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What’s your hood? Give it a name. – An interview with Bruce Good
Inspired by New York, Bruce Good has been cooking up his great idea since 2008: Name Your Hood. The idea is to give areas a name to create strong and branded communities in collaboration with other people and companies passionate about Cape Town. I met up with Bruce Good to ask a few questions about his project. The key thing: it’s not about changing existing names, but to create identities for areas that have none.
Bruce Good, who are you?
I’m a proud Capetonian, but I spent most of my working life living in London and then New York. So, I’m a person who loves the brand Cape Town and is just simply out to promote the city we live in.
What's your hood?
I live in Mouille Point, which is actually quite a well-defined brand as it is. Once you have a neighbourhood that’s branded, that has a strong identity, all of a sudden you see other businesses gravitating towards it. It uplifts the city.
What inspired you to start Name Your Hood?
A couple of things. I saw how well New York as a city functions because of its neighbourhoods and I as a proud Capetonian wanted to do anything I could to improve the city. When I came back I realised the way people give directions in Cape Town; they say 'town' or 'next to this shop' or 'City Bowl' and people refer to this big humongous mass, but actually they are distinct. So I was inspired to change that. When I was in New York I read a quote by Gandhi who said 'Be the change you want'. I want to live in a better Cape Town. For me, selfishly, but I also want tourists to come here and love the city, to spend money and come back.
How is it gonna work?
When I came back from New York I had the idea of creating names for the neighbourhoods and then give it to journalists to sort of uncover. My parents were in town and one day while walking around the Waterfront we saw a shop that was trying to get a new name. My parents were going for the rest of the weekend 'What would be a cool name for the shop?'. Then the penny dropped for me and I realised, people like to have a say in what happens. Then you feel a slight ownership of the process. So a better way of doing this is to let the public decide. In South Africa, I think, everywhere, people have a very negative view of name changes. The key thing: we are not changing names, we’re just creating names where they are non-existing. So we would never re-name Bo-Kaap, Tamboerskloof or District Six.
What are some of the areas you’re looking at finding new names for?
You’ve got Bo-Kaap, then you’re at De Waterkant, then Somerset Road runs here, and beneath that you have places like Beluga, Trinity, Fireman’s Arms, the whole area. How do you describe to somebody where it is? Then, Long Street, above Wale to Buitensingel. That’s where people always say 'Oh Cape Town, you must go out on Long Street', they are talking about the area there, they’re not talking about Long Street where the banks are, at the bottom. That should become its own neighbourhood. Then, beneath the Garden Centre, where Wembley Square is, Roeland Street is so different to The Fringe... Kloof Street as well. There is Van Riebeeck High School and Camps Street. There’s Rick’s Café, Vida, Asoka, Hudsons, that’s all very different to Camps Street with Melissa‘s, it’s a different neighbourhood, but yet people still call it the same thing, 'It’s on Kloof Street'. Once you get into Woodstock, you got the Biscuit Mill and all of that, but then there is a development which is quite away from that, where you got Ogilvy and The Kitchen, galleries, that deserves it’s own name. We are very sensitive to names that have been established.
Another key influence for me was my background in property. I have always been amazed, when I was in New York, if you cross one road from Soho to Tribeca, it’s a different neighbourhood and the property prices are different. But in Cape Town the property companies advertise things as 'City Bowl living'. And I went to them when I started finding sponsors and asked 'What is City Bowl living?'. I can live in a flat on top of Mavericks or in a 12-bedroom house in Tamboerskloof, it’s both City Bowl living. You need a way to make it easier for people to navigate. It’s going to transform the city, make things easier.
Do you already have suggestions?
At Caveau (Bree Street) is the oldest vine planted in the Southern hemisphere. So someone said, they wanna call that area 'Merlot'. The area north of Wale Street someone wanted to call 'NoWa'. Ravi Naidoo, who is the founder of the Design Indaba wanted to call something 'Soros' for 'South of Roland Street'. De Waterkant is obviously an established, cool brand but next to it, Greenpoint is a massive place, but the strip where Vida, Manos is, maybe that becomes 'Stadium' or 'Somerset' or something, it’s on Somerset Road. Someone wanted to call the area under Lion’s Head 'Mane'.
Good timing with Cape Town being shortlisted for the World Design Capital 2014..
This is for people madly passionate for the city, there’s no down side to it. The cool thing for being announced for the short list for the World Design Capital is, that it‘s all around how people design a city. I’m hoping that this becomes a big boost for that. People are designing the city and are helping to name it.
What is your time frame for Name Your Hood?
From the 4th of July people can start submitting names online, via sms but we will also create forms, so people can vote that don’t have internet access, which we will hand out at train stations, bus stations, everywhere. We name two neighbourhoods per month. The first 2,5 weeks people can submit names. Then we close the process off and have a panel of people, independent of us, proud Capetonians who will then decide on a shortlist.
What benefit will Cape Town have from having names for their hoods?
People want to have the sense of neighbourhood and community, but there is no name for it. That’s what we’re trying to create, to give it a voice. I believe it once you have broken down a neighbourhood in smaller, branded areas, it’s easier to mobilise. If you want to implement a green initiative, it’s easier for local businesses to form a collective as 'Soho', you can do this better in smaller groups. It makes it more manageable.
If you could sum up Cape Town in one word, what would that be?
Opportunity. Or kaleidoscope since there are so many different elements to it.
By Antonia Heil
P.S. Joburg and Durban will follow when Name Your Hood works in Cape Town.