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Passport to the City: schoolchildren celebrate Paul Robeson legacy during Black History Month

The School of Music has welcomed pupils from Willowbrook Primary School in Cardiff, to pay homage to the work of the civil rights activist, singer, and actor Paul Robeson as part of Black History Month.

54 Key Stage 2 pupils attended an immersive event at the school, designed to communicate and demystify issues of race and nationality.

The day began with a recreation of a South Wales mine, with a soundscape of dripping water, falling rocks and axes grinding, and the sound of Robeson singing. The children then enjoyed two breakout sessions, where they played percussion instruments, and learned a song.

The day concluded with the first radio transmission between the US and Wales, when Robeson spoke to the miners gathered in Porthcawl.

The sessions were led by undergraduate students Owen Parsons and Emily Burton, who are the school’s first Paul Robeson ambassadors.

Black History Month: Celebrating Paul Robeson

The School of Music welcomed pupils from Willowbrook Primary School to take part in an immersive workshop, to pay homage to the work of the civil rights activist, singer, and actor Paul Robeson as part of Black History Month.

Dr Cameron Gardner, Senior Lecturer at the School of Music, said: “As Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer for the school, I felt immensely proud of our two Robeson ambassadors, Emily, and Owen, and their first hosting of outreach within the school.

“Through their carefully planned and well-delivered series of workshops, they were able to bring together primary schoolchildren in celebration of Paul Robeson and his legacy of civil rights in South Wales. All participated in making music and learnt how this provides a medium for bringing communities together and highlighting and making progress on a range of social issues, including race and poverty.”

As a graduate and Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University, this was especially close to my heart. It was so exciting to see the reaction of the children and young people when they saw and heard Robeson’s story - young people who had never before heard of Paul Robeson were somehow touched by his spirit. We believe that Paul Robeson’s legacy lives on and can inspire people to play a part - however small - in the continued fight for equality, human rights and international understanding.
Beverley Humphreys, Chair and co-founder, Paul Robeson Trust

Drawing upon the school’s strong relationship with the Paul Robeson Wales Trust, the Paul Robeson scholarship builds from the example of Robeson to promote the life-changing potential of studying and working in music. It aims to develop the legacy of Robeson, as preserved by the Trust, through funding students to give talks, workshops, performances, and compositions.

Successful candidates undertake the role for a year and one semester, funded by the Paul Robeson Wales Trust.

Being able to facilitate opportunities and experiences like this are incredibly important for our city’s children and young people. We are providing them access to resources and expertise they may not have the chance to experience otherwise. By bringing them to a public space like the concert hall makes the experience meaningful and more impactful. To have the opportunity to be in such spaces that are within their city and by having access to experts in their field, allows these children to see what is available to them in their city and opens up further possibilities they may go on to aspire to in the future.
Luke Mussa, Passport to the City Achievement Officer