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New Camden mayor Jenny Headlam-Wells wants to get children playing music

Borough's first citizen wants people to sponsor instruments

24 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Jenny Headlam-Wells becomes the new mayor [Photos: Justin Thomas]

CAMDEN’S new mayor is aiming to get children off their phones and tablets and taking up musical instruments during her year as the borough’s first citizen.

Labour councillor Jenny Headlam-Wells has announced she will raise funds for Camden Music Trust over the next 12 months. She wore the chain for the first time last night (Wednesday) during the official mayor-making ceremony at the Town Hall, the role having been passed on from outgoing Richard Cotton.

A former teacher and university lecturer who grew up in Cornwall, Cllr Headlam-Wells told the New Journal in an interview before the ceremony: “In primary schools, four- or five-year-olds are given the opportunity to pick up instruments to see if they like blowing or bowing, but between the ages of, say, nine and 13, a key age when they are transitioning to secondary school, some fall off the tree and don’t get to play. This is when scholarships from the trust can kick in and help them.”

Camden Music Trust helps “enhance” Camden’s schools music service, which provides opportunities to learn new instruments, play collectively and take part in summer camps away from London. Biennial schools concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, featuring pupils from across the borough, are organised by the trust, while it provides bursaries and scholar­ships for pupils in need of help.

“Learning an instrument can be beneficial because it can develop discipline in young people: you have to actually practise,” she said. “I don’t think it always come naturally to think: ‘I need to do a half hour’s practice each morning’. So you have this hard edge, but you also have the benefit of playing with other people.”

She added: “When you have a workshop like the one we visited at Camden School for Girls, you may have 20 kids together and there is an excitement. You have to leave your tablets and iPhones and here’s something fun and interesting to do.”

Cllr Headlam-Wells, 73, whose deputy will be Maryam Eslamdoust, aims to raise at least £20,000 over the year to help supplement the service.

“The mayoral role is non-political but there have been some cuts of late and there is a shortfall,” the new mayor said. “I like the idea that people could sponsor an instrument, say a violin, and track how it’s used, or even cover the cost of a scholarship.”

Outgoing mayor Richard Cotton passes on the chain

Asked if she thought the mayoralty was seen as old-fashioned pageantry, she said: “Camden shows the mayoralty can be progressive. If you look at the charities we’ve supported over the years, it is all fairly modern.”

Cllr Headlam-Wells, who is rumoured to be considering new discipline at council meetings when she wields the gavel, including asking the press to stay in their seats, added: “I’ve been deputy mayor for a year and Richard has been amazing, supporting a homeless charity. I think he has been to 530 events. I’ve been a councillor for eight years and the cabinet is not really for me. I’m at a stage at the end of a career in teaching, mainly in universities, where I am not looking to do this and then become an MP.”


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