Recently co-founder Nick Johnson conducted an interview with fellow literary blogger Zoe Toft of Playing by the Book.  We thought supporters / readers might like to read more about the Pelican Post’s philosophy and objectives on all matters pertaining to better access to children’s fiction…

Tell us a little about Pelican Post and how it differs from other charities which send books to schools and communities.

I guess the key differentiating factors is that the Pelican Post is primarily focused on the relevance of appropriate reading material as opposed to the numbers game.   

For us, it’s not about getting a million books out to some region of Africa for blanket distribution to schools in that area, but about ensuring that the books delivered will have an immediate and sustainable impact.  That is why we focus only on delivering stories that children can relate to, and identify with. 

We want to be able to engage and inspire young minds to discover that reading can be a pleasurable experience and not to be viewed purely as something one must learn to improve one’s chances in life.   Few children that learn to read at school in Africa go on to continue their education past primary level.  Books and children’s stories are therefore vital in establishing a child’s own sense of self worth as well as providing the impetus to fuel a child’s imagination, and aspirations once their leave school.

And what better way to awaken a child’s imagination than reading the same story together in the classroom.  We often take our education for granted but for many schools throughout the developing world, not only are books generally in short supply but multiple copies of the same story are almost unheard of.  

That is why we aim to deliver enough copies of the same book so that teachers can practice shared classroom reading and children can discover the joy of sharing the reading experience together as a class.

Our other key objective is to try and personalise the experience of supporting a particular cause by providing that individual connection with a scheme and its aspirations.

We believe that social media will play a far greater role in the future of charitable giving than is  currently realized. 

Our aim is to provide the network infrastructure in place to enable individuals to make informed decisions and personal connections about charitable giving; to create global online communities dedicated to support a specific cause, community or a project, and for individuals to be able to personally assess and measure the collective impact that their very specific and targeted contribution has had on a specific recipient community.

Why have you adopted this very personal, direct approach? what are its advantages and disadvantages?

I don’t think it’s really about advantages and disadvantages but more about aligning with the future of charitable giving in general.  The current global economic crisis has resulted in greater competing pressures on charities for the same sources of funding, as well as greater scrutiny on how funds are allocated.  But it also has resulted in the general public becoming more conscientious about where their money is actually going and in particular a lot more cautious about supporting some of the larger charitable organizations who seemingly spend large amounts of money on marketing campaigns and have substantial overhead costs to maintain.

However, far from being in ‘difficult times’, we strongly believe that opportunities exist for those charities perceptive to this shift in people’s perceptions and expectations and the power of the internet which will ultimately transform and dictate the ways charities will be structured and operate in the future, and that can only be a good thing.

Who chooses the books on the wish lists, and on what basis are they chosen?

All books featured on the scheme have been selected in close consultation with other charities, supporting publishers, authors and partner organisations.  The current selection of books are all in English but are culturally appropriate for African children.  Many of the picture / early learner books also provide further educational content at the back of the book that relates to the particular story in terms of geography, history, language, culture and wildlife from which the story has been taken. 

Photo: Nick Johnson with Fiona Ross, Community Events Manager with partnering Publisher – Barefoot Books at their Oxford studio.

We are currently exploring further opportunities (and funding) to develop local language imprints of some of the books featured.

How are the schools you work with chosen?

Through past experience, schools are selected where there is strong support from a charity working to support a particular community within a clearly defined region. 

Selection criteria is also based upon those charities that can show a demonstrable commitment to advancing education, and where mission statements and values are in keeping with the Pelican Post’s objectives to advance literacy uptake, promote education and support sustainable development.   We also select charities that support schools where either the teaching syllabus is similar to that of the education system in England and / or where English is taught in the classroom.

Photo:  Reading lessons at Atse Fasil Elementary School, Gondar, Ethiopia

We also prefer to select small scale charities to support.   Because of the constraints in terms of funds and resources, and the high cost associated in purchasing, storage and shipping books, most charities focus on the funding and supply of other resources and in maintaining / supporting ongoing daily school life.  Reading materials and especially brand new and unread copies of children’s fiction rarely feature in fundraising projects.

What inspired you to set up Pelican Post?

It originally went on a life-changing expedition to Uganda with the youth development charity Raleigh International and with whom I am now a Global Ambassador. 

One particular project involved building a dormitory for the growing number of orphans (from the aids epidemic) and school girls that were attending a school we were working with.  Some of the children would come and help on the construction site and I became particularly good friends with one fourteen year old boy called George.  In the heat of the midday sun we would down tools and read the books that we had brought with us under the shade of a banana tree.  George had been watching me read intensely I realised afterwards, and when I finished, he asked me if he could have my book.  At the time I thought nothing of it, save there would be extra space in my rucksack, but the subsequent reaction by the school was overwhelming.  This random act of kindness which did not seem anything major to me, resulted in the whole team being invited to a local royal wedding as guests of honour, and it was only then that I realised that the school did not have any books.  As author Alexander McCall Smith who supports the scheme once said “Throughout much of Africa, a book is precious and therefore getting hands on a book is very important to people.” 

I realised that I wanted to do something further to improve children’s access to books but at the time didn’t know how.  It took the internet and a chance meeting with Body Shop founder Anita Roddick many years later to sow the seeds of the Pelican Post.  At the time she told me if you could get round the cost of shipping and storage, you may have an idea.  I told her that I did and she gave me her details to contact her as she said she would love to talk further.  Sadly I never did get the chance to talk with her again but out of that one meeting, the Pelican Post as an idea was born.

Pelican Post co-founder Nick Johnson

Have you thought about getting UK schools to link with Schools in the Pelican Post scheme? Schools could club together to send a parcel of books to a “twinned” school in Africa, perhaps?

Most definitely.  We are currently piloting a number of school based initiatives and based on feedback (which has been very positive), available resources and funding, plan to develop the model further later in the year.  That said we are definitely very keen to hear from as many schools out there as possible.  So if anyone is interested in learning more, getting involved or signing up to the shared reading schools link scheme we are developing, please email and get in touch.

What are your plans for the future?

For one, the schools scheme is something we are actively looking to develop and the website needs updating to reflect publisher involvement as well as the growing reading list of books and schools that we are supporting but for that we need to get further funding (and website expertise) which sadly takes time.

All the people currently involved in the scheme also have full time jobs so it’s quite exciting to think what we may be able to achieve if we were able to dedicate more time and resource to developing the scheme.  In that respect, we are also very keen to hear from anyone who would like to get involved and are always on the lookout for volunteers and administrator support.

Of the books on the wish lists for schools linked with Pelican Post, which are your personal favourites?

That is such a difficult question mainly in part because so many of the books featured on the reading list especially in the intermediate and more advanced reads were written by authors who were compelled to write their story based on their own personal experiences, making for me the stories they tell that more vivid and real.

Journey to Joburg by Beverley Naidoo (the very first author to endorse the scheme) is probably the most infamous in this respect as it based on the authors own personal experience and despite being a children’s story, was banned as propaganda during the apartheid era in South Africa.  

Another moving story we have recently added to the list is Gorilla Guerrilla by Nick Taussig which is based on Nick’s own encounter with a boy soldier in Uganda.  I also love Alexander McCall Smith’s fun packed series of adventure stories for boys about Akimbo – the son of a Game Park Ranger, partly because there are so few good books available at this level of age range and reading ability.

On a more introductory level, I think Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary Chamberlin should be on every primary school reading list!  What is especially nice about this story is that although it is set in Kenya, the story is universal in its appeal with a strong message to young and early readers about the importance of generosity and community.

Back in the Young Adult range, I can’t recommend enough The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird.  Based on her own personal experiences and with a message by one of the street children she met at the end of the book, this uplifting tale should be read by children and adults alike and I guarantee will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.  Everyone I have personally introduced this book to has loved reading it, so you can’t get much better praise than that.

What are your favourite books (for adults or children) written by African authors?

In terms of books on the Pelican Post reading list, I have already mentioned Beverley Naidoo  – Journey to Joburg, but another book in the Young Adult range is The Interview by the Journalist and Author Patrick Ngugi.  Again this is great uplifting tale set in Nairobi about a young man’s dream job which seemingly is lost when he does a good deed on the way to the interview.  This book deservedly won an award in the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa in 2002.

On a personal note, I have just finished reading deserved Orange Prize winner – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s moving portrayal of Nigeria’s civil war in Half a Yellow Sun.  Another supporting and inspiring Author – Ellen Akuu has just been shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Best Book Prize for her teenage story ‘Patchwork’.  One intended legacy of the Pelican Post is to inspire today’s children to achieve their own ambitions whatever they may be. Hopefully for some, this may lead to follow in the footsteps of great writers such as Chimamanda, and Ellen and become the next generation of  talented authors.

Many books purchased and donated at various events during the course of last year have made their way to two very grateful schools in Kenya.

Hotcourses primary school is based in Nyumbani village (swahili for ‘home’) in the Kitui district of eastern Kenya, (about 3 hours drive from Nairobi).  Nyumbani stands on one thousand acres of land donated by the Kitui District County Council and is in one of the poorest divisions of the District with a high incidence of HIV and a high number of HIV orphans.  

British charity Hotcourses Foundation has been supporting the village with a number of construction projects in recent years including a primary school and in 2010 – the opening of Lawson High School.   Books donated by  Pelican Post supporters have been hand delivered to stock classroom libraries in both schools  including one trip by a very special Postman: Hotcourses  Trustee, MP and Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport – Jeremy Hunt.   

Deliveries included 2o copies of the Garbage King for High School readers and multiple sets of early readers such as Handa’s Surprise and We’re Going On A Lion Hunt for Nyumbani primary school.    We hope to bring you further updates on how the schools are getting on with the books in the coming year.  For more information about all of the projects that the Hot Courses Foundation are currently involved in Kenya, please visit  

Nurse Debbie Perkin and fellow Pelican Post supporter recently returned from another trip to Kenya where she has been working with two health clinics operating inthe notorious slums of Nairobi.   Debbie, who has made many visits to the city over the last ten years, also delivered Pelican Post books to 3 inspiring primary schools working under the most difficult of circumstances.   This is what she had to say in words and pictures… 

…”My Kenya trip was incredible as always but also quite challenging after spending 2 weeks solid in Kibera slum!  The first school I visited was the Hope Restoration School in Kibera which faces daily challenges due to its situation etc. The head teacher Pastor Laighdon, teachers and children were absolutely thrilled with the books. This is also one of the schools I took out for the day to the animal orphanage and crocodile park. Amazing how children and adults from Africa have never seen a lion before!

Jabes school in the Embakasi/pipeline slum area of Nairobi.  Amazingly, that tiny little impoverished school has come 3rd in the whole world in an arts competition and 3 of the children may get chance to come to London. It shows to me that with the right head teacher and motivation, any one can achieve something.

St Thomas school used to be in the Kware slum area but following slum clearance and demolition by the Kenyan government, has relocated and supports some 200 children.  It is run by Pastor Brown who rebuilt the school in its new location and is doing a wonderful job.

For more information on Pelican Post, please visit or to make a donation go to

“The real gift is out of all proportion to the cost of the books.  It is wonderful for these students to know that they are not forgotten and we are all linked.”

As December 2011 came to a close we at Pelican Post Towers were thrilled to receive a flurry of updates from partnering schools including one particular inspiring story from Mvumi School in Tanzania. 

School teacher Julia Bengough has just returned from an incredibly successful but intensive 9 week English course she has put together to see if the participating school children can learn enough English to start secondary school with more confidence  in January.  In Julia’s own indomitable words  she picks up the story here…

…this is the classroom we have using for my 81 (yes 81!) students who have arrived from primary school – 25 children are sponsored and from extremely poor homes.  They are from subsistence farming families and are often cared for by extended families. 

 My brief is to teach a new/trial intensive English course to Primary School leavers who start Secondary School in January where all lessons will suddenly be in English.   So I have got to be ahead of them in Physics, maths, biology, chemistry etc to go through the vocabulary.   Now that is really taxing!   Yesterday I was in an argument as to whether a mouse was a reptile.   Why is a cow a mammal?   What is the difference between a toad and a frog.  Dictionaries no good as the Swahili is the same!

I prepared my course knowing that a great many of your books would be waiting safely locked in The Head of Department’s room.    However, I was bowled over in the first week of getting here to get another 6 envelopes of lovely shiny, and pristine books (and don’t you relish that lovely “new book” smell?).    The books are completely invaluable.   Some of the students have had a fairly westernised experience of school before they get here but most have received their primary education by copying from cracked and dusty blackboards.  

I am back in my old house and am being reminded of the hide and seek with cockroaches and termites which I had forgotten…and then there’s the weather!  The heat has been at its height before the rains arrive in December and my bedroom is regularly above 30 even with curtains drawn all day.    I found a baby black mamba in my bedroom the night before last.   Where there is one – there is a nest – so I am being quite ginger when picking things up.

The lessons start at 8 am and we get half an hour chai break around 10.40 then solid lessons till 02.30 pm which is lunch.   It is pretty gruelling for all of us.  Six hours non stop lessons!   Am plundering the nursery songs to break it up – usually turning them to chants with finger clicking and clapping … Getting away with it so far.   

Two visiting post graduate volunteers from the UK assisted in the classroom and we formed a strong team.  I included some cross curricular lessons which were geography, mathematics, biology, social science, and history.   The basic vocabulary in these subjects was covered as a priority and the content was also well received.  We used the new contexts to consolidate language and structure from grammar lessons.   

The classroom was split for remedial classes from time to time but we managed to keep the class together because of the effective teamwork of the class assistants.   In the last stage of the course peer teaching was successful.

We regularly incorporated songs, role play, drawing and colouring, reading sessions, outside activities, puzzles and problem solving as well as grammar, exercises, pair and group work , comprehension and other typical language teaching techniques.

Two large classrooms were allocated to the course.    The main classroom was lockable which was a huge bonus as we could cover the walls with information, students’ artwork and illustrations and we could leave books and other materials securely at the end of the day.  

We have not got text books of course but the classroom fell on the books that I brought with me which were largely donated by Pelican Post.  I am working on a way to rotate them as they literally fight for them.   And their English is DEFINITELY improving and I am convinced that the knock on effect of having access to reading books and being competitive about what they have read is extremely stimulating.

We have received some very favourable feedback from parents and students.  I feel confident that there will be an improvement in how these students begin their studies in Form One because of this Year Zero (or even term Zero) course.   They have learnt some study techniques and thinking skills and most have achieved a good basic level of competency in English.   They are a lovely group of young Tanzanians.  

We also recently received a letter from the Headmaster of DCT Mvumi Secondary School who wanted to send this message to all our readers and supporters…

“This is just a quick note to thank you in advance and the pelican post for the tireless efforts

you take to donate books for our school (D.C.T.Mvumi Secondary school).  The titles we receive contribute significantly to the improvement of reading habit and the mastery of English language in particular.

 The students are especially excited reading  “The interview”, A journey to Jo’burg, “Akimbo and the elephant””Tales from Africa”, “Amina and the shell” and “The Bush” to mention a few.

On behalf of the students and the school in general, I would like to thank you once again for your generous support. May God Bless you abundantly as you continue stretching a helping hand for the need.”

Pelican Post has formed a partnership with the Goge Foundation to bring storybooks to schools, and pupils in Lagos, and Nigeria. This is an exciting development for both organisations because Goge Foundation has exclusive access to hundreds of schools within Lagos and its surrounding states.

To mark the occasion, Tunji Akinsehinwa – Director and Trustee of the Pelican Post, delivered 40 books donated through the scheme to Kudub Primary School in Lagos state. There was also an interactive Session, where the children laughed and asked questions as they read their new books out loud with glee.

 This event marks the beginning of an initiative between GAF and Pelican Post to develop and encourage a healthy reading habit amongst Nigerian children. Through this partnership with Goge we also aim to generate feedback from Nigerian schools on how their students assimilate books, their literary interest level and novel concerns about reading. There were photo sessions with the brand Ambassadors of Goge Africa – Nneka and Isaac Moses; and copies of these life-long images will be sent to their children for their own Journals.

Goge’s work culminates in an annual career, guidance and counselling seminar with over 5000 school children in attendance. Pelican Post has been invited to attend and participate next year in June 2012. In addition, Goge Foundation has excellent links throughout the African continent and this will allow Pelican Post to have greater contact and ease of access to schools across the entire continent.

Earlier this year, Alexander McCall Smith, author of the highly successful book series, The No1 Ladies Detective Agency kindly took time out of his incredibly busy writing schedule to talk to Clemency Burton Hill about his life, inspiration, characters and anything else that may come up in conversation at an event in support of the Pelican Post.

Image courtesy of Chris Watts.

Alexander, is always a fascinating and engaging author to hear in conversation  not only for the colourful and varied characters he brings to life in his books but for his other activities and interests that he supports outside of his writing.

Sadly the Pelican Post team budget did not stretch to a full BBC broadcast film crew to capture this glorious moment but we did manage to pull off our very technical coup and even more miraculously (although admittedly it has taken a while ) upload some footage to share to our supporters and fellow McCall Smith fans.  A big thank you also to Clemency for  hosting a charming afternoon, and for teasing out some wonderful insights into McCall Smiths methodological approach to writing and revelations about the origins of Madame Ramotswe and the No 1  Ladies Detective Agency.  To see and hear more from this interview, please click on the video vodpod image to the right of this blog or go to

We are also thrilled to count Alexander McCall Smith a fan of the Pelican Post.  Indeed Alexander has kept a close interest in the development of the charity from almost the very outset, when he had his to say this about the scheme.

“I think this scheme is wonderful, and I am very keen to support this.  Throughout much of Africa, a book is precious and therefore getting hands on a book is very important to people.  What is also very appealing about the Pelican Post is that I think it is rather nice for children to be able to read stories that they can identify with.”

The scheme may only still be in its infancy, but Alexander’s skill at writing also extends to children’s stories.  In particular one series of adventures about the son of a Park Ranger – Akimbo,  is proving to be a hit with a new fan base of kids in schools throughout Africa;

To date, the Pelican Post through pledges by supporters from all around the globe, have managed to send sets of Akimbo books to schools in Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania…

Image:  Pupil at Dwabor School in Ghana.

And feedback from individual children has also been really inspiring.  One boy wrote in his homework that he found Akimbo and the Elephants “very interesting because of certain aspects portrayed in it.  I was able to learn that the task of wildlife protection is not only meant for grown ups but also for teenagers and youth. Also I learnt about the treasure that we have in our African continent.”

We also managed to prepare a surprise for our esteemed guess and with a bit of magic pokery were able to relay some personal messages to the author from children attending Dwabor School in Ghana.  Click on the link below to see and hear more from what they had to say (or alternative click on the vodpod image – we love reading)….

Image:  Girls at Mvumi School, Tanzania enjoying Akimbo and the Elephants.

This summer, the Pelican Post team were invited to feature at one of the UK’s leading music festivals – Camp Bestival – famous for its focus on family fun and laid back atmosphere.  This year’s festival was no exception with music from the likes of Blondie, Groove Armada, The Wonderstuff, Mark Ronson and Primal Scream (personal favourite) as well as a mind-boggling smorgasbord of other family fun packed events and activities including jousting, Shrek the Musical, insect circus, arts and crafts, English National Ballet, freestyle BMX and skateboarding …and well the list just went on  and on.   

As if that wasnt enough, Sunday saw a spectacle of  lights, cartoons and fireworks all in time to music projected on to the front of Lulworth Castle and bringing the end to an incredible festival (and not much sleep! )  A huge thank you to the organisers for allowing us to be part of a quite magical four days.

 And what a great four days for Pelican Post too!  We had no idea what to expect but were really gob-smacked with the the huge amount of public interest and support that we received…and most signficantly we sold alot of books and all for direct donation to  partnering schools. 

Indeed this one event  enabled us to deliver several thousands pounds worth of brand new children’s books and ALL were successfully delivered direct to partnering schools within a matter of weeks.

Many of the books delivered arrived in September / October so that Teachers could start using them straight away in classrooms when schools reopened in September.  Supporters from Camp Bestival should be hearing in the next couple of weeks about where their individually donated book has arrived but we are thrilled to report that Pelicans took flight to all corners of Africa and successfully delivered books to schools in Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria. 

Many of the schools received mutiple copies of a particular children’s title and some schools even received full sets (20 copies).  We plan to post more pictures on the web soon, but here is just a small selection of some of the pupils enjoying their bright, glossy new books in schools in Nigeria and Ghana.

As the pictures show, the books  are a big hit with all and very gratefuly received.  They will undoubtedly have an immediate impact on reading classes, and we look forward to reporting on their progress.

If you have been inspired and would like to regularly donate to the scheme, you can now donate directly to the charity at  Just type in The Pelican Post in the box under ‘Find a Charity’ which should take you to our donate page.  We plan to integrate this further with the Pelican Post website very soon…

The team here at Pelican Post Towers are delighted to receive an endorsement of support fom the thought provoking and very talented author and film producer Nick Taussig.  Nick is the author of four critically acclaimed novels; love and Mayhem, Don Don,the Distinguished Assassin and Gorilla Geurrilla.  

Always gripping and provocative in equal measure – one of Nicks works – Gorilla Geurrilla  was recently featured at the Pelican Post stand at Camp Bestival, and has also has been supplied to partner school classroom libraries in schools in Ghana and Kenya (more to follow on a future blog).

Gorilla Geurrilla tells the story of two twelve year old orphans – Kibwe a young boy soldier and Zuberi a young silverback gorilla both on the run from the violent hand of man.  The novel explores the best and worst of human nature in the light of our ape inheritance and given its mature themes did certainly raise interesting debate as to its how this book would be received by a young adult (YA) audience in schools in Africa. 

Of course the beautiful thing about books as fellow supporting author Beverley Naidoo once said, is that they go on journeys for whoever reads them, and a key mission for the Pelican Post is to provide the catalyst to motivate, inspire and question young minds whatever the subject matter.   This is an area where teenage fiction author Ellen Hopkins whole heartedly agrees; “I don’t believe hiding behind pretty fiction will make the things we’re afraid of go away.  Facing our fears head on is how we conquer them, and that goes for our children too.”   (quote courtesy of Words with Jam; – thanks Catriona!)

And as Nick goes on to advocate, todays young generation are tomorrow’s leaders…

“Books are vital for children. They stir their hearts and minds. And what better place to nurture young minds than in Africa, a continent in great need of better governance, which young readers of books provided by Pelican Post might one day be able to provide.”

Like “The Garbage King” by Elizabeth Llaird – another YA read featured on our reading list,  Gorilla Geurrilla is a tale inspired by real events as told by Nicks meeting with Ojok Charles –  a ten year old boy who was captured in 2002 by the cult Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda and forced to commit attrocities against his will on behalf of the rebel group.  In the case of Ojok, his story fortunately had a happy outcome and he managed to escape to relive his story to Nick.   In Nick’s own words…

“When I finished writing I returned to Uganda. I was anxious to see Ojok, to give him a copy of the book. Back at school, I’d heard that he was near the top of his class. I waited at the school gates. It had rained that morning, but now the grey sky was slowly clearing, the sun pushing through a black bank of clouds. A young man walked towards me: he was smiling.”

Ojok was fortunate enough to have found support in a charitable foundation in Uganda called Outside the Dream which helps former child soliders get back to school.  Sadly, for many kidnapped children forced to become rebel soldiers in various parts of Africa such as in the Congo, the chances of escape and of obtaining a basic level of education are slim.

Such encounters with children like Ojok not only inspired Nick’s to write his critically acclaimed novel but also to establish The Mtaala Foundation ( – a charity which creates and supports educational communities for vulnerable children and at-risk youth, including those affected by poverty, war, and HIV/AIDS by empowering youth through learning and giving back to their community.   It partners with individuals and villages in Uganda to create secondary schools where none exist, and connects the schools’ students with international sponsors and organisations such as The Pelican Post to provide resource support and fund their educations.

To read more about Ojok’s story and the inspiration behind Gorilla Geurrilla, please visit

For more information about the work of The Mtaala Foundation in Uganda, please visit

Apart from writing criticaly acclaimed novels, Nick also heads up an entertainment production company – Gunslinger Entertainment and is up for two award nominations for the film “Sket”  at this years BFI (British Film Institute) London Film Festival opening on Wednesday 12th October 2011.  Very best of luck Nick!

For more information about Nick Taussig, his other critically acclaimed novels, or about his film production company Gunslinger go visit

Photo courtesy of the Farnham Herald (

Despite some clouds, rainstorms and the optimistic BBC forecast of strong hurricane tail winds(?!), the first ever kids festival – Kidsfest organised by kids for kids was  a resounding success , with several thousand visitors turning out to partake in the mayhem!

The festival which was officially opened by child actor, Daniel Roche from the hit comedy tv series, “Outnumbered”, offered visitors to the festival a myriad of totally mind bending wacky activities to try out which could only have been conjured by some very creative imaginations.

Activities ranged from learning to play the Digerreedo (so sure Ive spelt that wrong) to the Scout tent where kids could eat roasted rat on a stick (I kid you not!) and nitrogen ice cream, to games such as ‘chuck a frog in the bog’, jelly welly racing around an assault course, and hurling baked bean catapaults at targets not to mention the now infamous, longest official custard slide!!!!   Adults if your considering taking your kids next year – you have been officially warned!

Photo courtesy of the Farnham Herald (

Other activites, children could try their hand at included weaving rugs, making bandana’s, acting classes, a massive dressing up tent, farm yard petting zoo, a big sand castle play area and building a big lego boat.  There were also two stage areas – a music stage and a dance stage with lots of local bands including the brilliant Carolina Blue to get the festival into a fine swing, not to mention the kids got talent contest.

The Pelican Post were also there as one of only a handful of charities invited to feature at the event and was proud to be associated with such a refreshing new festival.  A big thank you to the organisers for allowing us to get involved and to all those revellers who visited our stall and posted books via our Pelican Post Box to supporting schools in Africa, most of which were delivered direct to a school in Kampala, Uganda and were officially presented to the school by Ka Tutandike Trust last week.

We understand that all the fun had a serious cause to raise funds for the Bishops Meadow Trust which is campaigning to purchase a section of floodplains along the River Wey and hence protect this area of natural beauty from further development.  For more information about the festival or to get involved next year please visit .

We can’t wait to be invited back next year!  🙂

A big thank you to Tina and Stephen Sommer and the rest of the team for delivering books donated from a previous Waterstones event to participating schools supported by charity – Link Ethiopia (  Below, Tina recalls a very personal account of their experience delivering pelican post books…

 “I have never been so

overwhelmed and humbled

at the same time.”

…all arrived safely in Gondar after 1 international and then 2 internal flights.  We had been warned that the plane could depart without off-loading all the luggage if time was short but this time round we were lucky and arrived safely in Gondar with all the books in tow.
Having settled in, Belayne from Link Ethiopia invited him to join us for dinner on the Thursday evening.   We talked quite a lot about the work of Link Ethiopia and he introduced us to Elsa, his assistant, (a former English teacher now doing an MA) who would take us to 2 of the partnering schools.  He agreed to deliver the other books to Atse Fasil as it was too far away for us to get to.  The next day, Stephen and I returned to the office with Sybil (co-organiser of the trip) and carrying 5 kg of books we set off  with Elsa “round the corner” to Hibret.   This is an Ethiopian “round the corner”!!  Remember the distances they run!  
About a mile later in the afternoon sun we arrived at this large run down group of buildings set around a dusty yard  with a corrugated building labeled “toilets”.  The headmaster welcomed us and invited some pupils to meet with us.   All the children were eager to hold the books, tell us their names and shake out hands.  We were thanked and then left the school.
We took a tuk tuk back to the town centre and then a taxi to Kebele 16.  The landscape was of unmade narrow roads, mud or corrugated structures for homes/shops and a total air of decay and poverty.  At the school, after a few moments with the security guard we went to the office to meet the headmaster and the director who were absoloutely delighted with the books and wanted details of the senders.  We showed them the Pelican Post logos inside with the personal messages written by supporters.  
 Again a group of children materialised and we had a great photo session – word got out and more children came!  Then we were shown around the school…  
…There are over 2,850 pupils who attend in morning and afternoon shifts.  A classroom we went into had over 85 children seated 12 each side of 3 long tables and the rest crammed in at the top on stools or on the floor at the front.  A small bookcase with half a dozen books, a blackboard, chalk and a rubber.  
On the teachers table (not a desk) was a small jar.  The teacher explained that when orphaned pupils needed a new pencil they could buy one using  the donated  money in the jar.  (Naturally we put some in).  When we went in to the class the children all stood up and sang us a welcome song.!  We noticed that when the teacher turned her back the children remained silent until she spoke to them.  The good behaviour in the face of all the poverty was a salutary lesson.  We went to the library.  A few bookshelves with some books and a couple of tables.  The science lab again had a couple of tables, and one wall housed the physics equipment – charts on the wall and some magnets;  the biology cupboard had some test tubes, diagrams of the human body and one microscope;  the chemistry wall had a sink and some charts.  Once children reach secondary school age all lessons are conducted in English, so to get any form of education they must understand English.  All text books (maths, physics, chemistry, geography, computing etc is all in English).  
The whole school was essentially a group of huts.  Yet the outside of each building was painted with  world maps,  alphabets,  periodic tables and loads of other useful information.   Not a spot of graffiti in sight.  
One evening we went to a class at another school where children pay  to attend for 2 hours just to improve their English.  I have never been so overwhelmed and humbled all at one time.  These children want to learn.  Some walk miles to school each day, others do evening work to pay for their uniforms (the law states no child may go to school without a uniform – and it is only a pair of cotton trousers/skirt and top) .   All in all it was a fantastic experience…


Date: 03 March 2011
Time: 1PM – 3:30 PM
Place: The Royal Geological Society, Piccadilly, London
Price:  £15 ( proceeds will go to support The Pelican Post)
Booking: To Reserve a place please email

We are extremely honoured to announce that celebrated and prolific Author Alexander McCall Smith has kindly taken time out his busy writing schedule to talk about his life, inspiration, characters and anything else that might come up in conversation at an exclusive event to support the Pelican Post in London on 03 March 2011 (World Book Day).

 We are no less thrilled to also announce that Alexander will be joined by TV Proms Presenter Clemency Burton-Hill as she delves into the imaginative mind of this best selling author.

Alexander, is always a fascinating and engaging author to hear in conversation, not only for the colourful and varied characters he brings to life in his books but for his other activities and interests that he supports outside of his writing.  (Alexander’s operatic work and involvement with The Really Terrible Orchestra may get a mention given Clemency’s shared passion for music!)  Whatever the topic of conversation, Alexander’s  witty anecdotes, his characteristic cheerfulness in person, and general postive demeanour and approach to both his characters and life in general always make for a popular event with audiences up and down the land.

Alexander will also be answering questions from the audience, as well as talking exclusively with Clemency about the inspiration behind his latest book – the twelfth no less in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series – ” The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party” and his other most recent publication – “The Importance Of Being Seven” both of which will be available for sale and for book signing along with other titles written by Alexander after the event.  Supporters can pre-order a copy of his latest book by emailing with proceeds from the sale going towards The Pelican Post.




To be sure to have reserved a place for this event or to contact the organisers for further information, email