Opera star leads Ouseday protest over proposed music service cuts

Allan Clayton and his fellow 'pirates'. Photograph by Willie Robb
Allan Clayton and his fellow 'pirates'. Photograph by Willie Robb

Opera star Allan Clayton, currently headlining at Glyndebourne, will lead young musicians in a rousing rendition of Sussex by the Sea to protest against plans to cut music instrument lessons in East Sussex Schools.

All young musicians across the county are invited to join the protest performance, at 2pm at Malling Recreation Ground, Lewes, on Sunday July 1 as the Ouseday regatta and raft race get under way.

Allan will arrive on a boat full of pirates singing sea shanties, the well known Wellington Wailers.

He will then meet up with the youngsters brought together by Jane Humberstone, National Education Union rep for East Sussex Music instrumental teachers.

Allan, who is in rehearsals for Handel’s Saul, which opens at Glyndebourne later this month, said: “I am very supportive of these young musicians. It is a mistake to undervalue music on the curriculum because this is a joy and education for the human spirit. We need to teach pupils how to play their instruments while they are young and all of us benefit from their hard work.”

Jane said: “We are delighted to have Allan lead our performance in what is a favourite Sussex song and a traditional protest statement.

“We invite young musicians to come and join us, whether they play rock and roll, guitar or violin, cello or trumpet, whatever your music, bring it to Ouseday, with your instruments if you wish or just your voice.”

The protest will take place before the regatta’s main event, the 43rd annual Round Table charity raft race from Lewes to Newhaven, which has the theme Rock the Boat.

Thousands of spectators are expected to take advantage of the forecast heatwave to enjoy the regatta, sponsored by Oakley Property.

All are being urged to avoid waste and swap the traditional raw eggs and flour bombs for jelly bombs this year, with Masterchef winner Peter Bayless showing how to make them on the event website Ouseday.com

A spokesman for the organisers said: “This is a fantastic event, free of charge for all the community. We have lots of rafts, a superb food fair, and plenty of entertainment, including this unique musical event. Ouseday is fun for all, free of charge, supports local charities and you are in the thick of the action. We are even giving away money, £1,000 cash in our Apollo Bookmakers raft race raffle, free entry with every Ouseday magazine. Ouseday is music for today, and for the future.”

The only slight setback is a late withdrawal by several bonfire societies.

A spokesman said: “All the societies raced last year and they are great supporters of Ouseday. It was not their fault that a few idiots threw fireworks from the riverbank last year, seriously injuring one rafter who has this week had a second operation on his knee. As a result we cannot have any fireworks this year, but there will still be lots of coloured smoke and fiery competition.”

Ouseday begins with a boat parade through town at 1.30pm, followed by a rowing race to the sea with boats from Lewes taking on Newhaven crews, then come canoe races followed by the main raft race at high tide at 3pm.

Ouseday magazines are on sale in the town at £3 and each one has a unique number that will win £1,000 cash if it matches the time of the fastest raft. Money raised goes to local charities.