Tragedy motivated Bee Gilbert to help transform lives with Anno’s Africa

Anno's Africa was set up in memory of Anno Birkin (left)

69-year-old film director and photographer Bee Gilbert was left heartbroken when her son, Anno Birkin a gifted writer and musician, died in a car crash in 2001, just one month short of his 21st birthday.

Bee Gilbert with Anno
Bee Gilbert with Anno

After Anno’s death, Bee helped set up and direct the charity S.A.F.E. (Sponsored Arts for Education), under whose banner Anno’s Africa has been running since its inception in 2006. Anno’s Africa offer an alternative, arts education to orphans and vulnerable children in some of Africa’s most desperately deprived city slums. Although there are many charities working to supply medical help and feed these children, what is sometimes overlooked is that they are as hungry for an education as they are for food.

The Anno’s Africa project not only offers orphans and vulnerable children the opportunity of finding alternative careers in the media, but more essentially allows them to explore their creative talents and discover their artistic potential, giving them the confidence and self esteem that will carry them through into their adult lives with optimism and hope.

There are currently 800 children participating in the creative workshops which have helped children succeed in their school exams, become proficient in ballet and win television roles.

Now, she is hosting a special event in Wales to raise awareness for a cause that has won support from celebrities including Joanna Lumley and Sir Ian Holm as well as Bee’s former partner and father of two of her four children.

A celebrated poet and musician, the profits from Anno’s work helped kickstart this extraordinary legacy.

“Four months after he died I was in Kenya, in the slums, torn apart by the plight of the kids there.

“They certainly would never have had the chance to discover theIr creative talents as Anno had been able to do.

“Suddenly it seemed the perfect way to remember and celebrate him – to give others something of what he enjoyed. It was a fitting legacy for him to leave behind.”

– Bee Gilbert (Speaking to the Daily Post)

Dickson Kaloki, who is a on of the beneficiaries of the charity, is exhibiting his work at The Oriel Gallery in Pwllheli this Sunday alongside Karen Birkin, the artist wife of Anno’s father, Andrew.

Dickson Kaloki painting
A painting by Kenyan artist Dickson Kaloki on display at Oriel Plas Glyn y Weddw.

Also, a children’s day planned for Saturday, March 12 will showcase some of the arts and crafts made by the children from the charity’s Kibera school as well as Nefyn School, which it has been twinned with for the past four years. The event will be hosted by Hollywood legend Hayley Mills.

17 young Kenyan artists now earn their living as all-year-round teachers for the charity, and two young people who will join the team next year, went through the workshops and are now trainee teachers in art and dance.

You can find out more about Anno’s Africa by visiting the website.