The term "town hall" ("dorpsaal" in Afrikaans) is the most common one, often applied without regard to whether the building serves or served a town or a city.
In the past and today in South African local government, a city hall, town hall, or municipal building all referred to the chief administrative building of a city, town or other municipality. Today civic centre is also quite common. They all usually house the city or town council, its associated departments, and their employees and functions as the base of the mayor of a city or town.
Described by the Oxford English Dictionary as a "large hall used for the transaction of the public business of a town, the holding of a court of justice, assemblies, entertainments, etc.; the great hall of the town-house or municipal building; now very commonly applied to the whole building"
In South Africa its use to refer to a venue usually implies a civic hall used for events such as shows, banquets, receptions, dances, theatrical and musical productions in South African towns. A concept taken over from British usage during the colonial period. See the name of the particular town for specific halls (e.g. Barkly West Town Hall).
As symbols of local government, city and town halls have distinctive architecture, and the buildings may have great historical significance. Notable are the city halls built under the British rule in the late 19th century, many of them designed by prominent architects.
Use as venue
By convention, until the mid 19th-century, a single large open chamber (or 'hall') formed an integral part of the building housing the council. The hall may be used for council meetings and other significant events. This large chamber, the 'town hall', (and its later variant city hall or even municipal hall) has become synonymous with the whole building, and with the administrative body housed in it. The terms 'council chambers', 'municipal building' or variants may be used locally in preference to 'town hall' if no such large hall is present within the building.
The local government may endeavour to use the town hall building to promote and enhance the quality of life of the community. In many cases, town halls serve not only as buildings for government functions, but also have facilities for various civic and cultural activities. These may include art shows, stage performances, exhibits and festivals. Modern town halls or civic centres are often designed with a great variety and flexibility of purpose in mind.
In South Africa the freference is also to a civic hall used for events such as shows, banquets, receptions, dances, theatrical and musical productions in South African cities. Tghe concept taken over from British usage during the colonial period. See the name of the particular city for specific halls (e.g. ). See also Town Hall
Municipal hall and community hall
This is a special category of hall, referring to community halls built by urban municipalities, often in the black townships surrounding the town or city, in order to provide facilties for munuicipal activities (payments, clinics, meetings) and as venues for social and artistic events. Under the Apartheid government these were particularly importnat since they made it possible to separate black and white (European and Non-European) audiences from using the same facilities, in accordance with the apartheid regulations. Many Black theatre or Community theatre events took place in these halls, but of course this meant the authorities could exert control access to the venues and thus also the content of the work being presented.
The state provided so-called “community halls” in many of the “Native townships” which could be and were used for performances of variety, dance, plays and the like. The problem in later years was that they remained the only formal performance spaces in the townships, and were controlled by the township administration – hence could be used as a censorsip mechanism. ****
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