Highgate boy denied cello lessons after funding cuts

A four-year-old Highgate boy with a passion for classical music has been left “devastated” after being told his free cello lessons have been cut by his children’s centre – the day before his birthday.

Jahleel Weisser, of Holly Lodge Estate in Makepeace Avenue, first picked up the stringed instrument last year at Archway Children’s Centre, where he attended the “groovy tots” music classes.

Two cellists who ran the class were so enamoured with his passion for the instrument that they agreed to lend him a cello and give him free lessons.

But on Thursday, September 15, his mother Tamatha was forced to break the devastating news that the lessons will come to an abrupt end.

Islington Council has said Jahleel will no longer be allowed to visit the centre because he lives in Camden, just a few streets away from the borough’s borders.

Single mother Ms Weisser said:“When I told him initially he didn’t say anything, but five minutes later he just started crying.

“He had been practising all summer ready to impress his teachers.

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“It was his birthday the next day and his best friend gave him a cello practice book and you could see his eyes light up because it would have been the perfect present, but under the circumstances it was just really upsetting.”

The centre has also withdrawn the loan of cello to Jahleel, as it is under pressure to get a rental income from the instrument because of funding cuts.

Determined to keep up his love of music alive, the four-year-old has started fundraising to buy his own cello, which is one tenth the size of the full stringed instrument.

He has so far collected �80 from friends and family instead of receiving birthday presents, but cellos cost around �500.

“He likes everything that all little boys like but music is his love,” said his mother. “He has got a real talent.

“I couldn’t bear the thought that he had taken something up so enthusiastically, only to have it taken away from him.

“Playing the cello can be seen as a bit elitist and it is not something everyone has access to.

“But it is something he has got this affinity with, there is no way of explaining where it comes from, that is just the way it is.”

Cllr Richard Watts, executive member for children and young people, Islington Council said: “We’re on the side of local families and so will keep open all of Islington’s 16 Sure Start Children’s Centres despite the government’s cuts.

“But many of the activities at our children’s centre sessions are very popular.

“This is why we are restricting some activities in our children’s centres to Islington families only.”

* To donate to the cello fund contact the Ham&High on 020-7433 0000 or email kate.ferguson@archant.co.uk