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

The opera will be based on the life of child refugee and University of East London (UEL) graduate Jo

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

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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.