Saturday, May 19, 2007

Blind school pupils to sing at Canterbury Cathedral

A renowned blind school choir from Africa is to play a special fundraising concert at Canterbury Cathedral this summer.

Kent on Sunday is organising the concert with the British charity that supports the Milton Margai School for the Blind in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

And the newspaper will be giving away hundreds of free tickets for the July 30 show.

The concert opens the choir’s UK Freedom Tour and will represent the grand finale of our campaign to send schoolbooks and educational materials to the former crown colony, which is the second poorest place in the world.

Tour organiser Peter Penfold CMG, OBE, the former UK High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, said: “Our aims are to provide a memorable and life-changing experience for these courageous African children, continued support for the running of this remarkable school, and an opportunity for audiences in the UK to see and hear the talents of these gifted young people.”

For the choir to be able to perform at Canterbury Cathedral this year is regarded as a major coup.

Mr Penfold said: “They are known throughout Africa from their performances on BBC’s World Service. And certainly they are regarded in Sierra Leone and West Africa as one of the finest choirs around.”

The choir’s repertoire includes indigenous songs, church music and popular music. They performed for Prince Charles during his recent visit to the country.

Mr Penfold, who chairs the UK Association for the Milton Margai School for the Blind, is to bring at least 20 members for the three-week tour.

For the first week, they will be guests at the Dorton House School for the Blind, near Sevenoaks.

The two schools are twinned and last year pupils from the Kent school visited their counterparts in Africa.

Dorton House headteacher Jude Thompson said: “We have become very good friends with them.”

The choir will then go on tour in Wales and Hull before the final show takes place in London at Central Hall in Westminster.

The Milton Margai School – named after the country’s first prime minister – was founded in 1956 and now has 85 pupils and 24 staff and is the only registered school for the blind in Sierra Leone.

Some are blind from birth, but others were blinded during the 11-year rebel war that devastated the country.

Mr Penfold said: “The war finally came to an end in 2002 with the assistance of the international community, especially the UK and its military forces, and since then the school – which was evacuated in 1997 and badly damaged in 1999 – has been struggling to get back on its feet.”

He hopes to bring more members of the choir to the UK for the tour and is seeking funding to the charity achieve this.

To make a donation or to find out more information, visit the website, www.miltonmargaischool.org.

Kent on Sunday readers generously donated a tonne of schoolbooks and educational materials to our campaign earlier this year.

They have been shipped to Sierra Leone and will soon be delivered to a village called Kent for the benefit of the local school.

Link to Blind school from Sierra Leone to sing at cathedral