Newham pupils to create opera based on life of child refugee who went from jail to university

PUBLISHED: 14:33 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:33 13 December 2017

The opera will be based on the life of child refugee and University of East London (UEL) graduate Jonathan Lofulo, pictured.

The opera will be based on the life of child refugee and University of East London (UEL) graduate Jonathan Lofulo, pictured.

University of East London

A child refugee who spent time in prison before earning a first-class degree is to have an original opera made of his life.

Canning Town resident Jonathan Lofulo, 30, fled the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo at approximately age 10 and fell in with a tough crowd before turning his life around to help young people.

Now, more than 250 Newham children from Lister, Rokeby, Sarah Bonnell, Upton Cross and Portway schools will help to create a production inspired by his experiences - both good and bad.

Newham Music CEO John Bergin, whose charity will provide guidance along with Royal Opera House-affiliated composers affiliated, called the project an innovative and inclusive community project.

He said: “Drawing inspiration from Jonathan Lofolo, our young people will create music to celebrate opportunity and the rich cultural diversity of Newham.

“We hope that this unique project will inspire our young people to share their experiences and explore the musical world around them.”

Jonathan, who recently met students from Lister Community School to recount his experiences, showed early promise as a sportsman in his formative years in Newham.

He trained as a footballer with West Ham and Arsenal football academies but after falling by the wayside, he was jailed for burglary.

Upon his release, he started turning his life around and graduated from a education studies course at University of East London in 2016.

He is now working on a master’s degree in Refugee Studies at UEL and wants to work with troubled teenagers.

Over the past month he has attended several opera development sessions to talk with the youngsters and impart some understanding of his life.

He said: “Jonathan said, “Speaking to the kids is a chance for me to highlight the importance of being educated. I’m able to reach out to these children and share my experience with them – and learn from them as well.”

Work on the opera will take place through 2018, with performances scheduled for July 10 at the Newham Music Festival of Youth.

The pupils’ relatives will also take part in the performances.

Related articles

Latest Newham Stories

Yesterday, 21:18

Essex beat Middlesex by six wickets with four balls remaining after chasing down the home side’s victory target of 211 at a packed Lord’s on Thursday evening.

Paul Stirling
Yesterday, 16:00

A piece from our Kick-Off pullout, where we preview the new National League season for Leyton Orient

Alex Lawless
Yesterday, 15:09

An 11-year-old girl is believed to be the youngest person in the country to pass an A or AS level exam.

Yesterday, 14:28

Abed Mosa-Al-Refaee, a Syrian refugee who fled the civil war in 2012, was among those celebrating A-level results in Newham today.

United Kingdom
Yesterday, 12:19

The headteacher of St Bonaventure’s has said that he is pleased with the school’s A-level results, which saw 100 per cent A*-C pass rate in eight subjects.

Forest Gate
Yesterday, 12:00

Marvin Ekpiteta has stepped up to the plate in the absence of the experienced defender

Josh Coulson
Yesterday, 11:34

A record number of students at the London Academy of Excellence have got into top universities.

Forest Gate
Yesterday, 10:41

More than 100 pupils at Brampton Manor Academy are celebrating straight A* and A grades this morning - and the entire year group have secured university places.

Brampton Manor Academy


Hanson Fernandes’ journey began in 2015 when he arrived in London from Goa, India.

Newsletter Sign Up

Newham Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Newham Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now