First Thursdays

First Thursdays are back in Cape Town. Image via UnSplash

Out and about: First Thursdays are back in Cape Town

Cape Town’s popular First Thursdays returned to the city on the 3 September.

First Thursdays

First Thursdays are back in Cape Town. Image via UnSplash

The coordinated monthly First Thursdays event that sees galleries, restaurants, bars, and shops extending their opening hours to the public once a month was restarted to accelerate the recovery of the CBD economy.

The event was the first after a six-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and featured fewer participating venues who tentatively tested the waters to determine whether the event would be a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

First Thursdays: Central city revival

Before the lockdown, First Thursdays was initiated to accelerate the rejuvenation of the central city economy. The pandemic had a devastating effect on small businesses and the central city economy took a massive knock with many businesses closing down, fewer people working in town, and no tourism revenue.

It is hoped that First Thursdays will extend a much-needed lifeline to those businesses that are still hanging on.

First Thursdays’ co-founder Gareth Pearson believes that if the city centre continues to lose retail and hospitality businesses, it’s going to be very difficult for it to bounce back.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have a CBD like we do, not just as a commercial centre but as a safe space for public social life. First Thursdays is as popular as it is because we don’t have those kinds of convivial urban spaces in South Africa. If the alternative is the mall, I think we need to double down and do whatever we can to keep the CBD alive,” he says.

New projects on the horizon

Founders and coordinators of First Thursdays, Thursdays Projects, have recently launched a new project called Qiosk.

The project was created in response to the abundance of vacant retail spaces in and around Cape Town’s CBD and aims to inject life and creativity into the urban economy. Qiosk features a platform for listing and renting short-term activation spaces such as brand activations, exhibitions, and pop-up stores and offers well-located spaces for people to try new things.

Qiosk’s first initiative is a pop-up bookstore called Hot Days Cool Books occupying a vacant shop space at 66 Wale Street. The bookstore focuses on rare art and design books, which were previously only available on Instagram, but are now on sale in their stand-alone store in the CBD.