11th May 2001 at 01:00
The old tale of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse and their ignorance of each other's way of life still has resonances. While some country children have been wading through disinfectant and missing school during the foot and mouth crisis, their urban counterparts may never have seen a live cow. Kids Care for the Countryside is a project designed to cross the cultural divide using art. It was launched on May Day with maypoles and country dancing in primary schools in London, Devon and Cumbria. Letters and emails will criss-cross the country, but so will pictures: the scheme is subtitled, "Be my friend - draw a picture".

The three schools involved are Sir James Barrie primary school in Battersea, south London, and two in areas where foot and mouth has been rife, Northlew and Ashbury primary school, near Okehampton in Devon, and Langdale primary school in Cumbria, but other schools can join in. The drawings will be judged by a celebrity panel and the winning entries displayed at the Battersea Arts centre in June.

Sir James Barrie school is already experienced in developing contacts elsewhere. Two years ago, some of the children sent art materials and exchanged pictures with children in Kosovo. Project director, Alma Taft, is running this new one and is keen to hear from other would-be participants. Phone her on 020 7223 0906.

Barriers of another kind are being broken down in East Anglia. The Norfolk Schools Project has been running for four years and aims to take the mystique out of theatre and opera for children and their parents. On Sunday afternoon, on the very day that Peter Hall's gargantuan production will be engrossing audiences at the Barbican, another Tantalus will be opening at the Theatre Royal Norwich. A hundred children from West Earlham and Old Catton middle schools and Eaton Hall school, will perform their musical version of the Greek myth - and it only lasts one hour, instead of nine. Tickets: 01603 630000.

Yet more barriers are biting the dust at Ocean, the new music venue and cultural centre in Hackney, east London. We are promised that the education policy there will reach all parts of the community, and that music training will be a mixture of formal and informal. On May 17 and 18, Spirit Child, a music theatre piece by Jenni Roditi, will be the first classical-contemporary event to be staged at Ocean since it opened its doors last month.

The Lontano Ensemble will perform the story of the young Panchen Lama who was abducted by the Chinese in Tibet in 1995 and celebrated his 12th birthday in captivity on April 25. Spirit Child uses a diversity of styles, incluing Indian ragas and the sound of the duduk, an Armenian pipe. Students from Hackney secondary schools will attend a performance and take part in workshops run by the composer and librettist Rebecca Swift. For tickets, call 020 7314 2800; information: 020 8533 0111, or visit the website at The barriers between east and west are turning into hurdles to be easily leapt during the Japan 2001 festival. The latest news is of a Slough primary school where the pupils are getting the opportunity to play street music, which is fashionable with young Japanese people. Music educator, Andrew Peggie, likens Tsugaru-Jamisen to the blues in its rawness and rhythm. Five Japanese instrumentalists will bring their shamizen (like a guitar with a skin front) when they take the workshop at Wexham Court school on May 22. The previous evening, an adult audience will have the opportunity to learn about the subject from David Hughes, an academic expert, at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. More information: 020 7898 4680; Japan 2001: When should you introduce children to music? In school terms, make the most of the untapped energy and enthusiasm not yet being channelled into literacy and numeracy hours. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, having realised the wisdom of this, was honoured on Tuesday with a Royal Philharmonic Society Award for introducing nursery school children in East Renfrewshire to music. Rumble in the Jungle, based on the children's picture book by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz (published by Orchard books), involved 1,500 three- and four-year-olds in all 13 nursery schools and classes in the county, and was supported by the council. Each school or class was assigned an animal from the book and a musician from the RSNO in August, 1999.

Two terms of workshops and concerts of music followed, leading to a jungle jamboree at the East Kilbride sports centre (transformed into a jungle with children's artwork) in March. Two newly-commissioned jungle pieces by the young Welsh composer, Dyfan Jones, were also played in the concert and the children sang the two songs he had earlier written especially for them.

The AOP Gallery (Association of Photographers) in London EC2, having recently exhibited winners of the Kodak Student Awards, will feature the work of young photographers from UKcolleges, from June 11to July 7, for a week at a time. The colleges are Cheltenham amp; Gloucester College of Higher education, and Newcastle, Mid Cheshire, Reading and City of Westminster Colleges. For more information: 020 7739 3631.

Heather Neill

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