicada at his 50th birthday concert in London.
Jill also has a piano duo partnership with Liza Joubert, and has worked with South African jazz composers Surendran Reddy and Denzil Weale. She has a close working relationship with Philip Miller, the composer whose music accompanied artist William Kentridge’s “9 Drawings for Projection”.
Nominated for a Grammy Award, Jill has a loyal following in South Africa, the UK, the United States and in Europe. She has five CDs to her credit.
Jill Richards will be performing with violinist Waldo Alexander on March 8 at 17h30 at the UJ theatre.
Rosemary Bosman lives in Westdene. Here she extols the virtues of knowing her neighbours.
I returned home from a party in a thunderstorm and was unable to open my electric gate. I shouted: “Melt, I can’t open my (expletive) gate,” whereupon Melt (who lives across the road) emerged, climbed over my gate, fiddled with something and lo and behold the gate opened and shut again.
I mention this in conjunction with leaking taps in the shower which I knew were due to worn rubbers. I called a plumber who quoted R500 for a call-out. So I went on the Net and looked up DIY regarding fixing taps.
After shutting off the water, I phoned my local hardware store. Did Velisa have the name of a plumber in the area? Would you know it, Blessing who works for her is a plumber. In 15 minutes, the taps were sorted and voila, we had water again. It made me realise that after staying in the same place for 25 years, I was part of a village.
I know my neighbours and despite living totally different lives from each other, we relate because we’ve seen children growing up, newcomers moving in and all the other stuff of TV soaps.
As long as I stay put, I know that Melt will always be there to fix my gate; Velisa will always fill me in on her life and give me a discount; the people at the tills at Spar and the bottle store will know and greet me by name; my chemist will deliver medication when I’m having a panic attack and my friends are just down the road.
In addition, I have a wonderful gardener living on the premises with whom I share videos from Majestic, which is run by film fanatics – you name it, they have it (but only if it is rare, won an Academy Award, sub-titled…).
I am so privileged to have my own space which includes shells, old bottles, antique furniture, a vegetable garden and rose bushes. I have a wonderful friend in Romeo my dog, and two cats, Solo and Amber. I also have goldfish – they don’t know my name and I don’t know theirs, but when I sit on my wicker chair to feed them in the evening they are there for me.
Just like my neighbourhood.
EGOLI GAS GOES GREEN
Jane Griffiths was asked by Simon Beevers of Egoli Gas to assist with the Vegetables for Egoli Gas (VEG) project at HQ in Milpark.
A few staff members had been growing vegetables around the premises and Simon wanted to allocate one area for these aspiring vegetable gardeners and assist them to grow more vegetables.
I had recently returned from producing a documentary for a Swedish NGO, SCC (Swedish Co-operative Centre) in Zimbabwe. They are successfully implementing a drought mitigation programme aimed at smallholder farmers. Their method of using study circles to spread information, mobilise farmers and create enthusiasm was core to the project’s success.
I suggested to Simon that rather than installing vegetable gardens, why didn’t we see how many people were interested and rather use the study circle approach. This way I would not only teach people how to grow vegetables, but I’d also provide them with the knowledge, skills and study guides to spread the information among their families and communities.
He loved this idea and the project soon snowballed. Instead of just a few guys planting some mealies and pumpkins on a spare patch of land, we soon had more than 30 people who wanted to learn how to grow vegetables. And more came from management than from operations. What started as an idea to grow vegetables had become a successful corporate and team building exercise. Nothing like a morning spent clearing dusty blackjacks and monster bug weed to bond a team!
I have been holding a series of workshops with the team leaders and providing them with the material they need to pass the information on to their team via study circles. A couple of sponsors have come on board to help them start their garden: Neutrog have provided organic fertiliser, Mayford gave packets of seeds; and a huge pile of organic compost was donated by Earth to Earth.
Despite a few setbacks (including a night time worker, who didn’t know anything about the project, digging up some vegetables to make space to plant his own), the team is still enthusiastically continuing on their VEG journey.
ALAN COMMITTIE FINDS HIMSELF
Alan Committie interviews Alan Committie.
I am having coffee with the delightful, slightly effervescent comedian Alan Committie. It’s not often one gets an opportunity to chat with oneself without the usual cries of “Madman! He’s off his meds again!” But being a member of a one-man committee of comedy means that I could pose a couple of questions to this funnyman about his new show.
Q. Tell us about this new show, Alan. What can your audience expect?
A. Fully Committied is my new comedy show which is filled with my usual brand of stand-up, sketches, characters and all-round silliness. We cover everything: Oprah Winfrey, Dan Brown do-it-yourself-novels, global warming and other cooking tips, dog training, unrequited love, 2010 soccer World Cup and high school athletic days.
Q: Are you enjoying being back in Jozi?
A: It’s brilliant. I was driving around and I got so excited because I found a road that nobody was working on. Just imagine that for a moment! I just drove up and down all day long. I haven’t had that much fun in ages. Unfortunately, I then discovered it’s not actually a road. It’s a driveway.
Q: This is your 11th comedy show in as many years. What is the appeal of the one man show for you?
A: It’s very simple. In a one man show, if all goes well, you get the credit. And if it goes badly, it’s not difficult to work out who to blame.
Q: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
A: When I finish Fully Commmittied I start performing in a farce directed by Alan Swerdlow called Boeing Boeing. Later in the year, I am MC of the Cape Town Comedy Festival and then (it’s) back to Jozi in June with another run of Defending the Caveman.
And with that, Alan whisks away leaving me to pay for the bill…typical really.
Fully Committied is running at Montecasino Theatre until March 7 every Wednesday to Sunday with two shows on Saturday. Bookings can be made at Computicket.
Our columnist Deon Maas launches his first book on April 6, a good date for a white settler’s tale of his Thompson-esque adventures through the Dark Continent.
So I finally got it together to write my book. It’s called Witboy in Africa. It took me 10 years to write, which means that my next best seller, My Year of Being Famous, should be on your Christmas shopping list for 2020.
As a published author (and please note that I will be addressed as an author not a writer henceforth), I will be in the esteemed circle that includes Adolf Hilter, Ronald Suresh Roberts and of course Rodney Seale (Google him if I have you confused).
Being a writer is tough. For a start, it needs to be juggled with something called a job (which ordinary people do to pay rent), buy single malts and pay for pleasures. Of course, if your name is Deon Meyer or Andre P. Brink, it’s a different matter. Then you get to travel all over the world at someone else’s expense, or in the case of Brink, marry much younger women.
So to feel like a real writer I got myself the (much) younger woman. Oh boy, it’s a lot of fun. Then I got someone to pay for my trip overseas. Okay, so I had to work in exchange for the free ticket but still, it was a free ticket. As the final step to feeling like a real author, I decided to grow a beard.
I’ve always threatened to have one, but never got around to it. To my amazement I discovered websites giving advice to beard growers (www.beards.org) and a whole online community dedicated to this activity. I found this strange because I kind of figured that you just stopped shaving and it happened. Obviously I was wrong.
Some of the sites are linked to the lost art of being a man, but that stuff’s way too gay for me, so I just ignored it. One stated: “…the male beard communicates an heroic image of the independent, sturdy and resourceful pioneer, ready, willing and able to do manly things.”
I decided to grow my beard the way I have lived my life – figuring it out as I go along. Now I am a bearded man. It makes me look hard and masculine. Best is that I don’t have to shave everyday.
Having a beard is great. It is a reaffirmation of my manhood, it separates me from other less testosterone driven men and it’s the one thing (most) women cannot do.
I also learnt that there’s a very specific kind of woman who is attracted to men with beards and they seem to be mostly the kind of women who appeal to me, so that’s an added bonus. I don’t look like a biker and I don’t look like a boer, but I do look like a real man.
I still moisturise though.
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