Aceh & Sumatra 2006 & 2008


Aceh & Sumatra 2006 & 2008


Arabella Churchill and Haggis McLeod visited Sumatra to help Michael Eavis with Glastonbury Festival’s donation of houses for those affected by the tsunami. Whilst there, they took the opportunity to provide entertainment for children and families affected by the disaster on behalf of CWI.
Arabella’s diary of this trip can be found here:



In March 2008 CWI started a tour of Sumatra but had to return home unexpectedly – but with a promise to return, complete and indeed extend our tour.
We returned in October and ran a 4 week tour of Sumatra in partnership with Muslim Aid (Indonesia).
The CWI team were Paddy Hill, Charlie Miller and Haggis McLeod. The diary here was written as the tour was running so please forgive any errors.



16th October
After 3 days of traveling we have our first 2 shows of the tour. We are based in Idi(?) and the shows were at 2 local schools.

Show 1 was outside in the blazing sun – hot even for the locals. Even Diar, our interpreter from Muslim Aid was sweating and remarking on the heat. We managed 90 mins before it became too hot. The show was performed in front of approximately 200 students.

Our program has more variety than before thanks to Haggis joining us on this return trip. We were able to have clown, games, and juggling which means its much easier to fill the time and less pressure on all of us.

Show 2 was to start at 11.30, but we arrived at 11.45 straight from the last show. We were concerned about performing outside with no shade for us or the students but fortunately there were less people than expected (approx 70) and they were younger so we were able to use a classroom and fit everybody in. The show lasted 90 mins again but no parachute as there was no shade outside. Because of the extra act – Haggis, there was no problem filling this time.

17th October

We leave our first base in Idi and do 2 shows while heading to our next base in Lochslauwe(?).

Show 1 was at a school way off the beaten track down a terribly cut up, mangled road heading into jungle. Approximately 80 children saw the performance. The children in this area have been very much affected by the conflict in this area so we were very pleased to be there to entertain and amuse.

Show 2 was our first village performance. Between 150 and 200 people came to see the show which was well received. The village shows are always more riotous than the schools, with the children at first nervous and running away, then becoming more and more confident so we have to constantly move them to keep the performance space. One man told me he remembered that we were supposed to come in March and thanked us for remembering them and coming back.

Our new base is a Motel in the city. We were warned that as we travelled towards Banda Aceh the accommodation would deteriorate – but so far so good. The motel has air conditioning and is a nice, clean space. The mosquito count is rising though!

18th October

Two more shows today.

Show 1 was at another school. When we arrived we were treated to a traditional dance from 5 young girls all in traditional dress. It was an amazing and quite moving experience which made me think of Arabella. It was something that she would have loved!

Around 150 students watched our show which was well received. After, the Headmaster invited us for snacks in his office with the rest of the teachers. Due to a little confusion I very nearly ended up washing my hands in a bowl of urine much to the amusement of the teachers! Luckily the smell alerted me in time!

Show 2 was a village performance. A large crowd of maybe 200 plus people watched the show. After my opening bit I wandered around the back of the crowd to take some pictures and was amazed at the number of people who spoke to me with incredibly good English! I’m ashamed to say only Haggis has a grasp of Acehnese which he uses to great success in his performances.

It’s been a bit of a day for dodgy bellies for us but thankfully we have a day off tomorrow so we have a chance to sort ourselves out.

19th October

We spoke to an New Zealand NGO worker today who informs us that there is an outbreak of Denghi Fever, which is spread by daytime mosquito bites, on the coast where we have just been! Paranoia slowly sets in!

20th October

After a day r n r and traveling to Bireuen we’re ready to start again.

Show 1 was at a school local to the area. 300 students enjoyed the performance. This was a pretty wild school with very spirited kids. Slightly unruly but nothing a good soaking from Charlie couldn’t sort out. One child in particular was very confident and was continually moving around taking pictures with his mobile phone – so between Haggis and Paddy we managed to nick it of him for a bit. Most amusing! It turns out pupils are not allowed to bring their phones to this school so he’s probably in a bit of hot water – no beatings I hope!

Show 2 was also at a school. Most schools close at 2pm, but some have to sittings to cope with there limited resources. Haggis was told by the english teacher that we were the first white people to visit their students! Although at a school it felt more like a village performance as there were old, young, and babies present – about 500 in total! The show went really well and was performed in the round – not by choice but due to the unexpectedly large numbers. A good day!


21st October

Our last show at Bireuen was at another local school in front of approximately 150 students and a very enthusiastic Headmaster. A good show in front of a very appreciative group of students. We were able to use the parachute today (not always possible because of large numbers).

No show in the afternoon as we travelled up into the mountains to our next destination – takengon. A breath taking drive through gorgeous scenery and arriving to a far more welcoming cooler climate and a distinct lack of mosquitos!! Good hotel we think, though as the power has gone can’t really tell for sure!

22nd October

This could be a whole different country. Cool climate – lush green mountains. Incredible views. A welcome break from the intense heat.

Show 1 was at a local school. A small but enthusiastic crowd of about 120 students watched the beginning, but the crowd soon swelled to around 250 – 300 as the older school next door appeared. The headmaster was extremely enthusiastic and was showing off his Micheal Jackson moves to our pre show music. I managed to record a little and will try to get it online soon!
Oh how we love the village shows! This afternoon we were at a beautiful, but poor village deep in the mountains. We were performing to about 250 villagers and an amazing vista to inspire us. The kids were wild and excitable but amazingly disciplined (unlike the morning school). My camera wasn’t working which was a shame but it reminded me of the i-sight camera on the laptop. This means we have some great footage of this show – look out for it on youtube!


23rd October

Another 2 shows today – school show in the morning and village show in the evening. Our performance keeps evolving as we go, which is great as the audience sizes appear to be increasing each day. The school show was in front of 200 plus students while the evening show crowd was approaching 400! It’s constantly amazing to see the wild enthusiasm that greets us as we arrive at the venues. The Headmaster of the morning school thanked us for making the students so happy – and we were swamped at the end of the evening show by adults and children wanting their pictures taken with us. Quite a humbling experience. We’re not offering much – a couple of hours of entertainment, but they really do appreciate it!

24th October

Our last day of shows in the cool climate of the Takengon area. The morning show was high up in the mountains at a small school. Approximately 85 children saw the performance which meant we were able to use the parachute. Also I managed to eat fire for the first time!

When we arrived at the village for our last show in the evening we were met by about 20 children at a playing field. We assumed that this show would be another small affair like this morning. But within 10 minutes of us putting on the pre show music the numbers were beginning to swell. In the end there were around 300 people being entertained. It was a great ending to a satisfying stint in the mountains!

It has been really good having this time in the cooler climate – not finishing each show dripping has been appreciated by us all. But now we have a day rest before a day traveling back down into the heat of the country as we head slowly towards Banda Aceh!

27th October

We are in the godforsaken town of Sigli, in a “lohnsman” – a sort of bed and breakfast but without the breakfast. The best way to picture it is to think of the tv show “banged up abroad”! Pretty depressing but we have work to do! Another two shows today – both at schools in the area. The first school was performed to about 180 people while the second was to a smaller, but just as enthusiastic crowd of about 80.

Although the shows went well the day was completely ruined by the news that somebody has ripped of the CWI debit card to the tune of £3500!!!!! This has nearly jeopardized the entire trip – but fortunately it looks like we can sort it all out. Human nature eh?


28th October

A game of to halves as they say – the morning show was at a small school for about 80 students while the afternoon show was in front of about 400 people. The afternoon show was more interesting in the fact that the majority of the audience were teenagers with very few younger kids. Even the younger kids that were there were very conscious of their older peers. This proved problematic for Charlie’s material which is very much aimed at primary age students. Thankfully Haggis’s material is very suitable for this age range and older! Hopefully the shows in Medan at the end of the tour are for the younger students as Haggis won’t be there!!
29th October

Morning show was a nightmare! About 250 students were there to watch us. Seemed like a normal enthusiastic bunch to begin with, then the teachers left and suddenly it was bedlam! It proved almost impossible to maintain a performance space. There were loads of pushing and shoving. They had no awareness of each other – they just wanted to see whatever the cost. In the end we shortened the show if only to protect our equipment.

In contrast the evening performance was much more civilised. About 200 children, just as enthusiastic, but much more controlled and a little bit shy. Consequently everyone could see everything and the overall show was much better.

It’s been a gruelling schedule so far – not helped by the horrible conditions where we are staying. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is our last night in Sigli before traveling to Banda Aceh tomorrow morning, and the promise of hotel accomodation! YES!!!!

30th October

We left Sigli at 9am and started the journey north towards Banda Aceh. Haggis has travelled this road before and was surprised to see a smooth new road which twisted it`s way up hill and through jungle until finally flattening out into rich green countryside with rice fields and other farmed crops. Then suddenly it was RAINING!! We soon arrived at Banda

Aceh a busy Westernized town, passing the new Airport Terminal which looked rather beautiful as opposed to functional. We went straight to the local “Pizza Hut” and devoured stuffed crust meat feasts until we couldn`t move. Paddy and I checked into a new hotel in the centre of the city and Haggis was taken to the “Green Paradise” where he and Bella had stayed on previous CWI tours to Sumatra. We met up again at 3pm for an afternoon show in a small village nearby. We arrived early to find a flat volleyball court stage and an audience of maybe 75 children and adults. Harris arrived,it was good to meet up again. We found power nearby and were soon up and running. Although small the audience were attentive and joining in. Haggis and Paddy decided to perform the “Newspaper of Death/Whip of Pleasure” routine which went slightly wrong, ending up with Paddy sustaining a couple of small but surprisingly stingy whiplashes. REHEARSAL, REHEARSAL, REHEARSAL!!! Dinner was a splendid affair of Steak, Chips and Beer……….YES BEER!!

All`s well that ends well………….especially with ice cream and a good movie!!

NB: no photos today as camera batteries dead! But managed to produce a timelapse film for youtube – it can be found here.


31st October

Another hot and busy day here in Banda. Two more shows plus a chance to visit the Muslim Aid office here. Muslim Aid have been very helpful in handling our money after the card fraud – thanks due to Harris and others!

The morning show was at a school with between 200 – 250 students most of which had been affected by conflict. A great show well received.

The afternoon performance was at a village that was badly affected by the tsunami. Between 100 – 150 people saw this show. More difficult than the morning with a strange mix of almost over confidence yet incredible shyness when it came to participation. We were assured at the end though that it was greatly appreciated. As Haggis said, it was good to see how well they had progressed since the tsunami!

1st November

Another two shows today, but only one was organised by Muslim Aid. This was a morning session at a school in front of approximately 160 children. This was an incredibly hot, close and humid session. No actual sun but the humidity was unbelievable. Good show though in front of a eager, but again shy crowd. Quite cute in some ways but also frustrating when it comes to pulling volunteers from the crowd for the show.

Our second session was at the orphanage next door to the Green Paradise where Haggis is staying. This was a return visit for CWI as Arabella and Haggis had performed there last year. There were 51 children of varying ages, all orphaned by the tsunami. It was a pleasure to return here and the children were among the most focused, enthusiastic and polite group we have met so far. Fully eager to participate with us, this was possibly the most enjoyable for me personally so far. Plus the lady who runs the orphanage also runs Green Paradise and has offered us the use of the swimming pool whenever we would like!

Day off tomorrow – a well needed break.

3rd November

Woke up to find Charlie not at all well. He thinks it’s a combination of sunstroke, dehydraytion and some coconut milk he had yesterday. I hope so as there is an outbreak of Denghi fever – not to mention Typhoid and Malaria! Anyway he was too ill to perform today so it was my job to take over!

Another 2 shows today – our final shows for Muslim Aid. The morning show was to a small group of about 50 students at a school. We were able to perform inside with plenty of ceiling fans – nice! Being a small, youngish group I was able to use the parachute and have a chance to work through some of Charlie’s material with less pressure. Together with Haggis we managed about 75 minutes that was well received by the school.

The afternoon was potentially more stressful as there were around 120 older students at an orphanage close to the Muslim Aid office. As it turned out I needn’t have worried – I found I was able to use the same material and make it more “grown up” to appeal to these older kids, and with Haggis we managed a good 90 minutes without the parachute. In fact I really enjoyed this show as I think did the Muslim Aid staff who turned up to watch!

A special mention to Diar, our translater who also had a part – whether he liked it or not!!

So our shows tomorrow are with the U.S. Consolate and we met their representative at the end of our show, when we also swapped cars!

I have to say it was sad to think we have finished with Muslim Aid today. They have been amazing hosts and have been a tremendous help throughout our financial crisis – cheers brothers!!!

Sorry – no pictures, I had too much else to do. We will eventually get some pictures from the M.A. staff, but not sure when.

4th November

Our last 2 shows in Banda Aceh. Charlie looking and feeling a lot better today but still not able to work – so just me and Haggis.

The morning show was mammoth! Around 650 students watched us perform in the heat. Exhausting but very satisfying. It reminded me of our work in Sri Lanka where these numbers were fairly common.

Our last show was a much smaller affair – around 70 children at a small community.

We also said farewell to Diar, our translator from Muslim Aid. He is an amazing chap who was able to not only translate for us but was also able to understand our warped sense of humour – he will be greatly missed!

We also say goodbye to Haggis who is off on a well deserved break diving on the island of Pulaway! He has been an invaluable member of the CWI team, not only for his amazing contribution to the shows but also for rescuing us from our financial nightmare that has dogged this trip. We will be meeting up with him again on Sunday ready for our return to England. Cheers Haggis – you’ve been great man!

6th November

We’re back in Medan and relative civilisation. We’ve only four shows left to do, and these are for our friend Karim who used to work for Muslim Aid but now works for the U.S. Consulate. The morning show was at a village school close to the city in front of 220 students. I was initial worried about the length of the show now Haggis was gone, but we still managed a good 90 minutes. It reminded me of our performances in Sri Lanka. The afternoon show was at a small fishing village for just over 100 children. Again the show went down very well and we were presented with a glass plaque as a thank you for our efforts – very touching. Both shows were being used to attract the children to a presentation by the Indonesian Red Cross who are promoting the new 118 emergency call service. After the show the children are invited to look around their ambulance!

7th November

Our final two shows in Sumatra! Both shows were excellent, and went down a storm. They were both very close to our hotel in Medan. The morning event was huge – over 500 students watched us perform in the heat with very little shade for them or us. They didn’t seem to care though.

The afternoon show was a smaller affair, around 120, but just as worthwhile. We parked at the roadside on a main street, walked down some steps, turned a corner and walked into “poorville” – quite a contrast! As it was our last show we crammed as much into it as possible (though we had to break for about 15 minutes for the calling to prayer). This included parachute football, my magic thumbs, and a rendition of “Don’t worry, be happy!” on the ukelele! We left the village dripping in sweat, but very satisfied with a job well done!

So we have managed a total of 34 shows in this time period. 27 for Muslim Aid, 6 for the U.S. Consulate, and 1 for the Green Paradise orphanage.

By my rough calculations we have managed to reach a total of 5261 people on this tour!!

Congratulations to all involved – and that includes our families at home who let stay away for so long!!

This completes the diary – we have 2 days to wait before we get to fly home. I personally can’t wait to see my wife and kids again – my time here has made me realise just how lucky I am!

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