Music Fund for Cuba launched as a registered charity
by Natasha Hickman
on: Saturday, 21 February 2004
“Culture is an indispensable component of identity and quality of life, because it makes people grow” Abel Prieto 2003This quote from Abel Prieto, the Cuban Minister for Culture, succinctly sums up the Cuban perspective on all things to do with ‘the Arts’. From ballet to contemporary performance, from street theatre to traditional folkloric dance, Cuban society seems awash with a wonderful array of cultural expression. Any visitor to the island cannot fail to be impressed with the dynamism and talent with which the Cuban people express their identity through their culture. Cuba is renowned for its cultural traditions as well as its ongoing support and development for today’s Cuban artists. It’s music, art, and dance are enjoyed by people around the world. But these traditions and the development of future talent is threatened by a lack of basic tools andmaterials. Violin strings, paper for music scores, ballet shoes, paints and other small but essential items are all in short supply.
The main reason for these shortages is the continuing economic blockade of the island by the United States. While the blockade was once again roundly condemned at the United Nations the United States continues to ignore the will of the world. The US continually ensures that Cuba’s ability to purchase even the most basic of items is obstructed. As well as the clear effects upon Cuba’s economy the blockade has a pernicious effect upon the development of culture and the arts.
The Unites States has made a number of very public attempts to stop cultural exchange including the denial of visas to Cuban Grammy award winners to receive their awards in the US. Most recently the US has announced measures to block the publication of Cuban scientific papers in US based journals. Even the European Union has used culture as a political tool in it’s aggressive stance against Cuba when it took the decision last July to reduce the participation of member States in cultural events in Cuba. Actions such a these, which make artists and intellectuals, both Cuban and international, the victims of a vindictive policy of aggression propagated in Miami, seem an incredibly unjust and ultimately futile attempt to further deepen the suffering of the Cuban people. History has always shown that where culture is attacked in such a way people always respond and stand up for their own traditions.
The Music Fund for Cuba has been launched this year as a registered charity. Its aims and objects are simple: to advance the education of the public, in particular children and young people, by the supply of musical equipment and materials to students, musical schools and performing artists within Cuba.The Music Fund was first established in memory of the singer Kirsty MacColl who was tragically killed by a power boat at the age of 41 whilst scuba diving with her sons in a restricted diving area off Cozumel, Mexico in December 2000. Kirsty was a wonderful friend to Cuba and sang a number of times at benefits for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. Working through its partner organisation in Cuba, the National Centre of Art and Music schools (CNEART), the Fund has already sent more than £10,000 worth of equipment to Cuban schools. The new charity plans to raise even more money to send more of these much needed materials to Cuba. All donations to the charity can be ‘gift aided’ enabling the charity to claim an extra 28 pence on top of every pound donated.
The Charity was formally launched at this year’s I Love Cuba Cabaret.
Tania Dominguez Rosas, the Counsellor for Scientific and Cultural Affairs from the Cuban Embassy in London thanked everyone who had contributed to the charity:“On behalf of CNEART and the Cuban people can I thank you all for your support for this wonderful project”.
Special guest, Jean MacColl, Kirsty MacColl’s mother, spoke movingly at the event:“I am just very proud to be Kirsty’s mother. You know she went to Cuba very many times. After her death we wanted a memorial of some kind and we decided on a Music Fund to help all the young musicians in Cuba. On my first visit I took over £12000 of musical instruments, and of course now we are hoping to raise even more money for this important work” A collection on the night raised over £1,300 for the charity.
Everyone can get involved in supporting the work of the charity. From organising local fund raising initiatives to helping distribute the new charity leaflet at Cuban cultural events in the UK. The new leaflet is an excellent introduction to the work of the charity and there are thousands of copies available. Wherever there is a Cuban film being shown or a Cuban music performance taking place we need to ensure that information about the Music Fund for Cuba is distributed. If you are able to help with this important work, make a financial contribution, or want to find out more, please contact the Music Fund for Cuba c/o the CSC offices.
As the Music Fund’s leaflet states‘One violin string costs about a pound but for young musicians and those that want to hear them play the value is priceless’