The Life of Sam King

The Life of Sam King, MBE
EPS Black History Month Music Project 2016

The following article was published in the Newham Working Partnership (NPW) newsletter.

A former pupil – who grew up to be Deputy Mayor of Newham – was among the audience of VIPS, parents and children invited to watch the vibrant Y6 Music Project performance at Essex Primary School in October.

The subject was the life of Sam King MBE, who was raised in Jamaica, fought for the Allies in the Second World War, and came to Britain on the Empire Windrush. This inspirational figure overcame the culture of racism at that time to become the first Black Mayor of Southwark, and was part of the group who founded the Notting Hill Carnival.

Sam King’s driving passion was to present positive images of West Indian culture and to bring that multicultural vibrancy to the cold streets of London. He was awarded the MBE in 1998 and remains a much-loved figure.
As part of their Black History Month studies, the children learnt of Sam King’s hardships and triumphs. As one of King’s notable achievements was the co-founding of the Notting Hill Carnival, children explored the history of Carnival. The children showed how a Christian tradition adopted by African slaves, who added their own touches to the traditional forms.

With the support of award-winning musicians such as Cleveland Watkiss (the creator of many award winning albums and winner of the Evening Standard’s ‘best Jazz vocalist in London’ twice) and Eska Mtungwazi (whose debut album was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize 2015) the children devised a celebration of song, dance and drama that mixed music from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the modern vibes of the Notting Hill Carnival.

After the applause (finally) died away, the Head of Essex Primary School, Mrs Rosie Cowan, invited Councillor Hudson to address the crowd. He spoke of his fond memories of attending Essex Primary School, and hoped that his own success would inspire the children to aim high in their lives and to make a positive change to the world around them – just like Sam King.

Alongside Councillor Hudson and other invited guests, our newly qualified teacher, Rachel Simmons found the performance highly invigorating.  This is what she had to say:

“So far, as an NQT at Essex Primary School, my experience has been positive and rewarding. I never realised that it was possible to learn so much in just a few short weeks, but Essex Primary School has given me the sufficient guidance to ensure I am prepared to handle my new career as a teacher.

Having Year 6 in my first year as a newly qualified teacher was, admittedly, a little daunting at first! However, the incredible level of support I have received from others around me, and the beneficial feedback I have been given, has motivated me to be the best teacher I can be for the children and driven me to strive for the high standards of the school in my practices.

One of the many highlights from my first term at Essex Primary School has been participating in the truly inspiring Music Project for Black History Month. As a class teacher, I believed I knew a lot about the children in my class already; however, the project enabled me to get to know them on a whole new level. I discovered their hidden talents, learned alongside them and together we were able to put on a performance to be proud of!

The invaluable experience was something the children and I were extremely grateful for, and we will be looking forward to many more creative, energising and fruitful experiences together at Essex Primary School in the future.”