Mile Cross and Larkman schools give �35,000 to save community music programme

A community project left on the brink of closure after its funding ended has been given �35,000 by two primary schools in Larkman and Mile Cross to continue its work.

The music programme, formerly known as In Harmony and now called Sistema in Norwich, encourages hundreds of four to 11-year-olds from Norwich to get into music and play an instrument in both curriculum time and after school.

When the Department of Education did not renew its funding last June, it looked as though children from Larkman and Catton Grove Primary Schools would have lost their access to the free music lessons and instruments.

But the governors from both schools have decided to save the project and allocate the money from their annual budget for the cause.

Alison Clarke, headteacher of Larkman Primary School on Clarkson Road, said: 'We have learnt as a school how important and transformative music is and even though we can't match what the government gave, we hope that with our �20,000 can help keep the scheme going.'

In Harmony was launched in Norwich in March 2009, as well as in Liverpool and London.

Each city was given a share of �3m from the Department of Education to set up projects to help children in less well-off communities.

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And now the newly named Sistema in Norwich project will continue the work of In Harmony, whilst aiming to broaden out its work to other primary schools in Norwich.

Around 800 children at the two primary schools currently involved have open access to the scheme, which provides an after-school club every night for rehearsals for different instruments, as well as two orchestras, the Martineau orchestra and the Sarah Glover children's orchestra.

Pupils have also taken part in the Norwich and Norfolk Community In Harmony concert in St Andrews Hall, where famous cellist Julian Lloyd Webber visited the project.

The inspiration for the scheme came from the educational music programme, El Sistema, founded in Venezuela 35 years ago.

The publicly-funded South American project was launched to help street children rise out of poverty while producing a fine crop of talented musicians.

Director of Norwich and Norfolk Community Arts Marcus Patterson, whose organisation delivers the musical project, said: 'This project is about so much more than just music, it's about social development.

'People come from different parts of Norwich to perform and form a part of a community.

'There is a real lesson to learn from the Olympics - if you invest in an area, like music and sport, then you will reap the benefits and as a result of the project, we really do see these children shine.'

Headteacher of Catton Grove Primary School on Weston Road, Tim Lawes, said the school was so impressed with the scheme that they wanted to help keep it going.

He said: 'It's the opportunity to get what children from more privileged backgrounds have.'

And mum of Larkamn Primary pupil Joseph Cole, eight, Julie Childs from Dereham Road, said her son's percussion playing is invaluable to his development.

'The music sessions give Joseph a way of channelling his creativity as well as growing his confidence.'

Maureen Hanke, head of Norfolk County Council's music service, said: 'We are pleased the benefits to our children and the value of music education are being recognised by the schools in their investment to continue this project.'

Steve Copley, musical director for Sistema in Norwich who has developed some of the children to a concert hall level, said: 'We have high school children attend from other schools and catchment areas return as 'tiny tutors'- giving a peer-to-peer learning experience.'

The project will also be launching a Guardian Angels scheme in the autumn which aims to get 200 local people to sponsor a place on the programme.