Octogenarian busker raises money for Guinea school

Reuben Fox is busking to raise money for Conakry school in the Republic of Guinea.

A BUSKER extraordinaire has appeared in the Food Terrace at Coffs Central recently, playing the piano from midday on Mondays and Wednesdays.

A piano teacher, tuner and local musical identity, 82-year-old Reuben Fox is playing with purpose.

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Through tinkling the ivories he’s raising money in support of the Believers Academy school in Conakry, Republic of Guinea.

His connection to the school is through a friend he made at Coffs Harbour’s Baptist Church, where he and his wife Margaret attend.

Anthony Nebo and his family immigrated to Coffs Harbour as refugees from Conakry nearly 20 years ago.

“We became good friends immediately through our mutual connection with the Baptist Church,” Reuben told News Of The Area.

On leaving Conakry, Anthony promised the community he would support the school as soon as he could get established in his new home in Australia.

“Some of my children attended the school so we had a really close connection,” Anthony told NOTA.

“When we settled in Coffs Harbour and tried to set up help for the school it was tough.

“My wife said to me ‘we can’t do this alone’ and that’s when we shared our story with our local Baptist Church.”

Reuben and Margaret took an immediate interest in Anthony’s project and have, along with many other like-minded people,joined the campaign.

Various events including a variety of musical evenings have assisted in raising funds to pay teachers’ wages and rent for the school.

In 2012 Anthony and Reuben went to Conakry to see how the Principal, Joseph Morlu, and his staff were managing.

“We were very pleased with the efficiency of how the school was running and certainly saw the school motto of ‘Discipline, Hard Work and Excellence’ being carried out in spite of the poverty of the families attending,” said Reuben.

From a small beginning this school now operates from kindergarten to Year 12, with 120 students taught by fourteen teachers.

“With little local work to be found, few families have money to contribute to the school’s running costs apart from some who are able to cover costs of desks and books.”

His piano-playing campaign brings Reuben’s authoritative delivery of a wide range of styles – classical contemporary, movie themes, evergreens and gospel – to the Food Terrace, and money is going in the collection hat.

Reuben’s catalogue of pieces played even take him back to his boyhood with ‘Somewhere my love’ and then the 1970s with ‘Where do I begin’ from Love Story.

His mostly-memorised repertoire also includes ‘Love Theme’ from The Godfather, ‘Dream of Olwyn’ and Henri Mancini selections.

The 1920s Gulbranson piano has been in the food court for the past few years.

Reuben has tuned it occasionally and played it on and off.

When he approached centre management with his ‘busking idea’ they gave him a big thumbs up.

He has since endeared himself to a very mixed audience.

“The audience seem more than satisfied with his selection and with his continuous playing; Reuben doesn’t leave much room for requests, maybe supplying an occasional one,” said Margaret.

Lucy Sittczenko, Marketing Manager at Gowings Coffs Central told NOTA, “At Coffs Central we encourage people to enjoy more than just shopping, therefore have filled the centre with pockets of places to rest, explore or recharge their creativity.

“Our piano on level one at our Food Terrace is but one example.

“We love to hear members of the community enjoying their time here, sharing a tune, taking a lesson or, like Reuben, playing for a cause.

“It’s such an unexpected surprise to hear the beautiful tunes echoing through the Food Terrace when
he plays; shoppers pause in admiration to listen and really appreciate the break in their day.

“We constantly receive compliments and the public are often filming or chatting with him,” she said.

Reuben says he’ll just keep busking as long as he can and as long as Believers Academy in Conakry is up and running.

Anyone wishing to support the fundraiser can donate to the following bank account.

Account name: Conakry Connection.

BSB: 082 551.

Account number: 738 647 126.


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