Mickey Cohen’s Sunset Strip

Aric Allen’s Hollywood walking tour tells the story of the Sunset Strip‘s transformation from sprawling poinsettia fields and avocado groves to the world famous entertainment hotspot it is today.

It was gambling that built the Sunset Strip, Aric says, and in this short video, he zooms in on a central character, the Los Angeles gangster Mickey Cohen, who ruled the Sunset Strip in the post-war era.

Aric also highlights the role that water may have played in the lifespans of both the man and the Strip itself.

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The Voice of Bo-Kaap

Shereen Habib was born in 1952 in a house at the top of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town’s “Malay Quarter”. The predominantly Muslim neighbourhood’s population is mostly descended from convicts, political exiles and slaves from the former Dutch East Indies.

Shereen’s family has lived in Bo-Kaap for almost a century. During apartheid’s darkest days when most non-white people were banished to designated neighbourhoods and townships on the outskirts of the city, including Shereen and her husband, her parents remained in the house on the hill.

She returned to Bo-Kaap after a decade with her husband in a formerly “coloured” area. It was home, she says. “After so much anger and so much death and so much shooting down, with my children witnessing it all, we were traumatised. I wanted to get back to where I knew best – where there was love and laughter – and so I came back here. And that’s when I knew that this is where I wanted to start telling my story.”

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Audio Drama: The Ideal Medium for Fantasy

The latest weekly podcast by our friends Matthew and Robert at Yap Audio Production explores why audio is a particularly powerful medium for fantasy. One of the guests on the show is Domien De Groot – “the Tolkien of audio drama” – who shares the story of how his career began.

“Fantasy is really what got me in to doing audio drama in the first place. I discovered it because of the BBC dramatisations of the Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit. That’s when I fell in love with the medium. I thought ‘what is so wonderful about this is you can create this whole world, and you can see things, without actually having to film them, or create them.’

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Looking past the obvious in LA: Aric Allen on Hollywood

“Location-aware audio walk” doesn’t trip off the tongue, does it? It’s a phrase for a technical medium, with lots of moving parts, and sometimes VoiceMap’s storytellers get bogged down by all of our publishing tool’s many mechanics.

The result is a list of facts instead of stories, with the things that are physically most obvious at the forefront – the monuments, buildings, and landmarks that get mapped out right at the beginning of the process – instead of the stories that made the walk compelling in the first place.

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Using a GPS Logger

When you start your VoiceMap, the first step is plotting your route. If your route goes through a city, it’s easy to do using our online tool. Landmarks and streets are easily visible, and you can flip between the map, satellite photographs and street view. But for routes on outdoor paths, it can be hard to see where to put the line. Isolating small landmarks that aren’t visible on maps is tricky too, and it’s best to use a GPS logger application.

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Our favourite stories about Cape Town, so far

Conventional audio tours tell a city’s story with only one or two voices, which doesn’t allow for diversity or individual perspectives. You can’t capture the essence of a place like Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap in the same way as the colonial Company’s Gardens or the Grand Parade, where Mandela addressed 200,000 ecstatic people after his release from prison. What brings these spaces to life, and connects you to them, is the personal opinions, anecdotes and sense of ownership reflected in the words, ‘I love’, ‘I remember’, and ‘I hope’.

The best travel experiences normally begin with a local showing you their city. It cuts through all the abstraction of being an outsider, making you a participant, with a point of reference that helps you identify with a place. You get to share somebody else’s feelings for their home – and that’s exactly what VoiceMap aims to do, with the help of our storytellers.

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Revolution Route at First Thursdays

The Revolution Route is a journey through the stories of revolution birthed in Cape Town, from Mandela and Sobukwe, through Kgosana, Gool and Massavana. Part poetry, part history, all revolution.

You’ll need an iPhone and headphones. Download VoiceMap from the App Store, and use it to purchase the route (R49.99) before you arrive. (It’ll be available for download from Tuesday.)

Meet up with fellow revolutionaries at the statue of King Edward VII on the Grand Parade at 6pm. The walk finishes at Church Square, where VoiceMap is participating in the Open Cities event.

  • When: 6pm
  • Where: Meet at the statue of King Edwards VII on the grande Parade
  • Price: R49.99
  • Bring along: iPhone and headphones

The Revolution Route is one of VoiceMap’s Cape Town walking tours.

Cape Town, tell us your stories

We’re launching VoiceMap in Cape Town throughout the month of September, and we’re looking for stories that make our map of Cape Town more complete. We’ve lined up significant media coverage from some of the city’s biggest broadcasters and publications, and Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Partnership are lending a hand.

We’re always on the lookout for your stories, and anything is welcome, but we’re prioritising the following places and themes in particular:

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Company’s Garden Photo Essay

The Company’s Garden lies in the heart of Cape Town’s City Bowl, between Signal Hill and Table Mountain. In the 1700’s, when the Dutch East India Company dominated the spice trade between the East and Europe, Cape Town was the halfway point. It was a refreshment station, and the garden supplied fresh produce to the scurvy-ridden, weather-beaten sailors passing through after months at sea.

Today, the garden is another kind of refreshment station. In the summer, office workers spread themselves out on the sunny lawns during their lunch hour, absent-mindedly tossing crumbs to the pigeons. Toddlers shriek with delight as the resident squirrels edge towards the peanuts in their outstretched hands, and opportunistic seagulls scout for discarded snacks from the tops of old bronze statues. The garden is not just the city’s historical centre – it’s a democratic space at Cape Town’s heart, where people from all walks of life come to rest and rejuvenate.

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