How Joburgers loved First Thursdays to death

Jessica Brodie recalls her first (and last) First Thursday on the Keyes Art Mile

05 April 2018 - 00:00 By Jessic Brodie
First Thursdays should be about the art, not about the booze.
First Thursdays should be about the art, not about the booze.
Image: 123RF/alptraum

Oh, Johannesburg. Sometimes you break my heart. I have long been a decrier of the reported feud between Cape Town and Joburg. I don’t think it’s a competition worth having. We are about as different as it gets and what exactly are we competing over anyway: who mines more gold, or whose beach is better?

That said, there is something where a justifiable comparison can be made: First Thursdays. On the official website for this monthly art event, the blurb for both cities is identical, but that's where any similarity ends.

In Cape Town, the galleries stay open until 9pm and you can walk between them slowly, drinking a glass or two of passable wine from those ubiquitous ‘function’ wine glasses. You know the ones. By 8pm, you've actually looked at the art, had enough to drink on a empty workday stomach and can depart for dinner elsewhere.

In Johannesburg, First Thursdays happens in three separate precincts, forcing you to hedge your bets. So far, I have only made it to Keyes Avenue in Rosebank, but I doubt I’ll ever make it any further.

The food trucks and live music made for a convivial atmosphere, as I meandered down Keyes Avenue. Touted as the “art mile", bizarrely this street seems to contain few galleries.

Touted as the “art mile", bizarrely [Keyes Avenue] seems to contain few galleries

Worse, Circa Gallery, the most prominent landmark on the mile had its imposing door sealed by the time I arrived ... at 6pm. Why? Too many problems with drunk people fondling the art.

There are several other galleries nearby on Jan Smuts Avenue, but Jozi is not exactly a pedestrian-friendly city at night. These venues are just over a kilometer away, but they may as well be on Mars by Johannesburg’s ‘walkable distance’ standards. Why is there no hop, on-hop off shuttle?

Back on Keyes Avenue, things were devolving into debauchery. By 8pm there was a heaving party happening with people dancing drunkenly. I just wish the event had been billed as a street party, because an art affair, it's not.