Surfing the Avon to bring South African Choir to Bristol in 2013

Issue date: 22 October 2012

UWE Bristol student in South Africa

See video of Project Zulu here

Project website

An Education lecturer from UWE Bristol will paddle a surf board from Bradford on Avon 26 miles to the Arnolfini in Bristol in one day to raise funds for Project Zulu on Saturday 27 October.

Ben Knight will be accompanied by a group of three friends who will set off from the bridge next to the Lock Inn Cafe at Bradford on Avon at 6am and will arrive in Bristol, an exhausting 10 hours later, in the Docks next to the Arnolfini.

Project Zulu at UWE Bristol comprises a group of Education staff and students who are working with partners in schools and organisations across the city to bring an astonishing primary school choir from the township of Madadeni in Kwazulu – Natal in South Africa to Bristol in 2013.

Project Zulu needs to raise £22,000 to bring the choir to Bristol where they will perform concerts with Bristol school choirs and visit schools to share their amazing talent and hold workshops. It is also hoped that they will work with UWE Music Technology students to record a CD.

“We've been overwhelmed with the positive response we've had from the schools we have contacted so far,” says, Ben, “This project is about two things essentially, on the one hand we want to share the traditional Zulu songs and dances with school children and audiences across the city, but we also want to empower the children in the choir to raise money for their own school.

Ben Knight has had a link with the school in South Africa for many years and this August he took a group of 10 teacher education students out to work on placement in Madadeni schools.

“Electricity is a problem at the school in Madaleni as there are regular power cuts. We had this notion that we could empower the children to help themselves rather than simply sending money by giving them a rich opportunity to travel to the UK to perform and to share their music with Bristol audiences and to raise money for solar panels on the roof of their school through concert ticket sales, CD sales and busking locally. The finale to their visit will be a Gala Concert at The Colston Hall in which they will share the stage with some of the region's top school choirs: Bristol Cathedral Choir School, Wells Cathedral School and Clifton College, as well as UWE's own choir.

“It is an ambitious project and we need to raise a lot of money to make it happen. The bonkers idea to surf the Avon came about as this is something that a group of us do for fun. We are already overwhelmed at the generosity of organisations when we get talking about the project. John Westlake from Alder Surf Company in Devon kindly lent us boards, paddles and wetsuits to complete our sponsored surf for free.

“I have been visiting schools in South Africa for many years now and I have been saddened at the decline in music tuition. Now that there is one curriculum for all, and on some counts this is to be welcomed, it's a worry that traditional Zulu songs and dances are no longer taught in schools. It seems that progress is seen to be in mirroring western curriculum but neglecting a rich seam of Zulu cultural heritage.

“My reason for helping to set up Project Zulu is a desire to give the children a chance to reengage in their cultural heritage, to preserve the energy and vitality of traditional Zulu music for future generations and to give the children the chance to show how fantastic they are.”

Professor Steve West, UWE Vice-Chancellor, said, “We all wish Ben and his friends lots of luck with surfing the Avon this weekend. This is an amazing project; as well as providing our students with an international dimension to their education at UWE Bristol it opens up myriad opportunities for us to collaborate with our partner schools, colleges and organisations across the City. If the video is anything to go by Bristol is in for a treat when the Madadeni Choir arrives here in the spring – I'm really looking forward to it. ”

To find out more about fundraising for the project follow @projectzulu13 on twitter.

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