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Newly Renovated Campanile Tower Now Open to Public

Jessica Slabbert

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) announced that renovations and upgrading of the Campanile, one of Port Elizabeth’s most visible skyline and audible heritage landmarks has been completed ahead of Heritage Month.

The newly upgraded Campanile was unveiled by Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor Athol Trollip during a media launch held on Tuesday.

“The upgrade and renovations was undertaken with several integrated development planning goals in mind such as growth and development of the city’s tourism and creative economies, and relaunching the Campanile with a more inclusive heritage identity through the vehicle of urban renewal and regeneration,” said Mayor Trollip.

“It is now up to each resident, tourism business owners in formal and informal sectors of our economy, our local tourism authorities and the city’s creative communities to work hard to leverage this new heritage tourism asset, and to celebrate and embrace it as a public and memorial space that has been physically and symbolically transformed to create a more inclusive heritage identity for our city.”

A word-class heritage tourism destination

Andrew Whitfield, Economic Development, Agriculture and Tourism Mayoral Committee Member, said the Campanile is a “universal asset that will benefit tourism industry and thus support the tourism economy value chain”

“Today we are standing in the shadow of an iconic heritage and tourism asset that the city has long anticipated being reopened to the public and the tourists that visit our city,” said Whitfield.

“Nelson Mandela Bay municipality is committed to celebrating our diverse heritage and to promote tourism in our city. As a government we have highlighted the importance of tourism as it relates to sharing the story of our city, as well as creating jobs and diversifying our cities economic offering.”

The new upgrades and renovations introduce a host of new features and activities pushing the envelope and with the potential to revive tourism experiences at other heritage sites.

Some of the new features of the Campanile include an interactive visual-technology array dubbed  ‘Ghost Bells’ – bell proxies installed under the actual bell carillon which visually light up during chiming or when visitors press keys of an interactive silver console to match the pitch of a key with the corresponding bell.  Another addition includes the harbour viewing window - an observation deck capsule at the top of the 50m Campanile memorial, suspending visitors in the sky when they overlook the Port Elizabeth harbour.

A special computerised, purpose-built, electro-mechanical bell ringing system has also been installed for the Campanile’s 17 ton bell carillon that were removed, restored and reinstalled by the MBDA over the last year to ensure that the crispness of each bell was pitch perfect.  The Campanile bell can now play any melody which gets programmed into its state-of-the-art digital interface.

A new reception area that will act as an information desk and several exhibition areas within the Campanile for the city’s creative communities has been developed.

All of these new features offer a welcoming start to the city’s iconic Route 67 – a public art urban meander dedicated to Nelson Mandela which has its starting point at the Campanile.

The Campanile has also been upgraded and developed to be an economically-purposeful asset particularly to grow, develop and promote Mandela Bay’s creative and arts economy, said Executive Mayor.

Pointing to recent studies by the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO), Executive Mayor said the cultural and creative industries grow at a faster rate than non-cultural sectors of the economy.

“To keep with this growth trend and to ensure that the city provides ample opportunities for creative and arts communities, several galleries and exhibition spaces have been incorporated on various floors of the Campanile memorial. 

“The inclusion of these spaces will ensure that the city’s arts, culture and heritage communities benefit from heritage tourism and urban renewal.  

“Other features  such as a silver plaque on the 67th step of the 204 steps spiralling staircase to acknowledge Nelson Mandela’s 67 years in service of democracy, had also been included as the new feature of the building” he said.

Source: RNEWS