David Hope-Jones: Scotland-Malawi partnerships provide routes for potential to grow

Scotland’s longstanding friendship with Malawi was celebrated in style at an exclusive Scottish screening of the inspiring new film by Chiwetel Ejiofor, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which is set and filmed in Malawi.

Musician David Luhanga, producer Andrea Calderwood, David Hope-Jones, Kephus Misanjo of the Malawi Association and Douglas Young, vice chair of the SMP at the films Scottish screening

The night before its global launch on Netflix, reaching 190 million worldwide, the Scotland Malawi Partnership hosted a special evening with 350 guests from across Scotland and Malawi.

A packed red carpet lined the pavement into Edinburgh’s Dominion cinema as friends, colleagues and supporters of the many people-to-people partnerships between Scotland and Malawi joined to celebrate the 160-year-old friendship between the two nations.

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Dressed in traditional Malawian or Scottish attire, guests enjoyed an evening of live Malawian music, Malawian drinks and an exclusive screening of the critically acclaimed film.

David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive, Scotland Malawi Partnership

Andrea Calderwood, the film’s 
producer, spoke to a captivated audience after the screening, talking about her experience as a Scot filming in Malawi.

“We’ve been delighted at the way audiences at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals have responded to the beautiful film we were able to make with our team in Malawi, and very pleased that the Scotland Malawi Partnership is giving audiences in Scotland a chance to experience the film on the big screen in advance of its global Netflix launch”, she said.

The story follows William, then 13, who lives with his family in rural Kasungu where he attends school regularly and shows great aptitude for his studies. Yet after land development and poor weather leads to a meagre harvest, famine strikes the village, alarming the community and forcing William to drop out of school when his father can no longer afford the fees.

Determined to find a way out of the life-threatening situation his family is facing, William sneaks into the school library to research building a windmill-powered pump to irrigate the land. The emotional journey of a father and his exceptional son at its heart, William’s tale captures the incredible determination of a boy whose inquisitive mind overcame every obstacle in his path.

The exclusive Scottish screening, which was sponsored by Orbis Expeditions, began with a special video message from William Kamkwamba himself, introducing the film and speaking about Malawi’s special friendship with Scotland.

The film is the directorial debut of Academy Award® nominee and Bafta Award winner Chiwetel Ejiofor, who also wrote the screenplay and has been working on the project for eight years. Ejiofor also stars as 
William Kamkwamba’s father in the film, which is a collaboration between Netflix, the BBC, the British Film Institute (with National Lottery funding) and others. It is a Potboiler Production.

The Scotland Malawi Partnership used the evening to highlight some of the 1,200 different partnerships between Scotland and Malawi, including many directly relevant to William Kamkwamba’s amazing story.

Speaking in his traditional tribal dress as a Malawian Chief, Edgar Kapiza Bayani, Country Director of Community Energy Malawi, told the audience about his work with Malawian communities helping generate sustainable energy solutions. His Scottish counterpart, Nicholas Gubbins, Chief Executive of Community Energy Scotland, spoke about Scotland’s unique contribution to the Community Energy Development Programme.

The audience also heard from Ciara Commins, Climate Challenge Programme Malawi Programme Manager at Scottish charity SCIAF, who spoke about this Scottish Government funded project which works with almost 50,000 people in southern Malawi to improve access to food, water and energy through a community-led approach.

Ciara Commins said: “I am just back from Malawi, having spoken to countless people who are benefitting from this inspiring partnership. In many ways, the resilience, innovation and community drive in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind can be seen right across Malawi, including in our own partnership. With the right opportunities, Malawi’s potential is bright.”

The Scotland Malawi Partnership represents a community of 109,000 Scots with active links to Malawi and a shared history that dates back 160 years to Dr David Livingstone. It is estimated that over 44 per cent of Scots can name a friend or family member with a connection to Malawi.

Core funded by the Scottish Government, the Partnership coordinates, represents and supports a diverse spectrum of links between the two countries, including half of Scotland’s local authorities, every Scottish university and most of its colleges, 250 primary and secondary schools, dozens of different churches and faith-based groups, hospitals, businesses, charities and NGOs, and a wide range of grass-root community-based organisations.

William Kamkwamba’s incredible true story has been inspiring Scots and Malawians, young and old, for more than a decade. It is a story of dignity, resilience, youth leadership and community action – all of which we see today in the thousands of people-to-people links which unite Scotland and Malawi.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is now available on Netflix.

David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive, Scotland Malawi Partnership, www.scotland-malawipartnership.org