Mar 292012

Curriculum for Excellence has afforded Harlaw Academy pupils the opportunity to embrace Citizenship in more diverse contexts that ever before, and a Staff Working Group on Citizenship was set up almost 3 years ago.  For the last year the group has included pupils, who have played a major role in the running of the group and decision-making procedures. Depute Head teacher Aileen Hunter tells Voice readers.

Pupils in the group were very interested in forging a link with pupils in a school abroad, and unanimously favoured the work of  RSVP Charity which has as its Trustees several representatives in Aberdeen. This charity supports children in the Bugarama region of Rwanda by providing a daily meal at primary school, and sponsors older children to receive a secondary education at boarding school – “Education today for Zero Aid Tomorrow.”

Harlaw Academy has agreed to sponsor 5 children to attend boarding school for 6 years and the Citizenship Group’s responsibility is to ensure that adequate funds are raised to cover the costs of sponsorship.

Harlaw pupils are allocated to one of 5 Houses – Albyn, Carden, Holburn, Victoria, Waverley – and, as from January 2012, each house sponsors a child – Jeremy, Jean-Pierre, Giselle, Emmanuel, Esther. The initial cost per sponsored pupil was £20 for their starter pack at boarding school, followed by £10 per month for fees for 6 years.

The launch of the partnership with RSVP Charity reached its climax on 19th March 2012 when the entire school population celebrated AFRICA DAY.  In the lead-up to the event fund-raising event were organised, for example “Harlaw Spring (and Summer) Clean”, Forest Walk, end-of-term Talent Show, Rowing Challenge, “small change” collections at House Assemblies.

Each of the 5 House Captains selected an African country for their house to represent – Madagascar, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, South Africa.  The Head Boy and Girl, and the Senior Management Team represented Rwanda.  On Africa Day pupils were encouraged to dress in the colours of their country’s flag and contribute £1 to RSVP Charity.  One pupil dressed as a “mummy” and collected £25 from staff and pupils in the canteen.

Staff from all curricular areas devised class-work to articulate with the Africa Day theme in preparation for an exhibition of material in the school hall which was open to all staff and pupils throughout the day.  Each house was responsible for a display of material.

Pupils worked in house groups in class on activities such as population pyramids, investigation of an issue of concern and how it is being resolved (animal extinction, poverty etc), African singing, African literature, mining, African masks, African dancing, African Flags, water-carrying race, letter to Pittodrie Football Club requesting used football boots which will be taken to Rwanda.

  The Harlaw PTA expressed great interest in the project.

Canteen staff baked cup-cakes and a large cake iced in the colours of the Rwanda flag.  The school technician filmed and photographed pupil presentations, fund raising events, assemblies and displays.

Africa Day was preceded by a series of Assemblies led by the House Captains who introduced their sponsored child and gave a brief profile of their chosen country.  The Head Boy and Girl led 3 Assemblies that gave pupils and staff information on Rwanda and the RSVP Charity, and highlighted the background to why the children need our support.

We were thrilled that Jean Main (a trustee of RSVP Charity ), Simon Mbarushimana (also a trustee, formerly a  sponsored Rwandan child and now a doctor at A&E in Aberdeen) and our school chaplains attended one of the assemblies.

The events and projects detailed above are all  documented in photographs, video footage and a display in the school’s Meeting Room.

The launch of the project, including Africa Day, was reviewed by Senior Management of the school who commented on the scope of awareness-raising among the entire school community.  The Harlaw PTA expressed great interest in the project.

The Citizenship group will review the launch at their next meeting in April, and continue to plan for the next stages in the project – direct communication with the sponsored pupils, the prospect of a visit to Rwanda by staff and pupils, and strengthening the links with the school community and RSVP Charity through Jean and Simon.

Feb 112011

Are Ye Dancin’?: The Story of Scotland’s Dance Halls – And How Yer Dad Met Yer Ma! – Eddie Tobin with Martin Kielty.

Apparently published 6 months ago, this seems to have a had a marketing push recently so the Voice’s David Innes hangs on grimly as erstwhile promoter Tobin’s history of Scottish dancehalls spins him and his two left feet around an over-slipperened dancefloor.

My favourite story about dancehalls isn’t included in Tobin’s memoirs of the heydays of small town ballrooms and city Locarnos.

Abridged, it concerns a Borders village school full of NE lorry drivers in the early 1960s pre-motorway days, billeted there temporarily for the weekend due to the A74’s closure by snow.

As all the boys wash and dress, apply Brylcreem and polish their shoes preparing to go to the Saturday night dance, one worthy, possibly a Charlie Alexander’s driver, is lying on his mattress, unshaven, smoking and reading the paper. When asked if he’s intending getting ready to demonstrate his slow-slow-quick-quick-slow prowess to the good burghers of Kirkpatrick Fleming, his response is, “Na na, I’m nae muckle o’ a dancer, but be sure and gie’s a shout eence the f***ing starts”.

To anyone who has ever smuggled a half bottle into the toilets at Aberlour’s Fleming Hall, who stood back in awe and no little fear as the Buckpool Boot Boys terrorised 1970s weekends in Cullen and Rothienorman, who “bonded” with a member of the opposite gender in the lanie behind St K’s, or who used the business end of a Guild Bass as an improvised bat as the missiles flew at a Grantown-Rothes contretemps at Archiestown (that Kabul to the locals), Are Ye Dancin’? will be like reading a diary of their mis-spent youth.

Although Tobin’s account of those supposedly-innocent days concentrates mainly on his own reminiscences of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes to promote his own acts, considerable space is given over to the personal anecdotes of agents, managers, patrons and performers from the heyday of dancehalls from post-war onwards, even touching on the modern club scene.

the ensuing three nights of frenetic frugging and torso-torturing twisting were looked forward to all week

In addition, despite much of the collection of memories focussing on palaces of hedonistic delight far removed from our own shared and blessed region of Scotland, the mere mention of Bapper Hendry and Albert Bonici and the premises and acts they guarded fiercely, will delight anyone of that era who ever had to transact with these two lovable but canny entrepreneurs.

The 60s and 70s dominate, a period during which, in the words of the opening credits to Friday evening’s Ready Steady Go, “the weekend starts here” and the ensuing three nights of frenetic frugging and torso-torturing twisting were looked forward to all week as social release by dance addicts holed up in offices and factories throughout the land.

It is a worthy companion piece to Torry’s own incorrigible rogue, Peter Innes’s, marvellous ‘Fit Like New York?’ although not nearly so in-depth or painstakingly-researched. Even at 180 pages, it’ll take no more than half a day to read and wallow in memories of the joys, sorrows and ever-present optimism of youth.

Glance down the index and assimilate the names of temples of weekend pleasure long gone, falling apart or still limping along and you’ll be back in ‘68, anticipating that sweaty crush, the hellishly-blended aroma of smoke, perfume, beer, hair oil, damp and nail varnish in the Broch’s Dalrymple Hall, the Railway Hall, Inverurie, St Congan’s in Turriff, Elgin’s classy Two Red Shoes or the Beach Ballroom itself.

As Wordsworth once wrote, possibly as he anticipated a Friday night huckle-bucking to The Lakes Showband at Grasmere Parish Hall,

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven.

Are Ye Dancin’? Eddie Tobin with Martin Kielty. Waverley Books. 180 pages. £9.99.