Gerald Schreiner counts himself lucky to be able to live and work in the city centre, as it is “too expensive for young middle-class professionals”.
And while he loves the development in the CBD, such as the improved safety, the vibrancy and the revival of economic interest, he feels that the city needs to be made more accessible.
“There is an economic divide in the city. I was lucky to break into the city life back then, but otherwise, it is too expensive. There is almost no local life in the city.”
Gerald was born in Upington in the Northern Cape, and moved to Cape Town to study architecture at UCT. “I was a top student at high school so I received a scholarship to study law or journalism, but I decided to move to Cape Town.
“I’ve always wanted to be here because this was where my heart was.”
But university got too expensive for Gerald and he started working three jobs while studying.
When the financial pressure forced him to drop out of the architecture course, he started studying social sciences, but had to drop out again – for the same reason.
“My big break came when the Cape Sun Hotel needed someone who spoke German because the German chancellor was staying there.
“So I walked in and asked for a job and I started doing guest relations there. It was the luckiest break of my life.”
He then worked for the Cape Grace Hotel for a few months when it opened.
“I then started doing sales for a financial journal, which was the best experience for me.
“I eventually became a sales manager, but I received another opportunity to work at a company which organised events, exhibitions and conferences around the world. I stayed there for the bulk of my career and travelled extensively.
“I even moved to London for two years, working for the same company.”
All the travelling, however, took its toll on Gerald, and at the same time, he became more interested in getting to know his own city and country.
“I am now head of business development for an online publication here in the city centre.”
Through all his ups and downs, Gerald maintained a passion for singing. “My father was in a jazz band back home, and my parents met while he was performing, so I come from a musical family.”
Gerald had thought about studying jazz, but needed something more sustainable at the time.
“There was no money in jazz at the time. Also, I was very nervous in front of crowds, but one day I performed at a friend’s birthday party.”
Although he sang purely for fun, Gerald started exploring his options and doing some shows at the Labia Theatre and at the Obs Theatre.
This year he decided to focus more on performing.
“I was interested in the Taj Hotel because I relate it to a bygone era, and that’s the type of music I’m into. I approached the Taj to ask if they would be interested in a monthly performance with myself and a friend.
“Now I perform at Swing Nights at the Taj with a dance group called the Swing Cats. It’s an amazing event, and everybody tries to swing dance and participate. It makes me feel like people really appreciate my singing.”
He said the swing community has picked up in the CBD, partially because there is a revival of a retro-style.
“There is also a revival of the arts scene, with things like First Thursdays. The city centre has become more conducive to living compared to when I first started working here.”
However, he said, property prices and rentals in the city were too expensive, and he felt government needed to do more to help locals gain access to property in the CBD.
“There are no housing opportunities for middle class people to move here. I was lucky that I got a break when I did.”
He also said that while the music scene was bustling, jazz needed to be brought back to the city. “The only place for jazz music is The Crypt. Straight No Chaser has closed down. We need more jazz venues in the CBD.”