THE right to clean water was the theme of a moving show performed by pupils in a school competition.

Around 40 youngsters from Merton Junior School, in Romsey Close, Popley, took to the stage of Portsmouth Guildhall in this year’s annual Rock Challenge event.

The students had perfected their performance for five months, working on the dance moves, making costumes and painting the African scenery.

It is the fourth time the school has competed in the event, and last year the team achieved third place in the regional heats.

Angie Bridle, a learning support assistant who organised the show, said this year’s team had pulled out all the stops to ensure the performance was the best yet.

She said: “It’s based on Article 24 – the rights of a child to have clean water. It’s based in an African village and it’s about the villagers right, or fight, for clean water.”

The eight-minute performance opened with children dressed as African animals, including giraffes, zebras and lions, drinking from the same waterhole used by villagers.

A group of English builders then visited the village to install a water pipe, and the performance ended with a celebration.

Mrs Bridle said: “We raised the bar this year. We came third last year and this year we would like to do better and so we have thought about the concept.”

The team has been fundraising to help cover the cost of the show, which kicked off with Mrs Bridle shaving her head last year.

She said the production is a “real community effort”, with students from Everest Community Academy helping out, along with parents and staff.

She added: “We had sewing afternoons where parents came in to help with the costumes. It’s good for the whole community.”

The Rock Challenge team competed against 11 other schools at the regional heat, coming fourth overall.

Mrs Bridle said: “The message behind it is about getting used to those natural highs on stage.”

She added: “We have seen the children blossom. Not just in their performance but we are seeing the knock-on effect in the classroom because they are more engaged.”