Bambajam – Sustainable Music for Families and Schools

I wanted to write a post about my friends LeeAnn and Duncan and their inspiring new business Bambajam, but Andrea beat me to it and did a great job, so I’m reblogging her content.

Bambajam is a social enterprise, it is earth friendly and at its heart is inspiring children of all ages to come together learn to play music. In a world that is seemingly increasingly seeing education as ‘training for the workplace’, I see immense value in creative learning and opening minds. Anyway, please read and enjoy. And if you can, support them by spreading the word, buying an instrument or backing their Indiegogo campaign:


My friends, I wanted to share a really remarkable moment for two of my great friends Duncan and Lee Ann McKee. Nine years ago, they launched STIX, Motivation Through Music. I was present at their very first corporate gig, and it was an amazing experience. Nearly 100 people, coming together, playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” with nothing more than a couple of plastic tubes. It was a special moment for everyone in the room.

Lee Ann and Duncan in Action

Roll the clock forward nearly a decade and STIX has been a great success, but they’re not the kind of people to be idle, so they’ve been busy creating something else. For the last two years, they’ve focused on moving this skill beyond business, because they believe everyone can play music – young or old. But it’s not just about the music for Lee Ann and Duncan, they also…

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What happened next? A hearing or a fobbing off?

I wrote to my MP Vince Cable, the headmaster, Public Health Richmond and Public Health England.

The headmaster raised the issue with the Director of Public Health for Richmond and at the local Headmasters Forum.

Vince Cable wrote back to me. It came across as though he had not read my letter properly. Either that or it was waffle to fill a reply in the hopes I’d go away, since my issue wasn’t on his political agenda. Continue reading

So I wrote a letter to our Headteacher…

NCMP Scan of original letter censored… and I’m very pleased to say that he replied. He expressed his concern about the letter I’d received. There will be a note in the school newsletter next week to parents on the topic and he is going to raise it with the Local Authorities at the next Headteachers Forum.

The letter I wrote to him is below, a tiny bit anonymised. I’ve forwarded this on to my MP Vince Cable and the contact in the Obesity Team at Public Health England that Civic Centre lady gave me. I wonder if I’ll hear back from them? Continue reading

Irresponsible, ill-advised, ill-supported and inflammatory – the Government’s approach to a healthy child

Finding some answers

As soon as I was able, I called the number on the letter which signed off ‘from the School Nursing Service’.

I was put through to a school nurse, albeit not the one attached to my child’s school and I asked her why I had been sent a letter informing me that my child is ‘obese’. And I asked where I could get some advice for what exactly to do about it since the links in the letter gave me nothing specific at all about managing the weight of an obese four year old.

She explained to me that although the letter was signed off from the School Nursing Service, they had not sent it. It came from the Richmond Public Health. The nurses had taken part in the National Child Measurement Programme – their role had been to weigh and measure the children and submit the data.

This was the first year that the government had decided to send automated letters to the parents.

But she could not give me any advice as she had no information to give me – she couldn’t tell me what weight he should be, what portion size I should serve or anything. She didn’t know how the Government had arrived at the conclusion about my child – how they calculated BMI.

I was baffled! The number I was given in the letter for ‘free local support’ could not offer me any. Continue reading

How many calories should a four year old have?

I’ve learned a lot, since last week, about the National Child Measurement Programme and childhood weight issues.

“We’ve had a letter back from school about our son,” said Tony, after the children had gone to bed and I had a cup of tea in my hand. He picked his moment as best he could. “It says that he is overweight.”

I reacted as he knew I would. I was very upset. We’re not perfect parents. They have snacks. But I don’t think we’re notably bad with the things we let them eat. I’m keen on healthy eating. And we actively encourage physical activity, getting out on our bikes at the weekend. The kids both go to physical activity clubs.

I looked at the letter. It didn’t just say my child was overweight. It said my four year old boy was “very overweight for their age, sex and height”. It was like a smack in the face.

It went on to say “Being very overweight can lead to health problems for your child, such as high blood pressure, early signs of type 2 diabetes and low self-confidence. But you and your child can make simple changes to be more active and eat more healthily. As a first step please call us on xxxx”. Continue reading

So happy for the last three days, I didn’t have time to post

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So a quick recap:

Day Seven of #100HappyDays: Olly and Rab Reunited

Thursday 23rd Jan – Jac came to visit. I’ve not seen her for five years. How that happened I’m not sure but it’s not exactly helped by the fact she lives 8 hours away in Dubai. Here’s a fabulous timelapse of Dubai. It looks incredible. It is hard to believe – the sheer determination of people to make the uninhabitable inhabitable. You can see Jac’s apartment if you know what you’re looking for.

Five years without sight of each other and you’d never have known it. Back in the day, in Singapore, we nicknamed ourselves Olly Reed and Rab C Nesbitt. She’s Scottish and we were both lushes. Ahem. Just back then of course…. So, being happy on Day Seven was about being reunited with Jac and introducing her to Rudi, who she’d never met.

Day Eight: Ladies Who Lunch

Friday 24th. Pretty much every day of leave from work that I take is timed to be with the children on a school holiday. But on Friday I took the time to just hang out with Jac. We took the kids to school, ran home afterwards through Bushy Park, I spent a bit of time trying to track down someone in the public health department in Richmond – more of that later – then we went shopping, had a few wines over lunch, picked up Mia and Rudi again and then hung out at home. Jac’s flight saw her off in a taxi by 7pm. There were many tears that night. Only Tony was immune and that was mainly in an attempt to keep order. For Day Eight being happy was having a proper catch up with Jac. Let’s hope we do it sooner than five years next time.

Day Nine: Buxom Winged Sphinxes and Cleopatra’s Needle

Saturday 25th. Every year for Tony’s birthday we go to Chinatown for Dim Sum. Given it’s at the end of January, it coincides with Chinese New Year – sometimes too closely for comfort although that’s another story. Next weekend is CNY so we went today to avoid the festival crush with two small children. Lovely Calvin and Steph joined us. Mia’s studying Egypt at school at the moment so we walked up to Cleopatra’s Needle before lunch. I read up the history first. A couple of things stood out from my brief research: a bombing raid in the war damaged the monument and it was never repaired, as a memorial. But this was the first world war – I guess I knew that had happened, but it hadn’t really sunk in before that the UK was bombed in that war. Secondly, there was a time capsule buried beneath the obilisk when it was erected in 1878. The first thing that Wikipedia lists as contents of the capsule is “A set of 12 photographs of the best looking English women of the day”. Somebody proposed that, and others debated it and then it was decided that 12 photos of the best looking women was an important thing to include. Remarkable.

Being happy on Day Nine was about hanging out with the children, trying to bring history to life and repeating a loving birthday ritual for Tony with a great meal at the Golden Pagoda on Macclesfield Street.