Kids Aloud 2019 (Monkey Boy) Royal Hall, Harrogate 29th - 30th March 2019
Children from Britain and Nepal came together to create and perform
The Big Idea
In Harrogate in March 2019 some 500 young musicians from Britain and Nepal performed the world première of a new musical work, “Monkey Boy”, which they had largely composed themselves.
This innovative international youth initiative aimed to give those involved an unforgettable and, potentially, life-changing experience.
Harrogate Brigantes and Kids Aloud
Since 2009 we have been arranging and promoting bi-annual charity concerts called Kids Aloud. These provide children from local Primary schools with the opportunity to perform to a packed audience in the beautiful surroundings of the Royal Hall, Harrogate, and to help raise money for International causes.
For the 2015 concert we tried something different. Well-known local composer Phil Wilby and club member Guy Wilson (who collaborated with Sir Karl Jenkins to create the much-performed choral work “The Armed Man”) worked with the young musicians and helped them create a 50 minute-long musical work “Circus of Life” about endangered species.
The initiative was a great success. The young musicians had seen a creative process through from beginning to end, working with experienced professionals, and they helped to raise some £9000 for the Nepal Earthquake Appeal.
For 2019 we wanted to build on our experience and go one better.
Kids Aloud 2019
So, for this concert we brought children together from Harrogate and Nepal who created a new musical work based on the Nepali folk story ‘Monkey Boy’ and then performed it together in Harrogate.
This was by far our most ambitious project yet. It brought two cultures together and gave children from some very remote rural schools in Nepal the experience of their young lives.
The renowned Indian-born composer Shri Sriram had agreed to work with the children to create the music for “Monkey Boy”. His experience at fusing different musical styles enabled us all to create a work of coherent musicality from the very different musical traditions of Britain and Nepal. Guy Wilson adapted the story, which was also published as a book illustrated by the children to raise money for the visit to the UK of a 40-stroing choir of children from Nepal.
Quote from Shri Sriram – Winner of the 2016 British Composer Award (Wind Band/Brass Music)
'After a long chat with Guy Wilson about this project, I was really excited to be asked to be part of it as composer. Even more because it would possibly involve brass bands, something I am really into now since my last project 'Just A Vibration'. With a Nepalese story like Monkey Boy, the collaboration of the Nepalese children with those in England would surely make for a wonderful project full of diversity, fun and excitement. I am so looking forward to it!!'
Quote from Joanna Lumley OBE
'All my fond wishes for a fabulous concert - let's hear it for Kids Aloud!'
Nepal and Harrogate Brigantes
Why Nepal? Because our Rotary Club has been involved in a major educational and literacy project there that we believed this creative initiative could greatly assist.
For the past 8 years we have been working in partnership with the Rotary Club of the Himalayan Gurkhas Kathmandu mainly in the poor and remote Panchamul Valley near Pokhara to install IT suites in local schools, provide internet access, and ensure that teachers are properly equipped to teach IT.
This has resulted in a significant improvement in educational achievement among the children in the valley in English, Mathematics and IT. This creative initiative enabled us to develop the understanding both of teachers and pupils to the potential of the internet for long-distance learning and collaboration with others as pupils in Nepal and Britain work together on writing words and setting them to music.
How we delivered on our ambitious Project
We set ourselves a fund raising target of just under £70k and in the end we raised over £80k. This level of financing was needed to cover the cost of bringing a 50-strong party of students and teachers over to UK and hosting them for just over 2 weeks. Principle donations came from CNG, some business contacts of Major Lil Gurung from his time in Hong Kong, SONPAL, the Nepali expat organisation in London, a crowd funding campaign, Rotary Clubs and individual Rotarians. Many smaller donations came from a range of sources supported a number of fund raising activities.
The first major task was to arrange the flights and travel arrangements for the party. Some of the students did not have birth certificates, let alone passports, and both were essential requirements for the visas needed for them to leave Nepal and enter the UK. Other key arrangements included travel insurance, health insurance whilst in UK, risk analyses for all aspect of the stay in UK as well as the hiring of a coach and a minibus for the duration of the stay
We planned to host the party for just over 2 weeks. This entailed arranging as many homestay hosting as possible. The parents of students from the Harrogate schools involved in the concert were approached and asked to volunteer for this role. All homestay volunteers were interviewed as each needed DBS clearance before they could host. We arranged to put up the remainder of the party in Scout hut accommodation at Thornthwaite, near Darley in the Dales.
A number of Rotary task forces were set up to cover a) transport/visit arrangements, b) catering (to supply daily sandwiches for the party) c) safety/health and risk assessment d) homestay arrangements e) Scout Hut accommodation and most importantly f) the creation of the concert. The composition of Monkey Boy, music and words, was completed by December and passed to the 13 local schools to start practising in January 2019. The 2 Nepali schools similarly were gathered together for practice and also for what was called ‘westernisation’ training. Some of the students from the remote valley had never travelled away, leave alone visit their capital Kathmandu or get on an airplane.
The BIG DAY arrived on SATURDAY 16th MARCH when the Nepali party arrived at Manchester airport at lunchtime, to be met by a small party of Brigantes Rotarians plus a group of Nepalis who had travelled up from London. Our vision and ambition set 5 years ago during a project trip to Nepal became a reality…… and our programme of hosting swung into action. Our visitors were coached back to Harrogate and by the end of the day were safely with their homestay families or in the Scout hut accommodation at Thornthwaite in Nidderdale.
For the following 12 days we organised a varied programme of activities for our visitors, comprising cultural exchanges with the local primary schools taking part in the concert, visits to places of local interest, rehearsals for the concert, some with individual schools plus mass rehearsals with all 500 students all gathered together.
We took the Nepali party to many places of interest - Ripley Castle, Ripon Cathedral, the Yorkshire Mining Museum, Askham Bryan Wildlife and Conservation Park, and the Wetherby Whaler at York for a free meal of the best fish and chips. But the highlight was taking them to Scarborough. This was so special because most of them had never seen the sea before, let alone paddle in it! They visited the Sea Life Aquarium, played crazy golf, walked from the north promenade to the south promenade, visited the Lifeboat Station and ended up at the Spa Entertainment complex where they were hosted for an early evening meal, chicken curry and ice cream. …. which went down very well.
Friday 30th March finally arrived, the first day of the concert. A feeling of mass excitement was evident as the first dress rehearsal got underway. So onto the concert itself, a packed Royal Hall, a buzz in the audience and our Nepali students resplendent in their national dress. Choirs from 6 local primary schools made up the Harrogate contingent. In the first half of the show we were treated to a short glimpse of Nepali culture, song, dance and music… truly spellbinding.
After the interval Monkey Boy was performed, ably led by narrator Guy Wilson supported by 3 student narrators. Our composer Sri Siriam took his place in the St John Fisher Band with music teacher Nigel Beetles on keyboard. The Harrogate schools reappeared after the interval in their own costumes so we were treated to a kaleidoscope of colour and a taste of Asian music. The audience were able to follow the story and the songs from their programmes. At times through the performance students appeared on the floor of the concert hall, throwing pretend mangoes at the audience and, later on, wearing masks of the devils and demons, scaring the audience. At the end, tumultuous applause greeted the final song.
The performance was repeated on the Saturday night but with a number of VIP guests. These included the Nepali ambassador from London, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire and the Mayor of Harrogate. 6 different local Primary schools took part and they provided Guy with a new group of 3 narrators. This was an excellent reprise of the first night’s performance, finishing finally with a rousing encore of the song ‘We Killed the Witch’. The packed out audience responded with a long standing ovation.
The following day was a wind down day with a farewell party for our Nepali guests out at the Thornthwaite Scout hut, attended by all the Brigantes Team who had supported the full fortnight. We were treated to more entertainment from the Nepali students.
On Monday 2nd April, Brigantes said their goodbyes to our guests, as they left on a coach for the journey to London where, after a sight-seeing tour, they would spend their last night in our country. In the late afternoon the Nepali ambassador invited us to a reception at his embassy in South Kensington where there were a few speeches and a mini performance from the students. From here we travelled to West London where SONPAL, the ex-pat Nepali group, treated us to a final party. They were significant sponsors of the concert. This was truly a real taste of Nepali entertainment, so reminiscent of the many ‘cultural’ evenings we experienced in Nepal.
And so to the final day, a whistle stop tour of London before being coached to Heathrow Airport for a late afternoon departure. The dream that had become a reality was over, but many life long memories would remain.
Andy Morrison, Guy Wilson and Barry Pollard