Arts centre gets new hall

Pupils from Sid G Rule, in Grassy Park, and Dietrich Moravian Primary School, in Philippi, fill the new hall with their melodious voices.

The Battswood Arts Centre in Grassy Park finally has a school hall after 22 years of training young performers and visual artists.

They were the 67th recipient of a hall from the Garden Cities’ Archway Foundation and officially opened the new building on Thursday July 28.

Principal Kapil Misra said the hall is a blessing for the more than 3 500 pupils from schools all over the peninsula who take classes there.

The hall is one of many completed by the foundation this year. Lavender Hill High and Hillwood Primary schools also got new halls.

“Without school halls, teachers cannot fully provide a complete education for their pupils, and yet, before the Archway started its work, halls were not defined as a priority when new schools were planned or developed, nor were they seen as essential additional facilities in old ones,” said Mr Misra.

“That perception is changing. And a survey of schools that have received the halls, proved that educators felt hamstrung without one. All said that they did not know how they managed.”

Mr Misra said a hall provides an essential platform for the students to practice their art and learn stage craft.

“On a real stage, they gain the confidence to perform in front of audiences. At an academic level, the hall provides a safe place for writing exams and it is also the heart of the school’s social and formal gatherings.”

Faldela Chotia, Circuit 3 manager, said while many art centres are in affluent areas, Battswood serves the less fortunate in all grades from her school district.

She said it was important to support the arts, and, for example, companies should invest in offering bursaries for art pupils to study further after school.

Thandi Jafta, Circuit 1 manager, said she is impressed by the pupils who are showing on interest in different dances such as hip hop. “Like so many celebrities all over the world, hopefully they will also earn a lot of money,” said Ms Jafta.

She said they were proud to have a hall at the arts centre. “We promise Garden Cities’ Archway Foundation that we will maintain this hall and keep it as beautiful.”

John Matthews, chief executive officer of Garden Cities and head of the Archway Foundation, told Southern Mail they have improved the design of the halls over the years. “Battswood’s hall is slightly different as they have spring flooring to accommodate the dance students.”

The Archway provided nearly R30 million of the total R58.8 million spent on the halls in the past year. A further 10 school halls are planned for the next 12 months. The foundation works in partnership with the Western Cape Education Department, which this year provided the balance of the funding, aside from contributions from the schools.