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Curtis also played a prominent role serving on the Johannesburg Insanitary Area Improvement Scheme Commission and was a proponent of the clearance of Brickfields in favour of the redevelopment and industrialisation of Newtown.
The ‘Cultural Arc’ is a development proposal adopted since 2000 by the City of Johannesburg to integrate culturally important institutions and sites located in Newtown and Braamfontein.
The south and northbound M1 freeway overpass dissects Newtown and adjacent Fordsburg in the west, while the railway lines to the north mark the border between Newtown and Braamfontein.
In the early days, such entertainment was concentrated around ' Frenchfontein' - home to the City’s many music halls and brothels.
Before 1900, Johannesburg boasted four theatres: the Standard, the Globe, the Royalty and the Gaiety. The Globe theatre, built in 1889, was the first permanent entertainment venue but was destroyed in a fire after only six months of operation.
During the 1930s Commissioner Street was the main entertainment strip of Johannesburg with its theatres, cinemas and other venues.
This intersects with Eloff Street which, in its heyday, was Johannesburg’s main shopping strip.
By the 1920s Marabi was well established as a unique blend of African and European musical styles and set the foundations for a musical tradition that would develop over the course of the next century - culminating in the great jazz period of Sophiatown in the 1940s and 50s.
The 1920s and 30s saw the emergence of a growing black middle class which gathered around organisations such as the Gamma Sigma Club, the Joint Councils, the Bantu Men’s Social Centre and the Institute of Race Relations. 1 Eloff Street promoted music, visual arts and literature.
The Arc stretches from the Newtown Cultural Precinct via the Nelson Mandela Bridge to the University of the Witwatersrand, the South African Ballet Theatre studios, the Joburg Theatre as well as the Constitution Hill precinct which in turn incorporates the Women’s Jail, the Old Fort, Number Four, the Governor’s house and the Constitutional Court.
Collectively the Arc incorporates four theatre complexes, various dance studios, live music venues, significant museum and art collections, historic sites and monuments, as well as a year-round programme of cultural events.
While serving as High Commissioner, he became associated with a group of members of the South African Civil Service known as ‘Milner’s Kindergarten' - mostly personal and Oxford connections who occupied senior positions in his administration. From 1916 to 1918 he played a prominent role in British politics.
Lionel Curtis (1872 - 1955) was a notable member of Milner’s Kindergarten.
The precinct can be divided into the Market Precinct (located north of the square) which is dominated by the 1913 Market Building - home to the Market Theatre and Museum Africa.