Cape Town Roars to the Sound of Brian May & Kerry Ellis

There can’t be many organisations that could persuade the likes of legendary rock guitarist Brian May to jump on a plane, come to South Africa for a couple of days, and play for a hundred guests or so at the launch of a new conservation project. Such is the power of the British-based Born Free organisation, however, that this actually happened.

Born Free has a wide remit across the conservation issues of our time, but at its heart the foundation is about keeping wild animals in the wild, and out of zoos. The name comes, for those who don’t know, from Born Free the classic story of George and George Adamson’s work with lions in East Africa. The equally classic 1960s movie of the same name starred Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna and it was this experience that led the celebrity couple to found the organisation that is now run by their son Will.

The elegant, eloquent and poised Virginia is still very much involved in Born Free’s work, and she was in Cape Town to launch the Pride of Cape Town – a major public arts collaboration with Land Rover that will place 50 life-size lion sculptures at various sites in the city’s V & A Waterfront. The aim is to raise awareness for the plight of lions, and of course to raise funds to do something about it. Each lion, therefore, is to be sponsored by individuals and companies and will be uniquely decorated by international and local artists. The ‘finished’ lions will be ‘released’ to roam the waterfront next year.

And Brian May was there with his acoustic guitar rather that the stadium-shaking power of the electric instrument we generally associate with his performances, and with Kerry Ellis from the Queen musical ‘We Will Rock You.’ Together they treated guests to a short set that included a lovely rendition of the haunting Born Free anthem, and ended with a fun audience including version of ‘A Crazy Little Thing Called Love’.

And so, a beautiful, balmy late summer evening at Cape Town’s trendy Grand Café and Beach, entertainment by a rock icon and his protégé, and good people doing good things for the planet. Nice.

Read more about Born Free and the Pride of Cape Town initiative.

Cape Town-born Peter Borchert has a career in publishing spanning four decades. He has travelled widely in Africa and has written extensively about the continent.

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