Sting donates signed album to Leeds charity Slung Low after their learning bus was vandalised
Pop superstar Sting has stepped in to help an arts charity who were left devastated after their learning bus was damaged by vandals.
A group of people in their '30s and 40s' broke into the double-decker bus while it was parked behind The Holbeck, a working men's club now run by theatre company Slung Low, just before Christmas.
The bus is used as a community space where adult education classes, workshops and a kids' club are held. The vandals smashed windows, ripped out the heating unit and left discarded vodka bottles and cigarette ends behind after having a 'party' inside.
The charity, which operates The Holbeck as a pay-as-you-feel gallery, was left with an insurance excess bill of £2,500.
But salvation has come from one of music's biggest names after Sting heard about their plight and donated a signed album for Slung Low to auction off.
He has given volunteers a copy of the score for the musical The Last Ship, which he wrote and starred in. The Broadway production tells the story of Sting's childhood growing up in the shadow of the Tyneside shipbuilding industry.
Slung Low placed the recording on Ebay, where a Sting fan bid £300 for it.
They have now raised over £2,000 from the auction and public donations, and hope to re-open the bus in time for the first kids' club session of 2020 on January 7.
"Sting has been working with one of our members, so when he heard what had happened he gave us a signed copy of The Last Ship. It raised £300, but we've also had over 100 donations from the public, which is enough to pay back the excess on the insurance claim," said Slung Low's artistic director Alan Lane.
"We've secured the bus but we'll have to call some specialists in to repair it. The clean-up has already started - there was a lot of broken glass and vodka bottles left behind."
Alan and other Slung Low members are aware of the identities of the perpetrators.
"We know everybody local and there have been regular attacks on the organisation. Kids are always blamed for incidents like this, but this was fully grown adults having a drink at 3am. The police have plenty of DNA evidence so we'll see whether there is a prosecution.
"We've had a collection shed broken into before - we are trying to be generous to the community but there will always be people angry about that."
Slung Low took over The Holbeck a year ago and now regularly stage productions and exhibitions in the building, as well as running the traditional members' bar.
"We get a big mix of people in, and we have been able to put on theatre on a regular basis in an area of the city that hadn't had many shows before. It's a good events space run by volunteers and there are now five full-time professional artists based there. It's been a good marriage for us.
"There's a standing invitation to Sting if he ever wants to come and perform here - we have plenty of top-notch artists but I'm sure we'd find a slot for him!" added Alan.