Artbeat: weekly arts diary

Heather Neill

Young people have been making music in great numbers this week. Ten and a half thousand of them came from all over the UK to play and sing - everything from choral pieces to jazz, rock to chamber music - at the Royal Festival Hall in London. This was the 31st National Festival of Music for Youth, probably one of the strongest ever.

On July 4, teachers, advisers and representatives from the Department for Education and the National Foundation for Youth Music came together to discuss the teaching of rock and pop alongside more traditional music. This came about after Richard Jones, head of popular music for Solihull Music Services, contacted Larry Westland, director of Music for Youth. Westland was so impressed with what was happening in the area that he wanted to share the good news. Samantha Smith, head of music at the Heart of England school near Coventry, was among the speakers. She reported that young people who were involved in pop as consumers but who didn't usually take part in school music became enthusiastic when offered the rock and pop option and often went on to join choirs and orchestras.

The next big MFY gathering will be the Schools Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on November 5, 6 and 7. Information: 020 8870 9624.

Seven hundred children hurled themselves with enormous enthusiasm into the Peckham Splash in south London last week. Eight primary schools, one special and one secondary constitute a mini-educational action zone there and Joe Rea, its co-ordinator, sees an important role for the arts, especially music. Professional artists (including Drumhead, whose African arts were particularly popular) have been working in schools since May under the guidance of project leaders Andrew Peggie and Richard Mallett.

Plans for the next two years include more sustained instrumental teaching and probably Inset. Meanwhile, the performances took place in the context of an exhibition of artwork and with a handsome poetry anthology, This is Just to Say, published by the Centre for Language in Primary Education, newly launched. This has some excellent poems and a selection of arresting photographs. CLPE: 020 7401 33823;

If you've had enough of Shrek and can't bear the thought of Tomb Raider, how about The Farewell: Brecht's last summer? This is a film with fewer physical thrills and spills, it's true, but the emotional temperature makes up for that. The tension is palpable as Brecht's women and hangers-on gather in the idyllic German (actually Polish) countryside, while the Stasi circle on the fringes like sharks. Students may find that the film, directed by Jan Schutte, throws little light on the playwright's work, but it provides illuminating background and an excellent sense of period. On general release from August 10.

The staff and children at Cross-in-Hand CEP school, East Sussex, are coming to the end of a remarkable fortnight. This evening they will bring to life through dance, drama, music, art and storytelling, The Legacy of Tara Chund, a specially written story. The performance celebrates the conclusion of Colours of India, a two-week immersion in the culture of the subcontinent. This is not a particularly ethnically mixed area - all the more reason, believe headteacher Gillian Mills and teacher Jo Clutton, to explore another culture. Indian dance classes have been led by Champa Maynard and everyone has had the chance to sample Indian art and food. Cross-in-Hand CEP school: 01435 862941.

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Heather Neill

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