Project Zulu tour raised the roof

Issue date: 11 July 2013

The Project Zulu tour has been declared a resounding success raising the roof not just in concert halls but quite literally paying for roof solar panels for a South African School.

Project Zulu are an extraordinary ensemble of singing, drumming and dancing children from Sithobelumthetho Primary School in the Madadeni Township, KwaZulu-Natal. They have won numerous awards in regional and national competitions in South Africa.

The school children, aged from 11 to 15, visited Bristol for three weeks in May/June, before embarking on a nationwide tour. UWE Bristol Senior Lecturer Ben Knight, who masterminded the tour, confirmed that around £17,000 was raised ensuring that the school will now have a constant supply of electricity.

Ben enthused, “The children wowed audiences around the UK and attracted huge media attention including an appearance on CBBC News round and BBC Points West. But the most significant success has been that they managed, through their talent, to raise all of the funds by performing to spellbound audiences across the West Country. The fantastic sum reached was helped enormously by the generosity of Bristol's Colston Hall who waived a significant portion of the hire costs for the venue for grand finale of the tour.”

Ben initially visited the school in Sithobelumthetho as a music teacher where he helped the children to retain some of their cultural heritage by encouraging them to continue performing traditional Zulu songs and dances. He explains, “A legacy of the national curriculum set up for all children in South Africa, following the end of apartheid rule, was the marginalising of the traditional music and dance. I have worked with the school on re-instating this cultural heritage and have been blown away at the talent, energy, enthusiasm and sheer exuberance of the children's performance.

“The children come from a particularly poor area in the country and the school, although fantastic in many ways, has few resources and a very erratic and expensive electricity supply. We were initially going to raise funds for the solar panels but with the help of a group of UWE Bristol students, who visited last August, decided that it would be so much better if the children came to the UK and earned the funding through performing.

“This has been an incredible year seeing tremendous support from schools, the University, the media and organisations in the area that rallied to make the tour possible. That support included finances but also a desire to connect and to learn from each other through the international languages of music and dance.”

Geraldine Hill-Maille, Head of Performing Arts at Cotham School, spoke of the choirs visit to her school. “As a multi-cultural, multi-faith school it is important for us to remember that many of our students have strong links with Africa and to be able to celebrate this diversity in such an inspiring way is valuable beyond words.”

As well as selling out the Colston Hall, the choir performed at some of the most well-known venues in the UK including; St David's Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, Folly Farm adventure Park in Bath, The International Music Festival in Nottingham and a performance at Chillwell Arts Theatre in Manchester. Whilst in Manchester the children were lucky enough to be taken on a tour of Manchester United's home ground, Old Trafford, and appeared on CBBC's News Round.

Before the choir returned to the Madadeni Township, Music Technology students from UWE Bristol recorded a CD of them performing. The album is currently available to download from and will be available to purchase and to download on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify soon, with proceeds going towards the continued transformation of the lives of the children of Sithobelumthetho Primary School.

Click here to see a sneak preview of the students recording their CD at Clifton College and for more images of the choir in action please visit the UWE News flickr pages.

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