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(c) Thapelo Motsumi

(c) Thapelo Motsumi

Wembley to Soweto to Brazil

They’ve done it before and they’re doing it again.

Hastings photographer John Cole and Brighton actor/producer David Westhead (co-starring with Hugh Bonneville on W1A),  ran a ‘Wembley to Soweto’ photography-based training course in the Soweto townships during the 2010 World Cup.  They are hoping to replicate the project in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, so Lauris Morgan-Griffiths went to find out more about the intended workshops for disadvantaged youngsters in the favelas of Sao Paulo.

“Are we totally unrealistic and mad?”, asks John Cole. “Perhaps, but the fact that David and I successfully ran this same project in the townships of Soweto proves that it can work!”

The original aim of John and David’s four week project – backed by Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Kweku – was to provide ten young people with the opportunity to learn basic photographic skills, as well as gaining confidence, experience and life skills for a potential, future arts career.

They definitely saw remarkable changes in their young students. One of their original 2010 ‘Wembley to Soweto’ students, Thapelo Motsumi,  was a slightly surly young man, hood up, mumbling his words. “All of which”, John explains, “signified a very shy young man with huge creative potential.”  And all of which proved to be true.  After the course, Thapelo was invited onto the prestigious Market Photo Workshop course, as their youngest trainee ever. From there, he graduated with honours and was hired by The Johannesburg Times. Recently he was invited to submit an application to the world renowned agency, Magnum Photos, and still finds time to teach at Umuzi Photo Club in Soweto, where he first started taking photos.

The Soweto project was a huge success. Backed by actors Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman, Hugh Bonneville and Dame Judi Dench, sixty of the students’ images exhibited at London’s South Bank’s Oxo Gallery  in 2011. The show then embarked on a UK tour with courses running in Newcastle, Brighton, Cumbria and, most recently, at the London Print Studio to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics.

And now the course is set to run in Sao Paulo.

David Westhead and John Cole  have just returned from a recce in Sao Paulo,

Baqueta’ taking photos in Paraisopolis

Baqueta taking photos in Paraisopolis, Sao Paulo

and during their week there they worked with young people from Paraisopolis, Sao Paulo’s second largest favela. “The enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge that greeted us in one of South America’s poorest communities was tangible wherever we ventured,” said John. “The communities were welcoming, vibrant and full of life, to say nothing of the endless possibilities for photo opportunities for the young photographers.

“One of the most exciting things about the Brazil project is that two of our previous graduates will also come to Sao Paulo to work with the fresh intake of  students” said John. “With them  as teachers in Sao Paulo, the project has come full circle, so that those who were taught, now teach. And those that are taught in Sao Paulo, will teach on the project we hope to run during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“But the project desperately needs funding,”, said John. “We are asking if anyone who reads this can please make a contribution. Just click onto the website (see link below) to see how you can make a PayPal donation. Anything you can give will go a huge way towards helping ten young people have a special opportunity that they otherwise might never have had.”

To learn more about the project, please see  www.wembleytosoweto.com



Posted 17:57 Friday, Apr 25, 2014 In: Arts News

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