National Youth Music Camp founder dies

The Stables
The Stables

The woman who inspired hundreds of city children to become musicians has died at the age of 90.

Avril Dankworth, sister of the late international jazz player John Dankworth, founded the National Youth Music Camps in the field at the back of The Stables at Wavendon.

While John and his wife Cleo Laine were busy converting the Wavendon stable block into a theatre, Avril began organising the summer camps for children aged seven to 17.

There was no grade of entry required to spend the week under canvas and play instruments. The only qualification needed, insisted Avril, was a love of music.

Forty three years later the project continues to flourish.

Still managed by the Stables, it attracts 200 children each summer and has bursaries available to ensure cost is not a barrier.

Avril, who died of a chest infection, was awarded a honorary doctorate in 1990 for her services to music education.

Many of her former campers went on to have successful careers in the music industry. These include Guy Chambers, Thom Yorke, Dominic Miller, Tim Firth and Christian Garrick.

National Youth Music Camp artistic director Sarah Watts told the Citizen: “Avril Dankworth’s motto was ‘Make Music Fun’ and she certainly did this, often changing lives in the process.”

Avril, who started her career as a singer, was married to Leslie Carew, a famous trombonist during the big band era.

She wrote several books and was instrumental in improving the music curriculum in schools.

> Anybody wanting to know more about the National Youth Music Camps, which run this year between July 28 and August 17, can contact Graeme Surtees at The Stables on 01908 280814.