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Students to share their Gunjur adventure

Volunteers from Marlborough Brandt Group working on a Disability Africa project in GunjurVolunteers from Marlborough Brandt Group working on a Disability Africa project in GunjurTen students from Marlborough College and St John's School will be talking about their experiences in The Gambia at Marlborough Town Hall later this month.

The students, along with leaders Rosie Carter, Harriet Compton and James Moran, have spent four weeks in Marlborough's twin community of Gunjur with Marlborough Brandt Group, helping to build an extension to the central market.

Nick Maurice of Marlborough Brandt Group explained: “This market, in many ways similar to the new Sunday market in Marlborough, is in the centre of the village and is a vital source of income for the women of Gunjur who sell their produce vegetables, meat and locally caught fish. 

“This money is used to support their families and educate their children.”

The youngsters have also been working with the charity Disability Africa, helping to provide an appropriately stimulating, fun and educational environment for disabled children who, too often, are neglected because African traditions expect little or nothing of disabled children.

The group aged between sixteen and eighteen years old are entirely self-funded and have raised £4,000 towards the materials for building the extension to the market.

They are the sixteenth group to make the summer visit and work in Gunjur since the first group went in 1985 led by the then mayor, Nick Fogg.

They will be giving a presentation of their time in Gunjur on Monday, August 20 at 7.30 pm in Marlborough Town Hall.  Admission free, but there will be a retiring collection.

Meanwhile, the AGM of the Brandt Group will be held at the charity's office at Elm Tree Park, Manton SN8 1PS at 6.30pm on Thursday, August 9.  

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Would you walk over hot coals for charity?

Picture courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netPicture courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netWould you walk over hot coals for charity?

That’s the question being asked by Prospect Hospice, who are inviting the public to take part in their Firewalk event at Alexandria House Hotel, Wroughton on 28 October this year to raise money for the hospice.

The event sees participants being sponsored to walk barefoot over burning embers, at temperatures that can reach almost 800 degrees centigrade. The event also includes a Halloween Party for family and friends with traditional festive activities including apple-bobbing and a pumpkin carving competition.

Last year’s event at the Check Inn, Wroughton, raised nearly £8,000 towards the costs of the Hospice, which looks after 1800 patients and their families in the local area every year.

One of the participants was Marc Blackwell, who decided to take on the challenge after friend Louisa Francis spent her final days in the care of the Hospice. Marc, who raised over £1,000 in sponsorship at the event, said:

“I really enjoyed it, and I’d recommend anyone to give it a go. I was really nervous beforehand when we were queuing and watching the others take part, but actually when it was my turn I just concentrated on what I had to do and the nerves left me. It was a bit like walking over very hot sand – painful, but not unbearable. The important thing was that I was doing it for Prospect.”

This year, the organisers are hoping that more people will take on the ultimate challenge and walk over hot coals for Prospect Hospice. The charity is looking for brave people to put mind over matter for the event and for their friends and family to come along to the spooky Halloween party and to watch them walk over red-hot coals in aid of Prospect Hospice.

Sheryl Crouch, head of fundraising, said: “A lot of our events are physical challenges of one kind or another, but not everyone wants to take on a physically demanding challenge. The great thing about the Firewalk is that it’s extreme, and demanding without being too physically challenging.

“We are hoping that groups from businesses might like to take part. We’re also hoping that people will bring their friends and family to buy a ticket to our Halloween Party to see how brave they are!

Registration for the Firewalk costs just £25, and organisers hope firewalkers can raise a suggested sponsorship amount of £150. To register, visit www.prospect-hospice.net/firewalk

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Festival-bound Spector play intimate Marlborough gig

Indie five-piece SpectorIndie five-piece SpectorIndie rock band Spector will be making an intimate live appearance in Marlborough in August, ahead of their appearance in front of thousands of music lovers at the Reading and Leeds.

The London-based five-piece – whose music has been described as 'somewhere between Roxy Music and the Strokes' – will be playing in town on Tuesday, August 14, the day after the release of their debut album, Enjoy it While it Lasts.

Fresh from supporting Florence and the Machine on a nationwide tour, Spector will be performing at Azuza bar at 6.30pm before signing copies of the album at Sound Knowledge record shop.

Attendance is free through the shop's Facebook page

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Mermaid's tail wows audience

Triton, Ariel and MermaidsTriton, Ariel and MermaidsCreating the illusion of the seabed in the theatre is simple – hang some strands of shiny material from the top of your set, scatter seashell props around the stage, bathe the lot in blue and green light and bingo, Neptune's Kingdom.

Or, if you have the vision and ambition of Curious Company's director Louise Rennie, you start looking for a venue with thousands of gallons of water and a dry performance space, then add synchronised swimmers and persuade your leading man to take a tumble – fully clothed – into The Drink.

That's how children and adults alike were captivated when East Kennet-based Curious Company brought their own unique take of a classic fairytale to the pool at Marlborough Leisure Centre.Ariel and the PrinceAriel and the Prince

Inspired by the ethos of the Cultural Olympiad – a place where the arts and sport mix to celebrate each other – and recalling the Busby Berkeley aqua shows of the early 20th century, actors and synchronised swimmers from the Calne Four Aqua Swim Team brought an aquarian fairytale to life over three sell-out performances in The Little Mermaid Aqua Show.

Based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale  of a young mermaid who gives up her life under the sea to gain a human soul and win the love of a handsome prince, The Little Mermaid Aqua Show featured  a talented cast including Paul Bradley as Triton, the owner of a booming opera voice and a revolving throne that would turn the judges of The Voice sea-green with envy; Russel Boodie as the Prince, who delivered a physical performance that was at times acrobatic and at times slapstick, while still managing to maintain the dignity of a romantic lead; and Jazz Mutch as Ariel, whose mesmerising presence in the pool was matched by her acting ability on dry land.

In a brave move, company director Louise Rennie chose to follow the Dane's original dark plot, rather than the saccharine version offered by Disney in 1989, and more familiar to the majority of the younger members of the audience, many of whom had come dressed as Disney princesses.

Synchronised mermaids Synchronised mermaids It was a gamble that paid off though – testament to which was the number of Disney princesses queuing after the show to have their photographs taken with Ariel, Triton, the Prince and even the evil Sea Witch Ursula (Emily Campbell).

The Little Mermaid Aqua Show, which also played to capacity audiences in Devizes, may well be going on the road again soon, if further funding can be secured. Flippers crossed, eh?

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Marlborough Choral Society’s rousing Jubilee concert at St Mary's

Choral Society at St Marys on Saturday evening 19th MayChoral Society at St Marys on Saturday evening 19th MaySt Mary’s church was packed on Saturday (May 19) for a special concert to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.  Marlborough Choral Society sang a selection of appropriate songs – and the flag waving audience joined in some of the choruses.

The church had been decorated for the event and extra chairs had to be found. The choir was conducted by Gill Mortimer who has been with the choir for ten years, and accompanied by Marlborough College organist Ian Crabbe.

The concert included two of Handel’s anthems composed for the coronation of George II – Zadok the Priest (which was a central feature of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953) and The King shall Rejoice.  Vaughan Williams’ Oh Taste and See.  The Old Hundreth (the hymn “All people that on earth do dwell”.)  The Sprig of Thyme - a selection of English folk songs arranged by John Rutter.  Songs from Merrie England by Edward German – including The Yeoman of England, O Peaceful England and The English Rose.

And the audience joined in enthusiastically with Thomas Arne’s Rule Britannia and Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory, and Parry’s Jersualem.

It’s estimated that at least 200 people crammed into the church for this concert –  including  Mayor Edwina Fogg and Councillor Nick Fogg.

[Photographs kindly provided by Rob Harris – a member of the Marlborogh Choral Society.]

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Marlborough’s Diamond Jubilee beacon - music, food, a full moon and a big bonfire

What links Marlborough, St Helena, Treetops in Kenya, Gunjur in the Gambia and Hadrian’s Wall?  They are all hosting beacons to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – but not all of them will be graced by a glimpse of the full moon.

VICTORIAN BEACON 2 230pxVICTORIAN BEACON 2 230pxAnd not all of them will be on the scale of this beacon built for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Marlborough’s Diamond Jubilee Beacon will be above Barbury Racecourse on Jubilee holiday Monday, June 4 –under a full moon.  The event will be open from 6.30 pm – the sun will set at 9.20 pm and the beacon will be lit at 10.00 pm.

Marlborough’s beacon – organised by the Marlborough Brandt Group – will include a hog roast, fish and chips, and a bar in the racecourse barn.  There will be music from a trio led by Marlborough’s favourite saxophonist, Mick Allport – with dancing encouraged.

At about 9.30 pm people will stroll up the hill from the barn, along a torch-lit route, to the beacon.  And while the huge bonfire burns on, people can camp close by for the night.  At least one other local beacon will be visible from the hillside – the one on Martinsell Hill.

Admission will be by ticket.  These cover the hog roast supper (with veggie alternative and with sausages for children) and are on sale now from the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough High Street.  There’s a family deal available.

Access to this event is only from the Marlborough-to-Broad Hinton road.  There is no way through from the Barbury Castle side of the hill.  And as there are horses about – it’s strictly a no firework occasion.

A coach will take people from Marlborough High Street but only by prior arrangement.  This service will only be available if you book seats by close of play on Monday, May 28 by phoning Marlborough Brandt Group on 01672 861116.  And it’ll bring them back again.BEACON 1897 1 300pxBEACON 1897 1 300px

Why a beacon?  Once used to communicate from hilltop to hilltop – especially to warn of an approaching dangers like the Spanish Armada – beacons have become a feature of celebrations, notably royal ones.

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 was the occasion for some major beaconary – as the photo on the right shows some were so big the plate camera could not see the top and show the bonfire builders clearly as well.

Beacons were organised for Queen Elizabeth’s Silver (1977) and Golden (2002) Jubilees.  This year the aim was to have 2,012 beacons lit around the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.  That target has been left far behind:  over 4,000 beacons are now registered with the Queen’s Pageant Master.

These includbrazier beacon brazier beacon e sixty beacons (one for each year of the Queen’s reign) along Hadrian’s Wall; a beacon on St Helena in the South Atlantic; and one at Treetops in Kenya where Princess Elizabeth was staying in 1952 when she heard about the death of her father, King George VI.  And they’re building a beacon in Gunjur in the Gambia which has had a thirty year link with Marlborough through the Brandt Group.

The chain of beacons will be completed at 10.30 pm in London when the Queen will light the national beacon at the end of the celebratory concert.

Some beacons will be the brazier type (see left) – and this year there is a gas-fired version which is safe enough to install on church towers.  Marlborough’s beacon will be a huge bonfire some eight to ten metres high, designed to burn for a long time.


 

Watch this space for more news about the Marlborough beacon.

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Voting opens in £6,000 Community Giveaway

CommunityGiveawayCommunityGiveawayVoting has opened in the preliminary round of the Frasers Budgens of Marlborough Community Giveaway.

The Community Giveaway is being staged by Oxfordshire-based retail group Fraser’s, who are opening a petrol station, Budgens convenience store and Subway outlet at Marlborough Business Park in the autumn.

From now until 1 September, local good causes are invited to nominate themselves for a community grant.

And until 7 September, a public poll will select nine finalists from three categories – Health, Wellbeing and Social; Communities and the Arts; Education and Young People.

The finalists will be invited to pitch their projects to a live voting audience at Theatre on the Hill in Marlborough on Thursday 27 September, when representatives from each community group are invited to pitch their ideas from the theatre stage to a voting public.

While there's a lot of money at stake, the emphasis will be on fun, with organisers insisting the event will be more like Britain's Got Talent than Dragon's Den.

The three community projects that receive the most votes on the night will walk away with cheques for £1,000. And all of the nine finalists will get a share of another £1,000 over the first three months of the new forecourt opening.

Readers wishing to cast a vote, or to apply for a grant on behalf of their community organisation, should go to www.facebook.com/BudgensMarlborough Visitors are able to vote for one organisation in each category  so are urged to use their vote wisely.

The applicants vying for the public's vote include:

Community and the Arts

Marlborough Communities Market

To support the ongoing success of the monthly Marlborough Communities Market, a not-for-profit enterprise working in collaboration with Transition Marlborough and Marlborough Town Council and incorporating a farmers' market and local crafts and produce.

Kennet Accordion Orchestra

To develop younger/beginners to the interest of music generally and to fund new instruments for the youth orchestra.

Phoenix Brass Band

To purchase 2 Tenor Horns to enlarge the Horn section of the Training Section, which exists to introduce any person, young or old, to the joys of music and brass banding.

Kennet Valley Arts Trust

Support for the showing of films in the Town Hall for adults coming under the heading of Marlborough Downs Movies.

We Love Marlborough

To bring Christmas cheer to Marlborough families, We Love Marlborough would like Father Christmas to be free to visit in the town hall this year, and have an free top-quality artist-led Christmas crafts-making session culminating in a procession at the lights switch on at 7pm. The Christmas Lights Switch On Activities would take place on 29 November 2012

Health, Wellbeing and Social

National Childbirth Trust

To support the ongoing success of NCT Marlborough and District, which offers local parents and parents-to-be invaluable support, services and NCT events including: ‘bumps and babies’ cafés’, monthly newsletter, nearly new sales, antenatal classes, baby first aid, walking club and local events.

Carer Support Wiltshire

To support the work of the Wiltshire-wide charity that gives free and confidential emotional support, information, advice and breaks to unpaid carers living in the county.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance

To support the running costs of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance, the only emergency helicopter in the UK to fly with a pilot, paramedic and police observer at all times. Each day the Wiltshire Air Ambulance is called out an average of three times. Since 2009 the Wiltshire Air Ambulance has attended 41 emergency incidents in Marlborough and Pewsey alone. It costs almost £2,000 per day to keep the Wiltshire Air Ambulance flying and saving lives.

Splitz - KidzPace

Working with children aged 11-17 who have witnessed or been exposed to domestic abuse in Marlborough and Pewsey. Splitz provides a mix of one to one support and group work to build children's confidence and self-esteem.

SWIFT Medics

SWIFT Medics provides specialised medical care at the roadside and in people's homes to people who are critically ill or injured. The grant will go towards blue light driver training and specialised medical equipment for a new emergency responder.

Education and Young People

Marlborough Brandt Group

To enable six students studying for the international baccalaureate from St John's School in Marlborough to travel on a study visit to The Gambia with a teacher and an education worker from MBG, to enhance their learning about development in an African community.

The new All-Weather Pitch at St John's School

Having completed the new school building without the help of any national government funding, and moved in late 2009, the school is now working hard to raise the money needed to complete the external sports facilities at the new school. The All-Weather Pitch will not only benefit the students, but will also be available for evening, weekend and school holiday use by the wider local community.

Savernake Forest Scout Group

Savernake Forest Scout Group requires new lightweight tents so that the 60 young members of the scout troop can go on camping adventures and develop key life skills through adventurous physical activity.

The Merchant's House Education Programme

The programme gives the children a real insight into what life was like in the 17th century for the middle class as well as servants. A grant would be used to make some 17th century children's outfits that the school children could try them on to experience how different the clothes were to the modern day clothes.

Savernake ExplorerScout Unit

To explore the seven local White Horses in a two day hike. The unit needs camping equipment and a trailer to do this without having to hire. This will enable them to explore other parts of Wiltshire and beyond.

Voting for the nine finalists in our Community Giveaway has now opened. You can only vote once in each category – so use your vote wisely! For more details about the applicants and their projects, go to http://bit.ly/MCIMkZ

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Chance to recycle computers in amnesty

Simon Crisp of Green MachineSimon Crisp of Green MachineHome and business computer users who have broken or obsolete PCs or laptops cluttering their offices will have a chance to recycle them at the next Marlborough Communities Market.

A Computer Amnesty is being run by Marlborough-based Green Machine. For every computer handed in, the company will donate £5 to a local good cause: Aldbourne YouthCouncil, Transition Marlborough, Afrikaya, Helen and Douglas House, or Great Bedwyn British Legion.

The computers will then be recycled, either by being memory-wiped, refurbished and resold, or harvested for their precious components. For every computer than Green Machine resells, a further donation will be made to the local charities.

Green Machine is the brainchild of former IBM technician Simon Crisp, who launched the company after being made redundant. Simon collects old PCs and electronic equipment for free and refurbishes them be used by families on  low incomes, students, or anyone in need of a computer for around £100.

The computer amnesty will occupy one of 30 stalls at the Marlborough Communities Market in High Street on Sunday, August 5, from 11am to 4pm.

Following the success of the first market, organisers say August's event will boast an even greater range of local produce - including local teas, honey, fudge, flowers, plants, cheese and mushrooms – and arts and crafts including handmade shawls, oil cloth bags, bunting, soap and clothes.

Purton House Organics will be bringing vegetables, soft fruit and eggs, while Neustift Goats from Lyneham and Greens of Glastonbury will be selling cheeses, and Langsfords Preserves will be selling Hedgerow chutneys and relishes.

And refreshments including teas, cakes and savouries will be sold from a 1950s themed beach hut, courtesy of The Cotswold Cooks.

For more information about the Market, log on to www.marlboroughmarket.org.uk For more information about computer recycling go to www.green-machine.org

 

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John Jones of Oysterband fame walks the White Horse Trail – with three local folk gigs

John Jones, who sings with the award-winning folk-rock Oysterband, is taking to the White Horse Trail in July with a series of five gigs in five days – and a hundred miles of walking with his dogs and with his fans.  Joining him are his band, the Reluctant Ramblers - they’ll be performing gigs in Marlborough and Devizes and a session in a Pewsey pub.

John will be accompanied by his two dogs – deerhound-lurcher crosses with the length of leg that makes them anything but reluctant ramblers.  The darker one (in the photo) is Tarn and the lighter one, Celt. John Jones has already been on several summer walking-and-performing tours – including the Welsh Borders, Dorset and the Peak District. 

Why did John decide to mix walking with his folk singing? “I had the crazy idea of walking to gigs a few years ago and somehow managed to persuade reluctant musicians and a smiling but sceptical agency to help.” “Rushing from gig to gig, crowded motorways, increased stress levels and time wasted staring out of tour bus windows at inviting hills rolling by just made me think: walking 20 miles, setting up in a pub, church, canal-side…anywhere…was worth trying as a much-needed alternative. It caught people’s imagination.”

This year’s tour starts at Goring-on-Thames on July 16 and takes in gigs at Nettlebed, Wantage, Marlborough and Devizes and an informal session at The Crown in Pewsey, ending on Saturday, July 22 with a gig at  Westbury’s Village Pump Folk Festival.  He’s played in Marlborough before – an acoustic gig about two years ago at the Town Hall for Marlborough Folk Roots.

John and the band want as many people as possible to join them walking, listening and taking a pint or two of real ale or cider: “This year’s tour includes exhilarating walking by day and fun gigs at night. I hope as many people as possible will join me, for a short walk or a longer stretch, to say hello over a pint at lunchtime or evening, or just for a gig.” John stresses that it’s not an outward-bound experience or a route march – not more than twenty miles a day: “Once up on The Ridgeway the walking is easy under foot and the views tremendous...a chance for a really unique shared experience. And I will be debuting new songs especially written for the occasion!" Details of the route and how to join in are on the tour’s website.

However, for those with sore feet cars are allowed: once John and the walkers arrive in Avebury and have had some refreshment in the Red Lion, they’ll be driven in a small fleet of cars to the gig in Marlborough – full details below.

The Oysterband are on something of a roll this year.  Joined by June Tabor, the band won Best Group in the 2012 BBC Folk Awards – also taking Best Album (for Ragged Kingdom) and Best Traditional Track (for Bonny Bunch of Roses.)  And they are a top featured band for the Great British Folk Festival at Butlins Skegness at the end of November – currently being advertised with a prominent picture of the band and June Tabor.

They’ve just finished hosting a major festival at Catton Hall in Derbyshire.  It rained and rained and rained, but over two thousand fans sat through the rain: “They were really stoical – and enjoyed themselves.”  John is certainly hoping for a dry and sunny July.

What exactly is the Oysterband sound?  The shorter version runs: “Oysterband make a modern, folk-based British music, acoustic at heart, sometimes intense, sometimes rocking. Since 1978 they've toured in 35 countries - festivals, concerts, bars, rallies, jails, bring 'em on! - and made 12 studio albums. Music for the head, the heart & the trousers. And still improving in the bottle.” You can find the full, unabridged official history as well as a slightly more objective view on their website.

The day after John’s White Horses tour ends at Westbury, John and Dil will be re-joining Oysterband on the main stage for the final day of the Village Pump Folk Festival. This is the fourth year John Jones has led his fellow musicians on a walking tour.  He will be supported by his band the Reluctant Ramblers: Dil Davies is Oysterband’s drummer; Al Scott who produces for Oysterband, plays guitar and bouzouki; and Tim Cotterell who plays with bands including McDermott’s 2 Hours and with Martha Tilston and the Woods, will be playing fiddle, guitar and mandolin. Then there are the guests who’ll be joining along the way: in Nettlebed and Marlborough the Ramblers will be joined by Benji Kirkpatrick of Bellowhead.  And there’s the promise of a secret “special guest” as well – watch this space for details.

Monday, July 16: Nettlebed Folk Club -The Village Club, High Street, Nettlebed, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon RG9 5DD. 8pm. Tickets £13 - 01628 636620 (evenings before 9pm and weekends).

Tuesday, July 17: Wantage  - The Swan, 28 Market Place, Wantage OX12 8AE. 8pm. (Buffet before the gig at The Shoulder of Mutton - call Peter 07870 577742 to book a meal).

Wednesday, July 18: Marlborough - Marlborough Folk Roots - St Mary’s Church Hall, Silverless Street, Marlborough SN8 1JQ. 8pm.  Tickets £13 available from Marlborough Folk Roots, 2/3 Silverless Street Marlborough SN8 1JQ  tel 01672 512465 and from Sound Knowledge, Hughenden Yard, Marlborough.

Thursday, July 19: Pewsey - The Crown, 60 Wilcot Road, Pewsey SN9 5EL. 8pm.

Friday, July 20: Devizes - The Southgate, Potterne Road, Devizes SN10 5BY. 8pm.

Saturday, July 21: Westbury - The Village Pump Folk Festival, main stage, Saturday evening.

Photo credits:  black and white photos of John and his dogs by Alex Ramsay. Colour photo of John singing with the Oysterband by Michael Pohl.

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That hosepipe ban will stay till Christmas despite all the rain

Despite having well over double the average rainfall during April -- only four dry days were measured in Marlborough -- the River Kennet is still only half its average flow for this time of year.

And although drought orders have been lifted in various parts of the country, the hosepipe ban is likely to continue to Christmas in the Marlborough area.

“The cold wet weather has provided a welcome respite for the beleaguered river, but is not enough to get us out of drought yet,” Charlotte Hitchmough, director of ARK, the River Kennet action group, told Marlborough News Online.

“The groundwater level is rising, and the springs at Avebury and up in the Winterbournes are now flowing, which is great news – however groundwater levels are still well below normal for the time of year.”

“Effectively, we have had below average rainfall of almost two years, so one or two months of above average rain is not enough to get us out of trouble.  But it has made a really positive difference.”

And she added: “The hosepipe ban is likely to stay in place until Christmas, but the rain has moved us further away from other restrictions like water rationing or restrictions on business use, so it's very good news.”

Everyone can help further, she pointed out, by getting a FREE water saving makeover for their home. So far, Barton Park is topping the tables with the most homes in Marlborough signed  up to save water as part of the Care for the Kennet

Campaign.

It's simple:

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Boateng calls for Africa’s potential to be recognised for future development goals

 Lord BoatengLord BoatengLord Boateng has told an audience in Marlborough that Africa’s future needs a ‘Strategy for Success’ to build on recent progress.  Giving the thirtieth annual Marlborough Brandt lecture, the former labour cabinet minister and former High Commissioner to South Africa, referred back to Willy Brandt’s report North-South: a Programme for Survival.

It was Brandt’s 1980 report on the needs for innovative development policies which prompted the formation of the Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG).  Lord Boateng  gave his lecture the title: Africa – from Poverty to Prosperity – beyond the Millennium Development Goals.

Over 350 people came to the College’s memorial Hall on Thursday (May 3) to hear Lord Boateng.  Among them were students from Swaziland on an exchange at the College, members of Bristol’s Gambian community and students from the College and from St John’s  - some of whom are preparing to go on MBG’s summer visit to Gunjur in the Gambia which has a long-standing link with Marlborough.

Lord Boateng was introduced to the audience by Lord Joffe who in 1963 was part of Nelson Mandela’s defence team at the Rivonia trial.  Mandela and ten other opponents of the Apartheid regime were tried on sabotage and conspiracy charges and received life sentences.

Lord Boeteng with Lord JoffeLord Boeteng with Lord JoffePaul Boateng was looking beyond 2015 when the current Millennium Development Goals run out of time and to the coming negotiations on how the next set of goals for Africa’s development should be decided and what they ought to include: “The last set of Millennium Development Goals emerged from an opaque top-down process generated out of the UN Secretary General’s office – through the UN machinery.”

This time, he declared, it must be a bottom up process. The action the new goals will demand “needs to be rooted in the experience of those whose lives are still circumscribed by poverty and/or environmental depredation that continue to haunt our world.”

As an example of what should not happen, he cited the case of the recent appointment of a new head of the World Bank.  He had been Addis Ababa at a meeting of African finance ministers when the Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, announced her candidacy – and it was well received there.

But in what Lord Boateng called the “carve up” that followed, she was ignored by the dominant western nations and yet another American was installed at the World Bank. “Made in Washington, London or Paris simply isn’t good enough anymore…the balance of power is shifting – unreversably and rightly so.”

Anna Quarendon, Chair of the Marlborough Brandt Group, proposing a vote of thanks to Lord BoatengAnna Quarendon, Chair of the Marlborough Brandt Group, proposing a vote of thanks to Lord BoatengPaul Boateng illustrated his analysis of Africa’s future needs with evidence provided by his grandfather, a cocoa farmer in Ghana.  He had benefitted from a rail line to the port and, right on his doorstep, from the West African Cocoa Research Institute.  Now the railway had gone and the Institute had become a Ghanaian rather than a West African concern.

Africa he said needed investment in infrastructure and, through stronger tertiary education,  in research and development.  It also needed co-operation between its states.

Lord Boateng based his optimistic forecast for Africa’s future on the strides it has been making: Africa’s GDP is growing by about six per cent a year and over the past decade six of the world’s fastest growing economies have been in Africa.

Africa has a huge workforce available and a huge area of land ripe for arable use – it should, said Lord Boateng, shrug off the ‘basket case’ label, and become the world’s bread basket.

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