I have been asked to write about how KOA helped us connect and make drama, music, art and empathy especially in St Swithun’s school.
Every year for 50 years, my village through KOA raised money for an overseas project chosen by vote at a public meeting in January. It was through KOA that I met Nancy Mudenyo Hunt. Some people never quite got KOA. Yes the fundraising was for an overseas project but the effects on village life were profound and special. I suspect that if we had brought together village organisations to raise money for a village project there would have been arguments and some men wanting to take control whereas KOA was all cooperative teamwork without ego .This is what I have written .
So how did the song and dance begin?
Well it started with a one act play by Chekhov. How the mighty have fallen! The founder of the Other Oxford Theatre moved in a few doors from me in 1976.I was involved with Kennington Overseas Aid (KOA) and as part of the programme that year we included a one act play by Chekhov. Those who took part suggested we mount a similar entertainment in 1977. I wrote and produced ‘A Victorian Musical Extravaganza’. The script was a bit of a disappointment after Chekhov! Once again the performers had a good time. When Judith Vaux, a teacher at the Infant School suggested a Panto as a PTA fundraiser, Gill Hedge and I set about gathering a cast. In 1978 the KOA crowd were joined by various parents in a production of Cinderella. There was a sad feeling when the non -existent curtain fell, so I suggested we form an amateur dramatic society. Those interested gathered together in my front room in Upper Road in 1979. KADs was born and generations of children from St Swithun’s have been involved.
In 1993, I became chairman of KOA. I have a passion for ART and spent 16 years reviewing exhibitions for The Oxford Times. I talked to Kennington artist Philip Martin and St Swithun’s teacher and arts &crafts devotee Mary Dennett about how we could encourage children’s art. We mostly did it via the fete. From 1998 onwards we regularly organised a children’s art competition which Mary put on display in the church hall. As well as local artists Philip and Robin Mason, Korky Paul the famous children’s book illustrator and University artist in residence Weimin He have been involved.
Until 2006 MUSIC education at St Swithun’s was predominantly recorders. KOA wanted to promote children’s music and so set up KIDS for KOA. It was painful at first because all the schools recorder groups played at our concerts but that experience helped to change things. The school started a choir and an orchestra and Christian and Jill Bradley established Music Mayhem which soon achieved a high standard. The final concert included seven different instrumental soloists plus the Wind Band and some pupils’ own compositions.
Developing EMPATHY is an important life lesson. In 1998 we started taking a representative from that year’s charity of choice into St Swithun’s when it suited the school. Some were better at it than others. One stood out and that was Ike Garson of Lunch 4Learning. You can hear him and Charlotte Bannister Parker in the video link below. Ike persuaded some classes in the school to do their own fundraising. He returned to show them how their money had been spent. He showed them a picture of a Ugandan school and asked how they got their water. Everyone got that one right- from a water tank on the roof. When he asked ‘Can you notice anything wrong?’ only a few managed to answer that. The tank was leaking and the pipe to the tap broken. He showed another picture with the pipe replaced and the whole Ugandan school thanking the children of St Swithun’s for repairing it.
https://vimeo.com/64536645 It’s funny too – Peggy Seeger on her way to Kennington for the Fifties Fandango.
Then there is SPORT notably the Bagley Wood Fun Run /Walk. Seventy five pupils took part in 2013 when Sir Roger Bannister opened the Fun Run. The winners and the KOA committee went to tea with him. In its final KOA year the Lord High Sherriff Richard Venables not only opened it but he ran it! The PTA took it over in 2019. Let’s hope it has another life.
Then there is COOKING. In 2014 KOA funded the construction of forty tanks in which to grow a nutritious algae called Spirulina. Mumias District in western Kenya where the Nasio Trust operates, is a remote region where poverty is endemic and the incidence of HIV is high with 55% of the population living on less than $1 per day. As well as helping the 440 young people they care for eat better, our project created employment and a steady income from the sale of Spirulina . To help promote both Nasio and Spirulina, I took food writer Helen Peacock to St Swithun’s to work with a group of pupils. In Green Power The Spirulina Cookbook , a recipe called Appocardo Smoothie invented by two of them Alex Howard and Max Dunham was included in the book and some of this story about St Swithun’s is on P49 with a pic of the children who of their own initiative raised money for Lunch4 Learning.
And the food we ate..
Encouraging Walking and Gardening
These were 10 of the 5/6 mile walks led by Jack and Margaret Ibbott followed by one of the Open Gardens we organised.
KOA started the first pop up shop in Oxfordshire and it became amuch loved addition to village life every August .