How do we build a circle and cycle of greatness?

Have you heard of the UN’s ‘International Day of the Girl Child’?  It’s tomorrow, Thursday 11th October! It promotes young women’s empowerment, and this year it’s focusing on expanding learning opportunities for girls to help them chart new pathways and transition into the world of work.  

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, whilst spending time with many girls taking part in both our innovative KOKOROKO & Church of Sound collaboration at Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, and our Achieve Your Greatness programme with new partners Plumcroft and Mulgrave Primary Schools and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. We’re able to help these young people – many of whom come from very challenging backgrounds – gradually grow and transform in the self-confidence, creativity and teamwork skills that are critical for enabling them to build positive futures and Achieve their Greatness.

But I couldn’t do any of this without funding support, including from our wonderful Trailblazers who have become like a big extended family. More recently we upped the ante and launched a new higher level individual giving circle for a a smaller more intimate group of individuals who are passionate about music, equal access to a creative education and supporting the next generation. 

Our new ‘Circle of Greatness’ donors include long-time Trailblazers Ben Lynch, Simon Machin, Nigel Gibson, Barbara Burke, Allen Austin-Bishop as well as more recent donors, Peter Wilson and Anna Corbett. I caught up with Anna to talk about her lifelong love of jazz, teaching career and Ghanain/St Lucian-influenced Cornish girlhood.

Jennie: So Anna, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  

Anna: I was born and brought up in Cornwall into a large, musical family. My Ghanaian grandfather settled in Cornwall at the beginning of the last century and my maternal grandfather being from St Lucia, we were the only black family in the community at that time. I left home to come to London to train as a teacher and have enjoyed a long and rewarding career here. I was brought up listening to jazz; it was a major part of our heritage and our cultural identity. Family events are always a celebration of this wonderful music, which still continues through our children. I take every opportunity to listen to live jazz in London and New York. I love London theatre and all the other diverse cultural activities on our doorstep. I recently spent two years in Cardiff, where I volunteered on local radio, co-hosting a weekly jazz show. Since retirement I have done further study and spend my time writing. I recently completed my first novel, which of course features a lot of jazz!

Jennie: Can’t wait to read it!  Has your love of jazz made you passionate about championing music and the arts in our education system?

Anna:  I have supported and encouraged the arts throughout my teaching career and was able to witness first hand the benefit to children and young people. It increases their confidence in a variety of ways which helps support the development of other talents and areas of learning. Performing and working together on a project breaks down the barriers of class, race and gender; it encourages teamwork as well as introducing children and young people to the wonderful diversity of arts, culture and traditions from across the world.

Jennie: Tell us about your support for the Abram Wilson Foundation?  

I respect and value the work of the Abram Wilson Foundation in giving children and young people access to such a wealth of experiences. And it is inspiring to see so many young women asserting their rightful place in London jazz, especially on International Day of the Girl Child. Our schools are under a lot of pressure to achieve high status in academic performance, which can lead to the detriment of the arts curriculum. I would encourage anyone who cares for the future of the generations to come to get involved and enjoy being part of such an exciting venture.

Jennie: Thank you!  And who was your biggest female inspiration as a child?  

Anna: My Mum! My mother was born and brought up in Cardiff in the area which became known as Tiger Bay. Even though we were also brought up in a very modest home, she always encouraged us to take an interest in the arts, to learn an instrument and to be interested in different kinds of music and creativity in all its forms. Of course we listened to jazz, but we also watched the ballet and classical concerts (on TV) and learned to appreciate a variety of the arts. My father was working away at sea to support the family and Mum taught herself dressmaking and tailoring so that she could work at home and give us the opportunity to enjoy whatever arts and creative activities were available to us. She definitely encouraged us all to Achieve Our Greatness!

Jennie: And finally, I’d love to hear what gigs or performances you’re looking forward to for the rest of 2018. 

Anna: Of course I can’t wait to attend the Abram Wilson Foundation Hospital Club gigs and the KOKOROKO/Church of Sound event on 9th November.  There’s also the London Jazz Festival coming up next month. Jazz, jazz and more jazz… sounds pretty good to me!

If you’d like to get involved by becoming a Trailblazer or find out more about our Circle of Greatness then please email Jess at [email protected]