CHILDREN at a County Durham junior school have had a thrilling encounter with South African art and culture thanks to an arts for all scheme.

As part of cultures week at Ouston Junior School, near Chester-le-Street, youngsters learned about the art of Gum Boot Dancing.

Dancer Fanuel Kapumba ran workshops throughout the day teaching the traditional gum boot dance which originates from the mines in South Africa. The dance, which is now a form of entertainment, was once the only way miners could communicate with each other - by tapping and slapping out rhythms on their gum boots.

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Louise Lavelle, head teacher at Ouston Junior School said "As part of our cultural theme week we wanted the children to try out a dance form from another country or culture.

"The children really enjoyed learning about this dance form and other elements of African culture. The day ended with a performance which saw all of the children and staff demonstrating their dance moves, trying out African drumming and singing traditional African songs. This was a fantastic activity for our school."

Ouston Junior School organised the gum boot dancing session by using Connections, a service open to all North-East Schools provided by The Forge, a participatory arts organisation based in Stanley, County Durham.

Tony Harrington, executive director of The Forge said "We set up Connections because we want to make it easy and affordable for all schools to have an artist working in their school. There is no doubt that artists working in schools can enhance the curriculum and make school more enjoyable for children".

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