Tibetan identity and cultural heritage highlighted at Annual Festival in London

After a gap of two years due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the London School of Tibetan Language & Culture held its first post-COVID Annual Festival on Sunday, 12th June. It was held at the Asian Community Centre in Plumstead, south-east London.

Tibetan children are the focus of this annual cultural fest, which provides a platform to exhibit what they had learned during the year in a two-hour public programme. The Annual Festival was open from 11am with various fun games for the kids and guests. Invited guests, parents, friends and members of the Tibetan Community UK attended the cultural event. Special invited guests included the Representative of the Dalai Lama and his colleagues from the Office of Tibet, and the Chairman and the General Secretary of  Tibetan Community UK. His Eminence Lelung Tulku of the Lelung Dharma Centre and visiting Geshe Lobsang Drakpa from Dzongkar Choede Monastery, Hunsur (south India), blessed the Tibetan cultural festival with their presence.

After the vegetarian lunch, the main programme began at 2pm with Buddhist prayers and the Tibetan National Anthem. This followed a welcome and introduction by senior students. Children from various classes made presentations on Tibetan history, language, grammar, and elocution of romantic songs, composed by the 6th Dalai Lama. They also played musical instruments including Dranyen (six-string lute), encouraging the audience to join in with popular Tibetan songs. Beautiful dances were performed by junior members to the delight of the audience. 

Tenzin Zeydhan, Executive Secretary of the Tibet House Trust, thanked everyone involved, especially the Parents Committee and the teachers, for their cooperation in materialising this year’s Annual Festival.

After the presentation of certificates to those children who had left the school in the previous years, His Excellency Sonam Tsering Frasi, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, addressed the gathering. He stated that the weekend Tibetan school, which aims to serve the Tibetan Community towards the preservation of their unique language and culture, proved to be beneficial. Whilst encouraging parents to put extra efforts at home, the Tibetan diplomat thanked all concerned including the teachers, children and the Tibetan Community for their continued efforts and cooperation towards the shared goals of preserving Tibetan language and culture.

Tsering Tsomo, member of the Parents Committee, gave a ‘Vote of Thanks’ on behalf of the organisers. She said that the London School of Tibetan Language & Culture continued to operate due to vital assistance from the Tibet House Trust and the Office of Tibet. Tsomo acknowledged and thanked The Camellia Foundation for its continued support via the Tibet House Trust. She also acknowledged various individuals for their support. Tsomo thanked His Eminence Lelung Tulku and the Lelung Dharma Trust for donating over a thousand pounds to cover the costs of this year’s festival. 

Next, it was time for the first round of Gorshey that everyone was waiting for – the popular Tibetan circle dance, led by Tenzin Samphel, a dance master. After the delicious dinner, there was time for more Gorshey after the organisers extended the hall booking by another hour – until 8pm!

It was a memorable day for everyone, especially the children and their parents. His Eminence Lelung Tulku, Founder and Spiritual Director of the Lelung Dharma Trust, later told this author that he was very touched by the achievements the young children have made during the year. He said, “It’s so wonderful to see the efforts put in by the small Tibetan Community to educate the younger generation about our language, history and culture.”

About the London School of Tibetan Language & Culture (LSTLC)

The school has history dating back to the early 1990s, when a small number of Tibetan children initially attended Tibetan language class at the Tibet House, when Kasur Kesang Takla was the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Office of Tibet, London. Late Gan Tsering Dhundup Gonkatsang was the first Tibetan Language Teacher who taught the Tibetan children for many years. 

As the small London-based Tibetan Community grew over the past decade, the weekend Tibetan language class had to adapt to the changing situation. After a year-long rigorous efforts made by all concerned stakeholders to bring the small Tibetan Community together to a more centrally located Tibetan learning centre, the London School of Tibetan Language and Culture was formally inaugurated on Sunday, 11th September 2016 at John F Kennedy Special School in Stratford, east London. Currently, there are four teachers and 47 children who attend the LSTLC. The children come from the Greater London region and the neighourbouring counties including, Hertfordshire and Surrey. The school currently accepts admission from Year 1 students or 6 years-old and above.

Volunteer teachers from Tibetan Community UK facilitate the Teaching & Learning of Tibetan language (reading, writing and spoken), history, traditional music and dance to the children, most of whom are born in this country. These weekly sessions are held on Sundays from 10am to 1pm in Stratford, east London, during school term-time (an equivalent of 36 Sundays annually). Additional sessions are also held to prepare for special events. The school begins with Morning Assembly, when children recite Buddhist prayers and give presentations, followed by three 45-minutes sessions for Tibetan history, language and music. 

The Tibet House Trust and the Office of Tibet continue to provide support to the LSTLC. Prior to the Tibet House Trust’s initiative, the UK chapter of the Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) ran Tibetan language classes for Tibetan children at weekends.

Tibetan language classes are now held at weekends across the UK including in Bristol.

(This report is filed by Tsering Passang, who attended the Annual Festival.)

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Author: Tsering Passang (Tsamtruk)

NGO Professional | Activist | Author | Founder and Chairman, Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM)

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