Ex-Godalming College student Ben Elton congratulated current students on their ‘extraordinary talent’ at a concert in aid of a foundation set up by another ex-Godalming College student Dan Eley. He told the packed audience about his time at the College, playing the part of the Artful Dodger to Gabby Glaister’s Oliver, better known as the servant Bob in Blackadder II, and of his love of the arts. Adding that it was difficult for young people who came from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter the arts today, because it was becoming more class based, and he praised the Dan Eley Foundation for its focus on young people and its tenacity in providing financial support to talented students, allowing them to progress and contribute, not just to the arts, but to the economy in general.
The music department at the College is well known for its excellent performances and the concert at the United Church, did not disappoint. There are over a hundred students who take part in music at the College and all take part in extra-curricular activities such as the Concert Orchestra, Jazz Band, Chamber Choir, Rock Choir, and String Ensemble. This brings an eclectic mix of music to a showcase performance such as this including classical, jazz, music from films, popular music and choral. Some highlights included an interesting arrangement of Wonderwall , a jazz version of A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square, a beautiful Gaelic Blessing from the Chamber Choir, and original compositions from music students, Tarun Shah performing Breathe and a string quartet including Maddy Pickering, Vicki Fenech, Peter Fenech and Alex Lawton performing Caleb Rowan’s own composition, The Prometheus Quartet: Mvt III which evoked sounds of the sea.
Dan, after his time at Godalming College and university went to work in South America to help poor children find a better life. In an unfortunate accident he was paralysed from the chest down but is still working for the street children of Cali, Colombia. Through his Foundation he has been able to raise funds to set up a training centre, where young people learn skills to help them into work, so far with outstanding success. The Foundation more recently has supported young people in Surrey who also need skills to get into work. His latest scheme is to support talented students whose background doesn’t enable them to have the right equipment or training necessary to be successful.
Andy Duerden, a songwriter, singer, musician and teacher was also a special guest at the concert and performed his song ‘Hey Traveller’ with the choir. The song was originally written in 2010 when Andy found out about Dan’s accident in Colombia and there was a realisation that the insurance would not cover the cost of an air ambulance to get Dan back to England. Andy had never heard of Dan before but wrote the prophetic words of Hey Traveller to raise funds for the Help Dan campaign. A photographic presentation of Dan’s rehabilitation accompanied the performance evoking strong emotions for the charity.
Supported by Dan’s mother Carolyn, College students have formed a group called the Friends of Dan. This group often raise money through College events but also help support bigger events in the region. One of the founding members of the Friends of Dan, Tessa Duncan, has been leading the group for over a year and hopes to take her gap year working in Colombia for the Dan Eley Foundation. She follows in the footsteps of a previous student Will Johnson who is now at university but spent 9 months in Colombia. Will enjoyed a unique experience which was challenging but rewarding. His mother Debbie Serpell acted as MC for the evening and began with the story of how her son had met Dan at the Leonard Cheshire home and now wanted to spend a year in Colombia in, according to the internet, the murder capital of the world without having any knowledge of Spanish at all.
This exceptional concert brought ex-students and current students of Godalming College, their families and friends together to offer the community both in Surrey and in Colombia something very special.
David Adelman, Principal of Godalming College offered his thanks and congratulations to all “This has been a wonderful concert for a very worthwhile cause. And I’m delighted that our ex-students Dan Eley and Ben Elton have been able to join such a large number of musicians and singers from the College who have done us proud with their energy and enthusiasm - and above all their talent.”