A violin repair tutor from Merton College has been lending his talents to a music school in Uganda, training none other than Charles Dickens. Keith Graves swapped the Merton College swapped for two weeks at the Kampala Music School teaching student Charles how to repair violins and helping maintaining work on their violins, cellos and basses. Having a famous namesake isn't the only reason people are talking about Charles – thanks to Keith, he is now the only trained string repairer in East Africa.
Keith is a member of Luthiers Sans Frontières (violin makers without borders), a small international charity on a mission to train violin and bow repairers in developing countries where no local services are available. The organisation is made up of trained professionals from over a dozen countries that give up their time to share their knowledge in areas that need it most.
Keith, head of musical instrument technology at South Thames College, said: "The feeling of doing something useful and meeting fantastic people is the reason I got involved with the charity. Charles wrote to us to say it was literally a life changing experience for him, as he could no longer work with furniture due to a lung condition brought on by exposure to the wood dust. He's doing great now - despite only word of worth marketing of his new skills, Charles has already had requests from Kenya and Northern Uganda."
A violin making and repair tutor, Keith has over 20 years of teaching experience and over 30 years of instrument making as well as repair and restoration experience. South Thames College is one of the few centres in the UK to run musical instrument making and repair courses, with students travelling from as far afield as Switzerland.
Keith continued: "Charles had great woodworking skills to start with but even if you're a complete beginner, we have a course for you. As long as you have patience, a determined attitude and a love of musical instruments you'll succeed."