What an amazing Arts festival we have had! The children have been totally immersed in African culture this term.
We have been wowed by the visiting Zulu dancers and performers, spellbound by a professional African storyteller, and invigorated by African drumming and the drumming workshops.
Alongside these exciting and engaging activities, the children have also had opportunities to hear African stories and folktales, learn African hymns and songs and create stunning African art and craft! The African art exhibition looked amazing and showcased the talents and skills of all our children.
The arts festival culminated in a spectacular performance of the Lion King performed by Y6. The acting, singing, dancing and costumes were truly outstanding! Well done Y6! Not a dry eye in the house. Please look at the below items which capture some of the exciting things our children have done as part of our first ever arts festival.
The children were amazed to be visited by Zulu musicians! The Zulus started the day performing to the whole school in the Great Hall, singing traditional Zulu songs and performing traditional African dances. This was incredibly inspiring after all the children have learnt this term about Africa in art, music, dance and many other subjects. The children loved seeing these musicians in person. The sound was incredibly loud and children quickly learnt rhythms and songs from South Africa, with lots of audience participation!
After the whole school performance, the Zulus then led workshops across years 2, 3, 4 and 5 with a final performance to the other years at the end of the day. It was amazing to watch the children learn new songs and dances so quickly, a lot of energy was needed. At one point, our Year 3 children were asked to perform an African hymn they had learnt, and they confidently sang ‘Siyahamba’ to our visitors. They were very impressed. We will always remember the Zulus visiting our school!
“I really liked the Zulus”. Freddie S, “I liked the moves and the dancing!” Benedict, “I loved the drums, they were really loud”, Bertie C1. “I liked it when people got up to join in with the dances”, Florrie. “It was awesome!”, Chrisn H2. “I like seeing them perform”, Alfie Y2. “I really liked their music and that we got taught dances too”, Olive Y2. “It was really entertaining and fun to watch”, Hannah Y2. “I loved it! Especially how they got all girls and boys dancing, in African boys do a lot of dancing to music. It was great seeing them perform as I’ve learnt a lot about African culture in my Arts Ambassadors club”, Harriet Y3. “I liked the dancing too and there were some tricky moves. I liked their costumes which used natural materials”, William.
“I enjoyed all the songs that we got to sing. They were good teachers and kept us all in time!”, Isabella C4.
“We learnt Zulu dances and performed to the other year groups”, Samuel. “The Zulus were really cool as you got to learn a different culture’s dancing, it was fascinating to see how they actually dance”, Sophia W5.
“I enjoyed both singing and dancing, as you got to learn a different language whilst having fun. Their costumes were amazing too”, Poppy.
Year 6 drumming workshop
Year 6 experienced a very exciting treat: African Drumming! After a short talk with Rich about the different types of drumming that have originated in Africa, the children practised producing different timbres on a djembe drum, creating both bass (low) and tone (high) sounds. We then performed some 'call and response' rhythms such as We Will Rock You using bass and tone sounds, before learning set signals for start and stop. We followed this by improvising our own rhythms using bass and tone sounds and building longer sequences by adding these to those composed by our partner. Playing within groups of 45 children, the sound was amazing!
“The drumming was really good! The sound was loud because 45 of us were all banging at the same time with our hands”, Poppy B6.
“It was great! I felt really calm, even though it was loud, because of the rhythms”, Isaac B6.
“It was interesting to learn about the djembe and different cultures. The djembe has two different types of sounds: base and tone!”, Jake D6.
“Rich was very enthusiastic in the way that he taught us, and he was very helpful when we were learning how to play the drums. It was an incredibly enjoyable experience”, Isla N6.
Professional Storyteller and Author: Wendy Shearer
To celebrate the official start of our African Arts festival, the children were extremely fortunate to have been visited by author and professional storyteller, Wendy Shearer.
Wendy specializes in African and Caribbean traditional tales and is the author of the then book ‘African and Caribbean Folktales, Myths and Legends’.
Wendy performed a variety of different traditional African tales to all year groups. Classes in the lower years were introduced to the trickster spider Anansi, popular in West African and Caribbean folklore. Classes higher up in the school were introduced to ‘Pourquoi’ stories, origin stories that explain how things come to be, such as the Nigerian folktale ‘Why the Sky is Far Away’.
“I enjoyed the storyteller visit because she played music as she told her story and I liked the way that everyone could join in with the actions. The giraffe was funny too. It was good to hear a special folklore story from Africa and the Caribbean”, Isobel S3.
“I really enjoyed the workshop as it was very fun and engaging. Wendy told the story well and used her hands and face to convey emotion. The story taught us about the culture of West Africa, and I thoroughly enjoyed it”, Rose D6.
“I thought it was very interesting. The lady was very adventurous with her story telling and I liked the way she used her voice and actions to make the story come to life. I also liked the way she included props and let some of us participate too”, Jess N3.
Traditional African folktales and stories written by African authors have been shared with the children this term. Classes were introduced to the breadth of history, myth, art and culture found within stories written by African authors. Classes read texts set in various countries across the continent, reading about the New Yam Festival in Nigeria, the adventures of the life of a young girl living in Lagos, stories about ancient African civilizations and Ghanaian folktales. Children also had access to a range of non-fiction texts about the continent, its various traditions and inspiring African artists. Books included:
'Zahrah the Windseeker', by Nnedi Okorafor.
Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor
Ghanaian Goldilocks by Dr Tamara Pizzoli
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott
Sleep Well Siba and Saba by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl
Idia of the Benin Kingdom by Ekiuwa Aire
Too Small Tola by Atinuke
The No.1 Car Spotter by Atinuke
Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke
African Tales: A Barefoot Collection by Gcina Mhlophe
Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country by Atinuke
African and Caribbean Folktales, Myths and Legends by Wendy Shearer
Black Artists Shaping the World by Sharna Jackson
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
African Art and Craft Exhibition
The children thoroughly enjoyed creating African art and crafts which were exhibited in a stunning art exhibition in the junior hall at the end of term. Children were able to visit the exhibition and view the work created in other year groups, leading to much discussion about the varied and amazing arts and craft produced in this amazing continent.
Reception children created African necklaces, Y1 created a beautiful collaborative weaving inspired by African basketry, Y2 learnt about Adinkra cloth printing, Y3 crafted African Ndebele dolls, Y4 created stunning African masks, Y5 had great fun making sculptural 3D African Yoruba crowns and finally Y6 enjoyed creating props for their stunning Lion King performance as well as creating textile murals inspired by African/British artist Zakwena Maciver.
*Please view our online art gallery to see more of the stunning artwork created.
Y4 Story Seekers
Story Seekers is a programme run in collaboration with the National Theatre. To celebrate stories and drama, Y4 have recorded a performance of the Ugandan tale, ‘How Death Came to the World’. They worked hard to design and create props which communicated the themes from the story. The final performance was not scripted, instead, the Story Seekers’ mission was to develop their natural story telling abilities and share stories from around the world with their peers. Their performance was videoed and enjoyed by the children as part of our African Arts Festival.
Y6 Lion King Performance
Year 6 have had an exciting week performing a dress rehearsal with full sound and then two performances of their Leavers show to parents and family. The heatwave has been a challenge but luckily, we were able to move the shows to early in the morning to avoid the higher temperatures. It has been quite an emotional journey this year and Year 6 have really come together as a year group showing amazing teamwork skills to produce an outstanding performance, combining singing, acting, dancing, sound support, costumes and art. The standard has been incredibly high, and they have gone beyond our expectations. We are so proud of what they have achieved, and we hope this has been leavers show they will remember for years to come. Here are some of their journeys, in their own words. Good luck Year 6!
Sean – Rafiki B6
When I heard we were doing Lion King, I was really overjoyed as it is one of my favourite cartoon films and I really enjoy the story line and the characters. When we started the auditions, I was quite ambitious, I wanted to be a core character and my hard work paid off as I auditioned for Rafiki and got this main part. We had something called double casting which meant that 2 people shared the same role and each would perform on a different performance. I was cast as Rafiki in the evening performance. I then devoted quite a lot of time to practising Lion King at home and I really enjoyed the songs, I haven’t seen the West End show so some of the songs were new to me. My favourite song was He Lives in You, with the amazing harmonies, my solo above the ensemble felt really good to sing. Sometimes early on, I found some of the notes difficult, especially higher ones but I persevered and gradually became more confident. For my costume, my mum helped with lots of DIY solutions, the patch around my stomach is from an old t-shirt and the mane is from a coat but I was really pleased with my final outfit. In the last week, we were lucky to have radio mics for our performance, mine was in my waistband and it really helped to project my voice over the backing track. I was really pleased with how far we have come, from simple singing to then adding the choreography, movement, acting and everything coming together! My mum was pleased and proud of me.
Ollie H –Mufasa Durham 6
I felt nervous when I heard we were doing the Lion King, as it’s such a big show and there are a lot of main parts. I was going for Young Simba in auditions but ended up getting the part of Mufasa, I was happy. He was the boss of everyone and the leader, there was a lot of acting but also a key song. I haven’t really done a lot of singing before, so this was the first time I had a solo in front of a large audience. I was nervous at first, but gradually learnt the song and practised a lot at home. We were lucky to have a singing teacher giving me some tips for the singing and great warm-ups too. My family were there at the final performance, I was proud of myself but when I was on stage and singing/acting, I knew I could do it! I kept believing in myself and got into the role more, which really helped. It’s really inspired me to keep going with drama and I hope I can be involved in a show in secondary school.
Ethan – Pumbaa B6
At the start of term, I was really happy as Lion King was one of my favourite Disney films ever, I love drama so much and I was so pleased we could do this for our leavers show. I decided to go for a core character, either Timon or Pumbaa as they are the comics in the show and I like playing a fun, comedy part. At the beginning, it was quite tricky but then we kept practising both the acting, singing, and dancing and gradually it paid off. I found the dancing difficult because I have never really done dancing so wanted to follow what Miss Simmons was saying, it was fun but challenging. I was pleased with the final result, and I felt my acting and singing skills really developed. My costume for Pumbaa was quite tricky, me and my mum made it with fur from a pillowcase and used raw materials to sew together. Mrs Clements helped with painting the Pumbaa tabard which I really liked but it also made it tricky to move around in. At the final performance, everyone really did well and pulled it together – my parents loved it and found it very emotional, my mum especially!
Rowan - Young Simba - Durham 6
When we first went into the hall, I didn’t realise we were going to be told we were doing the Lion King – everyone was so happy and excited. We started learning some songs and lines from the script and then had some auditions, they were quite scary as you had to perform in front of your class. I auditioned for Timon but ended up getting Young Simba, I was really happy. I practised a lot of singing at school, and this gave me a bit of confidence. I was worried about the singing as I knew I had a big singing role. I was nervous as the song ‘I just Can’t Wait to be King’ is such a well-known song too but we practised a lot and I gradually felt more confident. My mum helped me make a tail for my costume. The most challenging part was sometimes just getting up in the morning and keeping going, it was tiring at times. The songs required a lot of energy and with the dances too you’re out of breath – it’s exhausting but fun! My mum came to watch the final performance and after, I went over and gave her a big hug. I’m quite sad it’s over and we’re not doing another performance. I’m hoping I can be involved in shows in my next school though!
Yasmin Lioness Buckinghamshire 6
When we were first told about it, I was excited about it but hadn’t ever watched the show so I didn’t know what to expect. I auditioned for a part like hyena/lioness and I got the lioness part. I realised that the lioness role was actually bigger than I first thought, I had to learn at least 3 dances for key songs like Grasslands Chant and Shadowlands and we practised hard to get the dances correct. Miss Simmons really helped us and made us feel like we were dancers, which gave me a bit more confidence. Some scenes were really difficult, especially the transitions and when to go on stage, so this was hard but we gradually learnt what to do to make it look really good. I wore plain black with a lioness mask. Although this looked good, we also had some challenges with the heatwave as it was so hot! I felt proud of myself as although I didn’t have a core character role, I thought it went so well. My mum said I looked really professional!
Ava – Zazu Northumberland 6
I felt so excited when I heard we were doing the Lion King, as Year 6 hadn’t done a performance for 2 years, so it felt like were coming back with a bang! I auditioned for Nala but actually I’m glad I got Zazu as I had a great costume and it’s a fun part. I found it difficult to learn what side of the stage I needed to be on, but we practised this a lot and gradually I got more confident. My mum and dad both watched the final performance and they thought it was amazing, all the hard work we put into the show was definitely worth it.
Amn – Shenzi Northumberland 6
I was so excited to be doing the Lion King and I couldn’t wait to get involved. I auditioned for Timon but then realised I was better at the sassy Hyena Shenzi, the ruler of the hyenas. I learnt my part and my lines in school mostly, and one day I forgot my script, then realised I knew all my lines! The acting can be quite tricky, especially when others forget lines and you have to sort of improvise. I was pleased with my final performance but didn’t really want it to end, it was such good fun.
Emma B – Older Nala Buckinghamshire 6
When I first heard we were going to do the Lion King, I was really happy as I love the film and show. I was excited to be a part of it, it was something really special for Year 6. I had never been in something like that before. For auditions, to start with I wanted to be Scar as I liked the song Be Prepared, but I knew I wanted to be a core character and I’ve always had silly parts before, so I went more for a serious part that had singing and acting. I was so pleased when I found out I got Older Nala and I’ve really enjoyed being this character, especially because I enjoy singing and I love the solo songs. Singing the solo in Shadowland was such a great experience, I practised a lot at home and in school. The costumes were interesting, it was difficult to find yellow clothes, and I couldn’t find a tail anywhere, so I used my sewing kit with some felt and made my own tail. Everyone helped make the masks and I painted a bit too, I liked mine and it suited the character. I was really excited for the radio mics as we’ve never used these before, either in or out of school. It was so fun hearing my voice on the speakers and above the chorus singers. My family really enjoyed the show, I think my dad is going to enjoy the video too. I was so happy that five of my family were able to make it however, my mum and my nanny were very emotional!
Jack – Tech team Buckinghamshire 6
I was very excited we were going to do Lion King as have seen the film so many times, and when I found out – I thought I would like to be in the tech support or a dancer. I put both roles in my options and then luckily, I got to choose, and I picked technician. I had never been in that role before, and when watching films/shows I always wondered about the tech support and sound. When we first started, we just had the music on Teams and gradually as the show progressed, we learnt more about the role. We learnt we needed to have an eye on the script and the acting at the same time, to make sure we got the sound cues in the right place. For Mufasa, we had a sound effect roar, but we had to get this in time, so when he stepped forward, we aimed to get the sound at that time. By the end, we really figured everything out and knew how everything ran from the music and it was much smoother and worked well. Chris, the sound engineer was really helpful, he showed us all the high-tech equipment and how important everything is, the knock-on effect if anything went wrong, you had to really make sure you knew where you were on the script. It’s opened my eyes to how much actually goes on behind the scenes of a show. I thought it was extremely interesting and to see the possibilities of a career in sound technology. My mum came to the show and loved it, particularly the atmosphere of the production, she now realises how much effort goes into sound support!
Marylou – Lioness/Drummer Buckinghamshire 6
When I was told that our Leavers show was the Lion King, I did have doubts as I thought it would be quite difficult. Then, when we got our audition slips to write down what we wanted to be, I wanted to be a technician but then changed my mind to be a lioness. This was a dancing and singing role and I overcame my fear of dancing in front of people. As we rehearsed, I became more confident in the routines and everything that was taught. I was then introduced to djembe drumming, as part of my Arts Ambassador role but more with my class too and I really enjoyed playing the African drums. I volunteered to be part of the drumming introduction as audience were coming in and I felt quite confident playing the drums. Then I learnt the drumming rhythms in the songs too and got chosen to perform as a drummer in the Circle of Life and He Lives in You. The main challenges of dancing were having to remember all the different types of routine in the dances, there were some complex routines, but it really emphasised the music. I really loved the experience of the drumming particularly as it taught me something new. I loved the call and response, it helped me learn different rhythms and the pronunciation of the different African chants. Circle of Life and He Lives in You were my favourite songs; it was really fun and I felt proud of my final performance.
Freya – Older Simba Durham 6
I was quite excited when I heard we were doing the Lion King as it was a big opportunity to produce an impressive show for our year 6 leavers performance. I knew I wanted to have a main part as I hadn’t had a speaking part before, so I went for both Simba and Nala. I was so pleased when I found out I had got the part of Older Simba as this part had lots of acting and singing. Every night, I went over the script and learnt the lines so I felt as confident as I could be and we did a lot of practice, most afternoons in the last term were focused on rehearsals. I found it helpful to have some solo singing support and I couldn’t believe that even a few years ago in Year 3, I was quite nervous and wouldn’t have been able to do this. I loved learning the dances with Miss Simmons, and this really added to the overall performance. I felt quite nervous before the performances but once I started, I was fine and really enjoyed it! I could tell my mum was emotional and she is definitely really proud of me.