Red Hill Winter Workshop 2014


On 16 and 17 July children from Red Hill informal settlement attended a CBN workshop at Simon’s Town Library. Seventeen children attended on both days, with some changes in the group after day one, and they travelled on two minibus taxis to the venue.

There was an exciting programme involving making and performing a play with shadow puppets, composing and performing songs, writing short stories on the iPads and making music with rock gongs and musicians. The rock gongs were specially brought from the Karoo and chosen by Emily Hallinan who worked with them and the children in Clanwilliam a week previously. There was a strong musical team of facilitators including croc E Moses (who facilitated on both days), John Woodland and Robert Jeffrey with his cello on Day Two.

The shadow puppet team comprised Rosemary Bangham and Mary Cadogan. Hugh Clarke, Phumla Gqoboka and Lesley Beake manned the iPad table. Erica Jehoma provided sustaining breakfast and lunch for all concerned and Denzil Jehoma oversaw the transport arrangements.

We are particularly grateful to Simon’s Town Library (yet again!) who hosted us in their wonderful hall. There was room to have an audience section for books and stories and musical performances as well as three work venues for the practical activities. Each child had a chance to participate in all activities and each child played percussion on the rock gongs.

A special thank-you goes to Buyiswa Ponti, community representative from Red Hill, who helped to register the children, accompanied them on the transport – and entered into the spirit of the workshop with enthusiasm!

The children form Red Hill really responded – but it took some time to settle them down. This group come from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds, many of them living away from their parents, who remain in the Eastern Cape. They were over-excited and over the top as well!.This made for some problems at first, especially in the books and stories sections where listening and absorbing was involved. We changed the programme in this section completely on Day One and made up the work on Day Two. Four very disruptive children did not return on the second day and were replaced by others.

Books and stories
The main aim of the workshop, as always, is to reinforce reading and books as an activity through using as many exciting media as possible. Between activities and at the beginning and end of each session, there are readings from books connected with the theme. We also give some help with ‘how to behave’ and in this case that was more essential than ever!

Shadow Puppets
The shadow puppets (initially suggested by Sandy Rudd, theatre director in Namibia) have proved wildly successful. The children involve with the story, interact with the making of the puppets (all the stories on partly San themes) and hopefully absorb some of the additional reading along the way. The audience reacts with excitement and enthusiasm – the performances are always really charming, with sound effects and voices being added by the children. It is also, not incidentally, great fun! (Mary and Rosemary deserve special thanks for the extreme physicality involved in crawling around behind an improvised screen with a small gang of children!)

Song Writing
This activity was initiated by croc E Moses and Anele Mhlahlo in Clanwilliam. (Anele could sadly not be with us at this workshop as he is writing a major music exam in a week’s time. We missed him.)

It is not easy but this activity makes children think about words and sounds – the theme is beautiful sounds – and uses their own words to create a song, which they then perform. It takes very special talent, and a great deal of patience, to make this work. This is a work in progress in itself. Croc E says he learns more every time they try it. All activities of CBN grow and learn from the last workshop.

iPad books
The Red Hill children responded to this activity very well, taking pictures of themselves, learning the basic technology of the iBook’s app and handling new skills like typing with aplomb. Typing styles varied from a stabbing action to finger licking first. They also learned how to draw an illustration for their story. Hugh Clarke earns special commendation for patiently helping with a very long story about a lion and a dinosaur going for a walk. We also worked on the idea of adding adjectives to make the picture of the story more real for the reader. These small books will appear on our website soon.

Croc E worked constantly with children on songs and music and Rosemary and Mary added to the musical theme with the clapping games that bring in the idea of rhythm. We experimented with the sound of the rock gongs on Day One, but the main musical event was on Day Two, when we also had some books and stories with musical themes and introduced the idea of early people possibly playing rock gongs.

John Woodland is a musician and conductor (previously of the UCT Choir, who worked with CBN in 2012) and he is part of a group of musicians and academics – informally known as the gong gang – who are interested in the archaeology, history and musicality of rock gongs (or ringing rocks) that are found all over the world. The ones we are working with come from near Brandvlei in the Karoo. CBN is facilitating workshops where children provide the music in different ways – ringing, singing, clapping, humming, clicking and whistling. The results are proving very interesting.

Robert Jeffery is a music teacher and cellist – also part of the gong gang – who showed the children what a cello can do. One of the most memorable moments came when he played Bach for the children. Some of them were utterly spellbound. It was a magical moment.

Then everyone had a chance to ring the rocks, sing, clap and dance. They first sang and played (with vigour) South Africa’s national anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika as a tribute to Nelson Mandela, whose birthday was the following day.

We finished the workshop on a quiet note (everybody being, by now, completely exhausted, especially the facilitators. Children read quietly in groups and in corners alone – some cuddled up to facilitators. It was a great way to end a workshop.

Our thanks to sponsor Mr Dudley Smith who made this workshop possible through his generous donation and keen interest in the children of Red Hill.

To see a rock going performance, please go to:

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