Last month Grafton Primary School
, near Holloway Road in North London, invited me to their Year Six Black History Month musical production based on my novel The Other Side of Truth
. The audience was the entire school, children and staff, family members and friends... or, in the words of Grafton's head teacher Nitsa Sergides, the 'Grafton Family'. Nitsa is a remarkable headteacher with creativity and commitment to every child at the very heart of the school. Grafton employs a part-time writer-in-residence (Diane Samuels
), artist-in-residence (Tessa Garland
) and musician-in-residence (Juwon Ogungbe
), each of whom works with the children on a weekly basis. How remarkable is that? I also recently learned that Nitsa was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to education. In my dreams I would make her Secretary of State for Education with her teachers leading the whole department!
I have been in touch with musician Juwon ever since he composed the music for Trestle Theatre's production of Burn My Heart .
We have been talking for some time about how we would love to try out The Other Side of Truth
as musical theatre. Some years ago I adapted the novel for BBC Radio 4's 'Afternoon Play' so I already had a play script, although one based on sound. But it gave us a starting point. Juwon needed time and space to create music and songs. Funding research and development is always tricky. I knew about his work at Grafton, but the penny only really dropped when by good chance this summer I was invited to meet children from the school who had read Journey to Jo'burg.
We met at the amazing little Museum of Immigration and Diversity
in Spitalfields' Princelet Street. That's another story but you can get a glimpse here...
Well, one thing led to another and a couple of weeks into the autumn term all of Year Six at Grafton were working on a cross-curricular The Other Side of Truth
project, culminating in their production before half-term. It was quite a feat... and I take my hat off to Juwon, and dedicated teachers Anna Sutton, Bea Symes, Justin Ward and others. With two classes, each presented one half of the story, hence two different actors for each main role, involving every child. I'll paste a few pictures below, with thanks to Tessa Garland. I wish you could hear the music too.
Mourners gather in the family house in Lagos to lament what has happened to Mama...
Sade and Femi learn that, to remain safe, they will have to be smuggled out of the country...
In her new school in London, the bullies get to work on Sade...
and then tighten the screws...
At last, Sade and Femi reunited with Papa - but in prison?
Mr Seven O'Clock News with Uncle Dele...
Finally, headteacher Nitsa Sergides commends the actors and everyone who has worked so hard...
not forgetting the musicians...
The night before the production, I received a most moving message from Deputy Head Anna Sutton:
of the children will shine tomorrow and some, less confident at acting, will do
their best at this stage in their young lives. However, more importantly
every single one of them without exception, has learned a great deal from your
story and every single child and adult has been moved to tears at some stage in
the rehearsals. Personally, I can't watch the end without holding back the sobs
and not always very successfully either! So touching 60 young lives and several
old lives - this is success!
Thank you, Grafton School! Your production was an amazing gift and I'm delighted to be counted part of the Grafton Family. Moreover, I still find myself humming some of Juwon's songs. May the journey continue.