JARED DE CANHA
Thursday nights as we know them may be coming to an end sooner than expected. While the rumour mill has been working overtime to produce stories speculating about the reason for the looming closure of Hatfield Square, many students have been in denial and are ignoring the whispers that the demise of the Square is close at hand.
The news has sparked various reactions and while concerned parents, dwindling bank balances and low grades have unanimously let out a sigh of relief, others have taken to going out religiously every Thursday while they are still able to.
The land on which Hatfield Square now stands was originally farmland that was assigned to become a residential area by the Wesleyan Methodist Society in 1905, when the suburb of Hatfield was established. The land was subsequently named Hatfield House and became home to the British High Commissioner in South Africa, who was the Governor of the Transvaal and Orange Free State at the time.
Because of its proximity to the university, the area began to develop commercially to provide for students. It was the accelerated development that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s to meet the demand for a retail sector that led to the creation of Hatfield Square. Over the years Hatfield Square has become a vital rite of passage in the lives of many students in Pretoria and has even been called the number one student hangout in the country by some.
Hatfield Square has also hosted many famous bands including Goldfish, Jack Parow, Goodluck, Koos Kombuis and The Parlotones. It was during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, however, that Hatfield Square arguably reached its pinnacle after hosting maximum capacity crowds daily in front of live screenings of the games.
Soon the Hatfield maxim “Where to? Square to!” will be forgotten as quickly as first semester work and students will be faced with new decisions when going out. Luckily, students have a number of exciting alternatives in the vicinity which will fill the void left in their social lives. Areas such as Brooklyn, Menlyn Square, Menlo Park and Hatfield still boast a variety of night-time attractions which will wean any Square-addicts in withdrawal off of their nostalgia in no time at all. Capital Craft, Arcade Empire, +27 Café and Hooters are all possible hosts to you and your friends on a night out. Because of Hatfield Square’s close proximity to the university residences, venturing out into new territories has previously been ignored based on the issue of safe transportation to and from these areas. Thankfully, your smartphone has a way of eliminating the need for a designated driver or a dependence on other transportation through the use of the new app Uber, which requests a private driver based on your phone’s current location. The Uber system is cashless as it automatically charges to the credit card on record, eliminating the need to carry extra cash as well as having to worry about tipping the driver. Alternatively, enjoy a walk across Main Campus on your way to other socialising spots such as Trademarx, situated next to Loftus.
If you prefer the company of close friends, why not host a wine tasting evening? This gives you an excuse to not only improve your knowledge and appreciation of wine, but also enjoy good company. Similarly, hosting a games evening, movie night or even a braai are also fun options to consider.
Another way to fill your Thursday night is by venturing out for a sunset picnic on the lawns of the Union Buildings with a group of friends or even a date. Other outings could include visiting the Pretoria Zoo, or the games arcade and ice skating rink at The Grove mall. And, for the Duracell bunnies among you, the break in your schedule created by the closing of the Square gives you the perfect excuse to take up a new sport or enrol in dancing lessons. This could be in the form of Greek dancing, which is hosted at the Greek Church just across from the UP main gate. These classes are suitable for everyone, ranging from dancing champions to those who have only mastered the fist-bump, and provide an opportunity to exercise, socialise, learn a new skill and to gain cultural knowledge all at the same time.
In short, it is up to students to take it upon themselves to salvage their social lives by getting creative. While it may seem bleak, perhaps the closing of an institution which has been a part of student life in Pretoria for many years will allow students to experience other aspects of student life which were previously overlooked on Thursday nights, ensuring that there will still be life after Square.
Image: Brandon Dlamini