January Update -Rob Miller reports on the final push to fill a container full of instruments to send to Cuba in April

“The schools, teachers and students don’t have much in terms of material resources, mainly due to the impact of the illegal US blockade, but they have opportunity, talent, dedication and enthusiasm — and that’s both the staff and the students.”

Neil Sledge National Education Union delegate to Cuba October 2018

There are now 35 regional collection coordinators for the Play for Cuba appeal across England, Scotland and Wales and there are lots and lots of wonderful reports of donations coming in everywhere.

Early indications show that we already have over 200 musical instruments collected as well as loads of ballet shoes and other equipment with lots more in the pipeline. People across the country are now getting involved in the Play for Cuba appeal and are developing lots of imaginative ideas to spread the word and collect donated items:

The Ferret Pub in Preston is holding regular music events and collecting donations. Manchester have already collected 6 guitars, a ukulele, a clarinet, a keyboard and some music stands. They are also organising a Play for Cuba benefit event at El Cuba Libre venue in Hyde, 2- 5pm on Sunday 17 February 2019.

Ran Kan Kan

The music group Ran, Kan, Kan are holding concerts around Oxford where collecting instruments for Cuba is part and parcel of the evening out. The group have already collected several violins, clarinets, guitars, trumpets, flutes, a euphonium, a cello and more.

A great idea has been hatched by Play for Cuba supporters in Hackney who are holding a music benefit evening on 27 January at the Vortex jazz venue where admission can be paid for by donating a musical instrument for the appeal! Members of Madness will be amongst the performers playing alongside the brilliant Cuban violinist Omar Puente and Cuban guitarist Ahmed Dickinson.

In Leicester collections are going well with the local National Education Union office taking a leading role. They have already collected 2 classical and 1 electric guitar, a drum kit, 3 violins, flutes and loads of recorders. Plymouth already have 5 violins, 8 flutes, 2 clarinets, 3 saxophones, guitars and some repair kit and spare parts, with lots more promised in the coming months.

South Wales are working with the Merthyr Rising music festival and the Musicians union.  They have circulated the leaflets to the Welsh College of Music and Drama and at the Welsh NEU conference. Collections are going really well.


Birmingham are working hard in the area and have already collected 8 guitars, 2 violins, a full sized electric keyboard, a lute and 6 music stands. Sheffield have 8 guitars, a keyboard and other instruments mainly through promoting the appeal through music shops and the local Labour Party.

Why support Play for Cuba?

Neil Sledge visited Cuba as a National Education Union delegate and wrote about Cuban music education. It reminds us just why Play for Cuba is so important at this time.

After visiting lots of schools where music was central to their learning Neil said:

“‘The schools, teachers and students don’t have much in terms of material resources, mainly due to the impact of the illegal US blockade, but they have opportunity, talent, dedication and enthusiasm — and that’s both the staff and the students.

“It is clear from watching and listening to the children and young people of Cuba that they love learning and playing music and that this love is nourished throughout the education system. It is equally clear from the sights and sounds of the streets that music is part of everyday life, culture and tradition for everyone in Cuba. As with so many areas of life in Cuba, music and dancing removes any barriers and allows happiness, love and equality to flourish.”

Together, and with your help, we will fill a 40ft shipping container to the brim with instruments and equipment for music education across the island. It will be loaded in March and April 2019 ready for the big send off from the NEU conference in Liverpool on Tuesday 16 April.

If you can help with the Play for Cuba Appeal or have instruments to donate then please get in touch at info@playforcuba.org or contact one of the local regional coordinators.

Please donate

We also need donations and fundraising to pay for the transport and shipping. Any extra funds raised will be used to buy some specifically requested musical instruments.

Please make online donations at www.playforcuba.org/donate or cheques payable to the ‘Music Fund for Cuba (Play for Cuba)’ to Music Fund for Cuba, c/o Unite, 33-37 Moreland Street, London, EC1V 8BB or make a credit card donation by calling the office on 0207 490 5715.