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Sunday, August 4, 2019 - 21:32

The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation held its annual general meeting on Saturday 3rd August at Northwards. It was one of our best attended AGMs with over 80 members and associates present. The afternoon combined the formal annual general business meeting, report backs and a talk on Blue Plaques.

Brett McDougall, the outgoing chair of the JHF, presented the Chairman’s report and review of the achievements of the Foundation during the past year. The JHF has concentrated on its research activities, conservation work, a school tours programme, training tour guides, weekend heritage tours, lectures and a bus tour programme during the annual Heritage Weekend. A major activity has been  the ongoing digitization of heritage documents housed at the  JHF Research Centre. The three Joint Plans Committees guide architects, developers and  planners in the management of heritage on the ground. The JHF has installed over 20 blue heritage plaques during the past year, painting the town with blue history word bites. Stakeholder engagement has seen the JHF connect with the City of  Johannesburg, JAG and Museum Africa, Gauteng Provincial Government, the Provincial Heritage Association of Gauteng, The Johannesburg Urban Forest alliance (JUFA), Egoli Heritage Trust, the Wilds project and the Heritage Association of South Africa. It has been a full active and energetic year led by Brett McDougall and  the Board of Management. JHF activities are publicised on the website and  social media platforms; fund raising  has been achieved through book sales and the sales of new books to  our members. The focus has been on tackling heritage neglect, campaigning for conservation, putting our money where our mouth is with backing the restoration and repair of neglected heritage treasures (St John the Divine Church and stained glass window restoration at the Friedenskirche in Hillbrow and the Holy Trinity Church in Braamfontein, the restoration of the Greenhouses at the Wilds etc.). An entirely new project is the Friends of the Cemeteries which works to repair, restore and improve the gardens in Johannesburg cemeteries. The JHF works with passion and commitment to raise awareness about heritage. An exciting discovery in 2018 was the 1913 blue print of the Yeoville Water Tower which led into a research project, accredited academic publications in Architecture SA and the printing and sale of a series of limited edition  prints of the blue print.


The Yeoville Water Tower Blueprint


A vote of thanks and appreciation to Brett McDougall was passed with applause and acclaim for his five years of service to the JHF as the Chair.

Kathy Munro as the incoming Chair presented the plans and programme for the 2019/20 year ahead. The JHF plans to continue to focus its efforts on volunteer-driven projects with a significant impact but low financial investment. The most important of the  goals are: building research capabilities, archiving building plans of the city in Museum Africa; the monthly meetings and site visits of the three  Joint Plans Committees (Central,  East and West), running the quarterly tour programme and the Heritage Weekend; the blue plaque programme - a minimum of 21 blue plaques are planned for  erection. Our education programme for schools has drawn sponsorship and support enabling the JHF to reach into all types of schools in order to educate school kids in heritage work (this is a 20 year sow the seed investment). Our Friends of the Cemeteries will continue to restore and document the graves and tombstones in historic cemeteries. The JHF will continue to work with the City of Johannesburg, for example in the relocation and restoration of the Bez Valley World War I memorial to the 64 men of the Valley who lost their lives in that war; we are excited about the planned exhibition on the Bensusanphotographic legacy coming up at Museum Africa in August; and we are backing Museum Africa in the upgrading of exhibits for school tours. Our Special projects concentrate on the completion of the restoration of the interior of St John the Divine Church in Belgravia and the stained glass church windows projects as well as the green house project. We are working on the production of a limited edition series of historic maps of Johannesburg. We shall be publishing two heritage studies on the Orange Grove Waterfall and on the Highlands Ridge / Yeoville Ridge. We shall be motivating for the Provincial Heritage Resources Agency of Gauteng to declare some important heritage sites as Provincial sites.


Old postcard of the Orange Grove Waterfall


Kathy stressed that the JHF is an NGO that punches above its weight. Continuity is evident in all we are planning for the coming year. To achieve and to be successful we need team work, an engaged membership and partnerships. The JHF strives to draw in new audiences and attract new members and has developed new categories of membership (e.g. Corporate membership, fellow NGO membership, Residents Association membership in addition to  our existing categories  of ordinary, family and pensioner). Members are our backbone. They are needed to give us voice and clout. This coming year we are looking forward to more residents associations collaborating with us and welcome their engagement in heritage work. The first line of defence for heritage properties are the local  campaigners, whether in Orlando, Dube, Houghton, Yeoville or Kensington. Kathy offered the commitment to Residents Associations, that the JHF will back residents to  guard their  heritage worthy past and celebrate the suburban role in Johannesburg history. Our resource centre becomes a research space for our member bodies. Kathy stressed that conservation is about defining heritage, discovering local history. We are looking for partners and partnerships in diversity and in young people, for example, let’s get the Rand Club working with Hillbrow Outreach. Kathy is a Wits University Honorary Associate Professor and  brings close links to the  Wits Historical Papers and the School of Architecture and Planning. Kathy  commented: “We can open doors to celebrating history and heritage.” JHF plans to continue to market and promote its vital work visibly on its website, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. The message is that the JHF is an active and vibrant, big impact, low budget  heritage organization; facing all the challenges of Johannesburg city life and changing times with courage and excitement. “We want the biggest bangs for our bucks and we want Johannesburg heritage to be a drawcard for the city.”

The JHF annual report included a tribute to longstanding member, tour guide and researcher, Winnie Job who passed away in June 2019; we acknowledge Winnie for her stalwart contributions over a 30 year period of membership.

The JHF is embarking on a membership drive, we need new members to fill the shoes of Winnie.

The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation Operational Review, future plans and financial report and budget are available on request. Contact the JHF office at Northwards - 011 482 23344 or mail@joburgheritage.co.za (Eira Bond). 

We welcome new members and Eira can supply membership forms and information sheets. All NGOs are made by their members. We welcome volunteers. Let the JHF know your skills and your interests. You will find friends, fun and an enriching learning experience in the JHF.


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