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Pop legends from Blur, Madness and The Slits are the judges at Camden School for Girls’ bands competition

13:00 19 June 2014

Yr 7 band Tourist Under Cover perform for judges Viv Albertine of The Slits, Mark Bedford of Madness, Graham Coxon of Blur and The Guardian

Yr 7 band Tourist Under Cover perform for judges Viv Albertine of The Slits, Mark Bedford of Madness, Graham Coxon of Blur and The Guardian's music editor Michael Hann. Picture: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

They have played in some of the most influential bands in recent decades – but star judges at a battle of the bands took a back seat to put the music of the next generation in the spotlight.

Judges Viv Albertine of The Slits, Mark Bedford of Madness, Graham Coxon of Blur and The Guardian's music editor Michael Hann watch bands formed by pupils at Camden School for Girls. Picture: Dieter PerryJudges Viv Albertine of The Slits, Mark Bedford of Madness, Graham Coxon of Blur and The Guardian's music editor Michael Hann watch bands formed by pupils at Camden School for Girls. Picture: Dieter Perry

When Camden School for Girls pupils heard who was going to judge the competition at their summer fair, students of all ages rushed to form groups.

And on Friday, judges including Blur’s guitarist Graham Coxon, Madness bassist Mark Bedford and Viv Albertine, of punk group The Slits, made sure pupils at the Camden Town secondary were the stars of the show as they performed.

Headteacher Elizabeth Kitcatt said: “Usually the summer fair draws the parents and younger children, but the teenagers run a mile because they find it embarrassing to be at an event with their parents.

“So we wanted something that would bring all the parents and the students together – and it worked brilliantly!”

The arts play a prominent role at the school with many of its orchestras and music groups getting support from Camden Council’s music education service, the Camden Music Trust.

The charity provides music lessons in schools across the borough and funds bursaries for disadvantaged children whose families cannot afford to send them to weekend courses and clubs.

It is little wonder then that bands eschewed karaoke covers for original compositions, prompting high scores from the judges, who also included The Guardian’s music editor Michael Hann.

On why the music stars got involved, Ms Kitcatt said: “We’re a community school, which means the families mainly live in the neighbourhood and know each other.

“It’s all very close and the parents at Camden are all very socially aware, so they will help. They are not the pretentious kind of celebrity.”

The fair was not all about music. A silent auction raised more than £3,000 for the school in Sandall Road. Items included an etching by sculptor Cornelia Parker, which made £750.

Prizes in a giant tombola were donated by local businesses, while pupils set up their own stalls
to sell drinks, sweets, food and jewellery.

It has become the school’s most successful summer fair to date –raising a total of £6,000.

“The girls were all astonished to hear that they had raised so much more money than ever before because they had played a part in it this time. So hopefully it will encourage them to take part in the future,” said Ms Kitcatt. “They were very proud.”

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