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St John’s College Introduces Harare Talent Challenge at Annual Spring Fair

For the past twenty-five years, St John’s College has been hosting their annual Spring Fair on their school fields and this year was no different. Through the hard work of Parent Liaison Committee (PLC) chairs (past and present and parents), the Spring Fair has become the biggest of its kind in Zimbabwe. “This year, the Spring Fair boasted 200 exhibitors and 5000 guests despite bad weather,” says St John’s College’s current PLC chair, Georgie Harvey who has been responsible for organising the Spring Fair for the past four years, including the college’s most recent fair that took place on the 30th of September this year. The Spring Fair began as a fundraising initiative spearheaded by the school’s PLC. In its inception, the fair was a chance for Hararians to display their crafts and enjoy a day of fun (there was even a jumping castle for the little ones).

Some of the exhibitors displaying arts and crafts included Floral Wonder, Birdwoods, Everything Kikoy (Kenyan crafts), local driftwood sculptors, Zata Driftwood and Pretty Like Me, who displayed West African crafts. However, in the last few years, the Spring Fair has opened up to include several commercial exhibitors, a move that was introduced to keep the fundraiser viable with commercial outfits such as Union Hardware, Duly’s and Croco Motors showing their wares. Another welcome addition to the Spring Fair was a food centre, where a wide selection of foods was offered, from classic favourites such as Burger Boy’s burgers and hot dogs to more exotic delicacies such as Treat Gourmet Rolled Ice Creams. Queen of Hearts also ran the bar. The main highlight of the day, however, was the Harare Talent Challenge, which replaced the Musica Battle of the School Bands. The Talent Challenge was an initiative of both ZiFM, The St John’s College PLC and St John’s College HoD of Music, Mr Jonathan Kalonga.

The event was chiefly organised by volunteers and everyone was involved to help raise young, new talent into the community. “The idea was a competition with varied talents, not only singing, and in the end, we had an illusionist, dancers, singers, a singing group, a beatboxer, band, saxophonist, a drum group, and a mbira player. Contestants were judged on performance quality, entertainment value and “feel-good” factor. Whilst the completion was initially designed as a free platform for young artists to showcase their talents, ZiFM did some sterling work in assembling a selection of super prizes that would add to the enjoyment of participants,” said Stan Higgins, of Aquarius PR, who was the head judge of the competition.

Mr. Higginshas had decades of experience in the entertainment industry and he was previously involved in 2008’s Harare’s Got Talent. Other judges included: Liz Dziva, public relations Manager of MultiChoice Zimbabwe; Timikha Fisher, award-winning dancer and choreographer; and Blessing Chimanga, leading drummer and singer. All four judges gave freely of their time to help introduce new talent to the stage. The winner of the challenge was Tinotenda Dzingiso, a singer who won two tickets to Johannesburg courtesy of Fastjet, a $100 voucher from OK Mart and a four-track recording contract from Oskid Productions over and above a trophy from ZiFM. The first runnerup was Panashe Matsika, a dancer, who won two Fastjet tickets to Victoria Falls, a $75 voucher from OK Mart and a trophy from Bon Marche.

Khumbulani Munaku who was the second runner-up won two Fastjet tickets to Victoria Falls, a $50 voucher from OK Mart and $100 clothing voucher from Industria Clothing. There was also a People’s Choice Award, based on applause from the audience. The Choice Award went to Union5, a beatboxer. He received a trophy from Kefalos in addition to bags from Kefalos with ice cream vouchers inside. Toby French, a dancer, Bradley X, an illusionist, and the St John’s College drum corps were among the highlights of the show. The hope was that, if this year’s event proved successful, next year could see the start of a major talent competition, perhaps national, that would have its finals at the St John’s Spring Fair. This year’s pilot was done as a means of testing how it would work as a small but meaningful entertainment at the Spring Fair, but with an eye on how it could run as a major competition in the future. Calls for entries were made through schools, ZiFM radio station, and by word of mouth.

An audition was held on the 26th of August and a small but promising number of people came to this and on 16th of September, a public session was held to allow competitors to perform on stage in front of an audience ahead of their actual performance. “It was a highly entertaining event that even a little unexpected rain could not dampen, and as a person who loves to see newcomers given the chance to platform their talents, it was a huge success. It is my hope these performers (all of them) will continue to perform and expand their experience and search for expertise.

My recommendation to all impresarios, venue managers and people looking for talent is that they should make a point of attending events such as these, which open avenues for newcomers and give the people looking for new talent a chance to see the length and breadth of talent that is available. It is my belief that if each of our performers in this small but meaningful show were to pursue a career in the entertainment business they would each achieve success as they were all genuinely talented,” Mr. Higgins said. “I would love to see in 2019 a Harare Talent Challenge that draws from the talent in Harare and in 2020 and beyond a national competition! “This would, of course, require huge logistical, administrative and financial inputs but if the sponsorship could be achieved then it would be valuable to the community at large. Well done to St John’s and ZiFM for this wonderful initiative, which was an experiment that worked. Well done to all participants and prize donors.”

All in all, the Spring Fair was a success despite the bad weather and next year’s fair is set to be a worthwhile event for both commercial exhibitors and families alike.

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