African Childrens Choir

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.



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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 14th May 2008

On Monday I went to the launch of a short video about The African Children's Choir.  I did the narration for them and so was invited to the launch on the 6th Floor of the BBC Television Centre.  As soon as I got there I realised that what is now a sort of Hospitality Suite used to be a corridor and the offices of the Chairman and other worthies of the BBC.  It was also next door to the room in which I was mugged in 1987.

The evening proved to be even more interesting than expected.  Had a fascinating conversation with Juanita Carberry - of the Happy Valley Set (White Mischief and all that) about whom a TV programme was made in the late 80's - some scenes from which I can still remember e.g. when Juanita as a child was so badly whipped by her father, her governess, her stepmother (each story is different) but whipped she was and she rode her pony to the police station looking for protection from her violent family.

The Video was shown and then we had a most interesting address by the Head of Jubilee High - a school in Surrey which has done a great deal to help the Choir and in return have reaped even more benefits than could have been expected.  I asked the Head to give me a rough synopsis of the work of collaboration being done between Jubilee and the choir and can do no better than to give you his own words.

Jubilee High is an improving school emerging from difficult circumstances, serving an area of Surrey which has had major challenges in terms of community cohesion and social issues. It was launched as a “Fresh Start” school in 2002 but a succession of Headteachers and partners have not helped to create a clear vision and stability. The current Principal, Gareth Balch, who took up the post in 2005, proposed combining International School status with an emphasis on the Performing Arts. With community support he was able to build a theatre, and use the arts as a vehicle for creating standards of appearance, courtesy, and consideration. In January 2007 the school gained full International status after just six months, and this achievement was celebrated by the British Council at an Awards Ceremony.
Through the local business community supporting the school's values an introduction was made to Ray Barnett, founder of the African Childrens' Choir. After several meetings Gareth proposed that the Choir could stay at Jubilee during the European part of their tour and to represent both features of Jubilee; the International dimension and the Arts.
In 2006 the African Childrens Choir stayed at Jubilee, sleeping in an Art room and the Drama room. They performed at Jubilee and in Assemblies, and the effect was electric. These Choir members had, and continue to have, a major influence on the motivation and belief in education of British teenagers otherwise disaffected and negative about education. Encountering orphan members of the choir who are still positive about life despite their harrowing experiences is life-changing. The chance for students to mentor and buddy each other, developing relationships, has been so significant that the choir returned twice to Jubilee and a new choir is visiting in May and July 2008. One former member and Choir teacher has been given a training place at Jubilee in ICT, Morris Kabuye.

Jubilee Principal Gareth Balch says:
 “ We are centrally concerned here with educating the poor; the poor socially, the poor culturally, the poor morally and spiritually,  the poor in family and relationships. The African Childrens Choir brings to my community rich gifts in culture, in spirituality, in motivation and determination. I cannot put a price on this, and in return we can offer them an equal exchange of riches.”That exchange is tremendously empowering for both!”

We also had the pleasure of a talk by Morris Kabuye - now a 25 year old young man whose time in the Choir has turned his life around.  As a young boy, he witnessed his father's murder as did so many of the other orphans who form The African Children's Choir.  He is now training in IT and wants to return to Uganda to give help in his own country.  He is a tremendously charismatic and likeable young man and it was great to hear him talk so positively and optimistically.

I do hope you found the above of interest - I certainly did and will probably be visiting the school at some time in the near future.


Bye for now,  Jan

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