The Starlight Music Academy are a Kennington-based organisation offering music and dance training to young people in the area.
As Dave Hill reported earlier this month, they had been due to lose their premises, but were given a last minute reprieve by the LDA.
Unfortunately for them they also have connections with Lee Jasper and Brixton Base. This has not gone unnoticed by Andrew Gilligan:
From: Orin Alexander [LDA]
Sent: 26 March 2009 09:42
To: Rebecca Arnold [GLA]
Subject: Offley Works - Evening Standard Article
Further to our letter to the Assembly on the subject of Offley Works, I wish to inform you that Andrew Gilligan has advised of his intention to write an article in today's edition of the Evening Standard which is critical of the LDA's decision to offer an extension of the lease to Starlight Music Academy. Apart from linking the organisation to Lee Jasper, it appears that his article will be based on his enquiries which suggest that Starlight Music Academy is "not doing anything". He implies that that there are more deserving organisations around who could benefit from such premises...
For some reason Andrew's article about Starlight "not doing anything" has failed to appear in today's edition.
Perhaps he has some final facts to check, or perhaps he's looking for some positive accounts of their work to add to the piece.
Or perhaps it has something to do with this account by the Director of Starlight themselves:
----- Original Message -----
From: Shanice DuffusTo: Starlight Sent: Thu Mar 26 12:02:46 2009Subject: Fw: Surprise visitor to SMA yesterdayGuess who visited Starlight Music Academy yesterday?Andrew Gilligan!!Remember The Evening Standard journalist and reporter who was at the centre of bringing down Ken Livingston and Lee Jasper using accusations against Brixton Base to the benefit of Boris Johnson’s mayoral election campaign. Yes!!!He arrived at SMA around 6:30 pm, our singing classes were taking place in the Starlight Performance Hall and dancers in the Academy Hall were beginning to assemble for their dance rehearsal class.Andrew joined me in the SMA office which I pointed out we had built 2 years ago from an empty shell. I was already in the company of two of our trustees and an SMA media volunteer talking SMA business when he arrived.All our attention then diverted towards Andrew and we all spent the next two hours or so answering his countless questions and us piling loads of evidence of the works we were engaged in doing in support of young people.Firstly he wanted to know how many young people used SMA on a weekly basis as he claimed he was outside the Offley building last Wednesday (19th March 09) and he only saw two people come in the building, “one with a Black leather Jacket”.I said he must have been at the wrong building because we had around 30 people in an SMA meeting and around 12 students in a vocal class. He insisted he only saw two and asked again how many people visit SMA per week I estimated around 100, again he disputed this so, to resolve the matter, I took him to the security desk, requested the signing in sheets for the past week and gave it to Andrew to count.Andrew proceeded to count the entries but ONLY those who had specifically recorded their visit or business as SMA related. When I pointed out that some of the drama and dance students who had entered ‘dance’ or ‘drama’ and not SMA were also users of SMA services he refused to count them. This limited count that he insisted on proceeding with totalled 277 (two hundred and seventy seven) SMA visits within one week.Almost three times my original modest estimate. Most people would have been astounded at the throughput but he still remained unconvinced of our popularity and our true legitimacy. This led to one of our trustees openly questioning his motives and attitude. He claimed to have checked with Lambeth, The Oval House and Raw Materials and none of them had heard of us.We nevertheless showed him we were more than willing to provide him with any info he wanted. He pleased for a quite office but we said no. If we have to put up with this every evening to keep young people off the streets then he could put up with it for one evening.With Andrew in tow in his investigative unconvinced mode and tone, we proceeded back to the office, through the Academy Hall, noisy with around 15 dancers beginning their rehearsal session and walked by through the Starlight Performance Hall, which was buzzing with the voices of around 15 singers who were enjoying their signing lesson. We then turned in to the SMA office.He asked about our funding, we explained we get very little funding but do what we can with the little we get and explained that volunteers do most of the work. One of our trustees pointed out she has been volunteering with the organisation for over 8 years and has never even claimed entitlement towards petrol costs.We took Andrew to see the lovely new studio recently refurbished and kitted with new equipment. He looked but felt it was too hard to admit it looked nice.Back in the office, with Gilligan still dissatisfied, he asked to see our accounts. We showed him our 08/09 meticulous computerised accounting system with individual entries then went to our locked cupboard filled with files and pulled out our 07/08 audited accounts. He looked through them, made notes as we said he couldn’t take them away as we needed them for our files.He enquired in to how we vetted out tutors, we showed him two large files filled with tutor and volunteer CVs, reference request letters, references received and where appropriate CRB certificates. He saw signed SMA Tutor Expectations documents, Principle and Values statements for tutors, thus demonstrating SMA had a history of having effective and robust checking systems in place and documents to ensure a safe and user friendly environment is created for young people.He said whose our most eminent tutor, we called in Isaiah Raymond who happened to conducting the vocal class. Andrew asked Isaiah to tell him a bit about himself.Isaiah explained he was the founder member of Raymond & Co. former MOBO award winners and winners of the GMTV gospel awards competition. He told of his successful album and the works he does in support of young people at SMA.After Isaiah left the room Andrew switched to enquire about our relationship with Lee Jasper who had apparently been championing our organisation last week at a police consultative meeting. We told him that Lee was a friend of the organisation and that if it were not for Lee Jasper SMA would still be out on the streets with no where to run its services from.He asked why we had defended Brixton Base in a letter last year to the Evening Standard. We said as far as were concerned, 1) Innocent until proven guilty and 2) It was a political campaign.He insisted Brixton Base were guilty of offences, we asked if any charges had been brought to date and he said “no” but a house had been seized. We said we were not defending Brixton Base if they are guilty but know of many cases in our community where young people in particular had had cases wrongly brought against them and had even been charged to then be cleared of wrong doing. We left that discussion.We asked him why the hostile and unfriendly attitude? He said, “There are groups around here who are not happy that we are in this building for free and they have to pay. ”We told him that unlike most other organisations around providing services for young people we do not have any full time staff, get hardly any funding but if we were to get some money we would gladly pay for our keep.We asked him what his concluding views were of our organisation. He said, well at first he thought it was a bit of a scam but realises its not. But, he said, he was still concerned that not no one has heard of us and that we want a 99-year lease on the building as well as requesting a meeting with Boris.We asked him to convey our best wishes to Boris, and that he (Andrew) was welcome to come back and visit us at anytime.He left SMA and took advantage of a quick look around at some of the other parts of the building that he had spent the past year writing about but had not seen the inside of.It was around 9 pm when Andrew left to the deafening ringing of young people enjoying their singing and dance rehearsal class at SMA.We wait to read what his views were of his visit to Starlight Music Academy.-----Message Ends-----
Don't worry Shanice. I'm sure Andrew's fair and balanced account of your work will appear in the Evening Standard any time soon.
-Update- Andrew has now swung his hatchet