Thursday, 14 July 2011

World Cultural Ambassadors - Panama

Sunday Sun Column by Alan Ross, 
Sunday 10th July 2011

It’s great when you are unexpectedly bowled over by how good something is.  I’m delighted to say that this happened to me this week, when I popped into Billingham South Community Primary School to see some of the work that they’d produced for a special project.

I’m very pleased to be officially opening this year’s Billingham International Folklore Festival, a wonderful week of dancing, music and colour with groups and artistes from all over the world that takes place at the start of August.  This year’s festival is the 47th, and funding from the Big Lottery Fund has enabled them to involve children from local schools in the event.

The youngsters at Billingham South Community Primary School decided to learn all about Panama – one of the countries represented in this year’s Festival – and this went right the way through all their studies, not just geography.

From science to computer studies, art to gardening, there’s been a real buzz about the school, and this week the children got to see their art displayed in a “Gallery” arranged by their art teacher Christine Charlton, who has been a real driving force for the activities.  They raised money for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Charity, by charging admission – the proceeds to go to a project in Panama!

If one of the children’s pictures from the school is judged the best, the artist will become a “World Cultural Ambassador” during the Festival itself, and take part in all the fun and ceremony in and around John Whitehead Park.  It’ll be something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

The colour and diversity of the children’s work was fantastic. They are even growing  the kind of plants and flowers you’d find in Panama, having created a “rainforest” climate in one of their greenhouses in the school garden.   I left being thoroughly impressed with all the work and effort. Full marks from me for everyone, not least their dedicated and proud teachers ! 

View Panama Picture Gallery 

Monday, 4 July 2011

Billingham International Festival launches World Cultural Ambassadors Project

Billingham International Folklore Festival, which is now in its 47th year have been awarded a grant from Big Lottery Fund for the “World Cultural Ambassadors” project, which will become the theme of the Festival 2011.

All the primary schools in Stockton on Tees have been invited to select and research one of the countries invited to the festival 2011. The school children will then be asked to make paintings reflecting what they learned about the country's culture and heritage.

Each School will then select two winners and transfer their painting on to 8 x 4' wooden boards, which will be displayed around the perimeter of the main festival Arena in John Whitehead Park in Billingham during the festival.

The two children, the winners of the competition will then be invited to act as “World Cultural Ambassadors” during the Billingham Festival, which will take place from 6th to 13th August 2011. They will spend a day accompanying the International Performers during their morning & afternoon concerts, workshops and at meal times, and will carry a Banner with Country name on Parades and Presentations, and will present the group on stage alongside the Festival Compare. They will be wearing specially made track-suits and "World Cultural Ambassador" sachets.

“We are hoping that this project will encourage involvement of children in the festival to develop their appreciation of multiculturalism, dance and music as a universal language, help children improve their confidence, self-esteem, as well as giving them an opportunity to meet and interact with different people from around the World and give children pride in promoting their area and town” – said Olga Maloney, Festival Artistic Director
“We are all really excited about this project there's a definite 'buzz' in the school, this will be our whole school focus for our half term up to the summer holidays.  The idea of getting schools involved is brilliant!” – said Christine Charlton, Arts Co-ordinator from Billingham South Community Primary School.