The complex will house a theatre, rehearsal spaces, libraries, a research centre and an art exhibition space. Its new tagline is, “More than a Theatre”.
There are not many buildings of such architectural appeal in Johannesburg, as they become victims of a gentrification wave. While some visionary developers try to maintain original architecture, others demolish older buildings to make room for new ones whose architectural forms leave a lot to be desired.
The section that will house the Windybrow theatre will be the next phase of the restoration, says Gwangwa.
A lot is at stake in restoring Windybrow, as it has for decades been the problem child of SA’s publicly funded theatres. Over the years, it has reeled from one crisis to another. attracting headlines for all the wrong reasons and seldom because of the success of the productions it hosted.
Now a huge effort and massive resources are being pumped into the space to make it work again, and become a functional centre where the inner city’s arts can shine again. This includes employing fresh brains with even fresher ideas that will attract audiences.
The Market Theatre Foundation. which now has Windybrow under its umbrella, appointed Gwangwa, daughter of jazz trombonist Jonas Gwangwa and social activist Violet Gwangwa, as the head of the Windybrow Arts Centre.
Until a few years ago, it was an independent state-owned theatre with its own board, enjoying its independence and status just like the Market Theatre, The Playhouse, Artscape, The State Theatre and the Performance Arts Centre of Free State.
Windybrow was mothballed about four years ago amid allegations of maladministration and corruption. Millions of rand meant for the rehabilitation of the heritage building allegedly vanished under its previous management.