When we opened the Buskaid Soweto String Project in 1997 we owned fewer than twenty instruments, and a local repairer looked after our limited needs. When he emigrated we employed a further two repairers, but both have now left South Africa permanently. Buskaid is therefore faced with a crisis, which must be urgently addressed. Our modest requirements in 1997 have increased dramatically with the expansion of the Project.
Buskaid now owns nearly 100 instruments which need regular maintenance, particularly during Johannesburg's dry winters. All donated instruments have to be set up and bows rehaired, whilst the occasional accidental damage needs to be repaired.
We have now concluded that, given the experience of the past four years, we need to be self-sufficient in the matter of repairs and maintenance. Fortunately for Buskaid, our administrator and cello teacher Sonja Bass has been interested in this skill for a long time, and Buskaid is now committed to helping her acquire it.
Sonja visited Cape Town recently and was very inspired by her contact with both Vivienne Cowley and Brian Lisus as she observed them in their workshops and received instruction on basic repairs.
The most exciting development however, is the involvement of our very staunch supporters and donors in London, John & Arthur Beare, (violin repairers, makers and experts). J & A Beare have responded to our current crisis by volunteering one of their senior repairers, Iris Carr, to come out to South Africa and train Sonja intensively. Sonja and Iris will work together to restore some thirteen donated instruments this coming November. We have also purchased a set of tools, and these, together with a large consignment of materials donated by J & A Beare, have been most generously shipped out free of charge from the UK by Graham's Hi Fi.
Next year (2002) once Sonja feels confident in her newly acquired skill, Buskaid will endeavour to set up a workshop in Soweto with some interested local youngsters to assist and train under her. Not only will this initiative make Buskaid self-sufficient in terms of instrument maintenance, but ultimately it will create job opportunities for township youth. Who knows, in time one of them may produce the first handmade violin to bear the label "Made in Soweto".
RN October 2001
Buskaid is indebted to John & Arthur Beare, Iris Carr, Graham's Hi-Fi, Brian Lisus and Vivienne Cowley for their generous support of this venture.