Cape Town - When Cape Town scooped the best city in the world award in the UK Telegraph Travel Awards last month, more traditional reasons for the thumbs up included the wine, the pristine beaches, the Big 5 and how many rands could be bought with a pound sterling.
But also on the list was the Langa Quarter, with the Telegraph writing that the area had become “one of the city’s most exciting districts, which is a testament to the creative and entrepreneurial talent of its residents”. “As well as jovial locals, the Langa Quarter abounds with colourful street art, late-night jazz bars and cosy cafés,” it said. The driving force behind the initiative is former Londoner Tony Elvin, who says he has big, bold and sexy plans for Cape Town’s oldest township.
Elvin, who worked with Jamie Oliver at the London restaurant, Fifteen, and later set up a scholarship whereby chefs from South Africa were brought over to be trained there, first visited Cape Town in 2004. “I was only here for two weeks, but felt quite emotional leaving.”
He moved to Cape Town a few years later and lived in upmarket Ruyteplaats in Hout Bay, where friends warned him not to go into the townships and never to make eye contact with those standing at the traffic lights. He set up a consulting business from “a beautiful office” in Heritage Square, but it was meeting two entrepreneurs from Langa that ignited his passion for the area where he now lives. “Langa was the most exciting place.
The people, the location, the history, the culture, the jazz – all of it.” Not that there weren’t challenges. He recalls how strange he found what he called “human safaris”, where “big coaches would drive through and tourists would take photographs out the window”. Elvin set up a non-profit organisation, Ikhaya le Langa, in an old disused primary school, which he is turning in a centre for enterprise and social development. The lead project is the Langa Quarter and the idea is to make the area “clean, green and safe” to attract investment and create employment opportunities for locals.
Read more / Original Post /by Helen Bamford, Cape Argus