Wembley to Soweto and Beyond The transformative ripple of one small creative idea with its roots in SA

Wembley to Soweto and Beyond The transformative ripple of one small creative idea with its roots in SA
Thapelo Motsumi with Richard E Grant at Oxo Gallery London 2011 Exhibition

From the spark of one man’s belief in the game-changing power of creativity, a new UK charity ignited 8 young minds in Soweto, South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, catapulting their careers. Fast forward to today, and this creative force has exploded onto the global scene, set to make waves across the USA starting this week in Los Angeles, with South African powerhouse photographer Thapelo Motsumi playing a crucial role in fuelling its momentum.

The Wembley to Soweto Foundation was created by UK-based multi-award-winning actor and producer David Westhead, to train photojournalists from disadvantaged backgrounds against the backdrop of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The Foundation is quietly backed by some of the world’s biggest names in film and TV – Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Idris Elba, Adjoa Andoh, Muthutuzehli Matshoba, Christoph Waltz, and Emily Watson amongst others.


Judi Dench
Judi Dench. Photo taken by student Kasey Newton

Originally the Foundation’s programme was set out as an in situ training programme to help uplift, empower, and enable young people, instil valuable life skills, and help them progress positively and make meaningful contributions to society.

“Our focus was that art could be accessible and we aimed to inspire the creators of tomorrow – little did we think that the programme would grow exponentially beyond our expectations,” says Westhead.


“The training programme proved so successful, with many of the Sowetan photographers being able to elevate themselves socially and economically, that it evolved into a “tag-teaching” model,” explains Westhead. “This meant past trainees who share similar backgrounds and experiences could easily connect with compatriots across the globe and impart their experience and knowledge of photography with those entering the programme.”

Now Soweto-based Thapelo Motsumi, who was one of the original 8 that were trained in 2010, along with a diverse cohort of former participants in the programme, will be training four new students in the art of photojournalism in Los Angeles, USA. They will also be coaching two alumni to be trainers.

The USA programme, in partnership with world-renowned camera giant Leica, begins in LA on December 8, and will roll out into some of the poorest communities in Chicago, Washington, and New York City over the next year.

“We are privileged to be partnering with legendary camera experts, Leica on the programme. Having high-end equipment enables trainers and trainees to experience top quality results, which will help to demonstrate and develop their creative eye, capabilities, and potential for excellence in their work.”

The Foundation has enabled participants to visit major sporting events such as Fifa World Cups, Cricket World Cups, UEFA-, Euros- and Rugby World Cups, The Olympic Games, and English Premier League games.

Westhead also begins filming a documentary in LA this week to coincide with the start of the USA training. The documentary will feature five alumni photographers including Motsumi, who has gone on to become an international photographer and has worked with the United Nations, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Idris Elba, amongst other high-end clients. The documentary with its working title: Shooting Stars: Football, Photos and Favelas, will follow these trainers as they work with youngsters from gangland LA across the States.

“I am looking forward to working with peers in the USA and doing the documentary with the Foundation,” enthuses Motsumi. “Being selected for the 2010 programme was life-changing and I am always so happy to help impart my skills, knowledge, and experience to help other brothers and sisters move ahead with their creative skills.”

Soccer World Cup 2010
Soccer World Cup 2010. Photo by Thapelo Motsumi

For more information about the Wembley to Soweto Foundation programme go to http://wembleytosoweto.com/