The Windybrow Theatre, Johannesburg
Did you know?
The Windybrow Theatre is credited with starting a genre of performance poetry known as Spoken Word poetry.
The Windybrow Theatre, with its fanciful turrets and green and white timber façade, typifies the Victorian architectural style of Johannesburg at the end of the 19th century. The Randlords, wealthy entrepreneurs who controlled the diamond and gold mining industries, built exuberant and extravagant mansions, of which the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow is a fine example.
The Windybrow Heritage House became a theatre in the late 1980s. Despite renovations in 1993 and 1998 to improve facilities, as the neighbouring suburbs of Hillbrow and New Doornfontein degenerated, so the theatre struggled financially.
In 2005, the Department of Arts and Culture declared the Windybrow Theatre a cultural institution and began a restructuring process that would enable the theatre to become a sustainable entity. The new Windybrow Theatre was officially re-launched on 4 May 2006.
Today, the theatre is better known as the Windybrow Centre for the Arts. The primary focus of the theatre is to facilitate cultural and creative exchanges between South African theatre practitioners and those from other parts of Africa.
At present, the Windybrow Theatre consists of three performance spaces: the Main theatre (250 seats), the Small theatre (60 seats), and a tiny 20-seat auditorium. It also has two rehearsal rooms. The drawing room of the original house has been converted into a pub. Another room has been converted into a coffee shop.
The Windybrow Centre for the Arts hosts new stage productions. In addition, the theatre focuses on developing burgeoning talent through workshops while the Windybrow Children's Theatre offers free community programmes to encourage children from the surrounding low-income areas to become involved in the dramatic arts.
Because of its architectural and cultural significance, the Windybrow Theatre is again in the process of regeneration and is planned to become the focal point of a new cultural precinct, sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture.
Three buildings adjacent to the theatre will be revamped and several streets around the theatre will become pedestrian walkways. Once completed, the Windybrow Theatre will become even more of an asset to this historic corner of Johannesburg.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)11 720 0003
Tel: +27 (0)11 678 3905
Parktown & Westcliff Heritage Trust
Tel: +27 (0)11 482 3349
How to get here
The Windybrow Centre for the Arts is on the corner of Nugget and Pietersen streets in New Doornfontein. Catch a public bus, a taxi or use the Reya Vaya rapid bus transit system, and get off at the Doornfontein station.
Best time to visit
Check out the website as a major make-over is ongoing.
Tours to do
The Parktown & Westcliff Heritage Trust and Past Experiences both conduct heritage walking tours in the area.
What will it cost
Selected performance workshops at the Windybrow Theatre are free. Show tickets vary in price but are usually inexpensive.
Where to stay
Nearby Braamfontein has a number of chic urban boutique hotels, such as Lamunu, the Parktonian, and the revamped Dorchester Hotel. In Parktown North is the five-star Westcliff Hotel.
What to eat
The Pink Flamingo, a restaurant in the nearby Troyville Hotel, is famous for its seafood and Portuguese fare.