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Brighton Journal | July 15, 2019

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‘The choir is a great place for positive communities to be built’ – Choir With No Name

‘The choir is a great place for positive communities to be built’ – Choir With No Name
Hannah Midgley

Choir With No Name is a national charity that runs choirs for people that are currently or have been affected by homelessness.

First created in London ten years ago, it has now also been running in Brighton for the past seven months.

Brighton journal had a chat with Alex Procter, the choir manager, to learn more about the story behind this charity and its work supporting the homeless community.

Tell me about the Brighton Choir With No Name!

The choir is run in Brighton by a two-woman team, Choir Manager Alex Procter and Choir Director Freya Wynn-Jones, who oversees the musical direction of the choir. Our weekly work is made possible by an amazing team of volunteers, who help with everything from cooking, tea making, setting up and packing away the space, singing, and welcoming members. We’re supported by BHT and Choir With No Name Central offices, meaning we’re well and truly connected to the local homelessness services in Brighton, and the wider nationwide choir network.

We rehearse every Monday at our venue, One Church, from 6 – 9.15pm. We begin with lots of tea, biscuits and chatting for half an our, then spend a joyous hour and a half learning and singing uplifting pop songs in 4 part harmony. Afterwards we all share a healthy hot dinner prepared by our volunteers. Anyone who is currently or has been affected by homelessness or insecure housing can join us, regardless of whether they’ve sung in a choir before or level of musical ability.

As well as our weekly rehearsals, we also gig. In our short time together we have performed at the Dome twice – at Christmas in a giant singalong and at BWC’s IWD event, Cadogan Hall in London, the i360, and taken part in a number of community events – busking to raise money for First Base, delivering a full choir workshop at Caritas Lunch at All Saints church, Hove. All our gigs have been incredibly successful. Our members have risen to each occasion spectacularly and fedback that they found each event brilliant, and the response from the audience is always one of real enjoyment and awe. We have many more gigs in the pipeline – our next being on 5th of May at the Spiegeltent, with the Sunday Assembly!

How did you first come up with the idea?

Choir with No Name is a national charity that sets up and runs choirs for people who have been affected by homelessness. It began 10 years ago, founded by Marie Benton in London, who worked for St Mungos, but was also a musician and gospel Choir director. She believed everyone could sing, and that choir was a great place for lasting friendships and positive communities to be built – turns out she was right! There are now choirs in London, Birmingham, and Liverpool. The Brighton choir is the newest one of the family.

How long has the choir been running for?

Our choir has been running for a mere 7 months – sometimes we have to pinch ourselves when we look back and see how much we’ve achieved in that short time! We started late August 2019, and run in partnership with Brighton Housing Trust. I was recruited to plan, set up and manage the project in June, and our choir director Freya joined us about a month after that. The day I found out I’d got the job was easily one of the most exciting of my life! It didn’t take long to get it up and running, as the simplicity and undeniable positivity of the idea has created an amazing swell of support for the choir from the community and wider homeless support network in Brighton.

How has it been received?

In total 98 people have come along to our rehearsals. Not everyone has stayed, and due to the transient nature of many people’s living situations, not everyone is able to come week in week out, but we have a solid regular group of about 30 members per session. Sometimes that can swell to 40, or even 50! And given the creative nature of Brighton, we foresee and welcome the prospect of that number increasing as we become more established.

Our members are a diverse and ever growing bunch; and their commitment to turning up week in week out and singing together is incredible – and the pay off is that we not only sound great, but have a lovely community springing up around our creative practice. It’s been lovely to see friendships forming through meetings that happen at choir, and a number of people who met in our space now meet and spend time socialising together and doing creative stuff outside of choir. 

One of our members, Anthony, recently said: ” I love CWNN because there is a feeling of total acceptance and unity with everyone at the choir. It truly is a magical thing that has become one of the highlights of my life at the moment. We are one big family and we keep growing and growing.” This sentiment is echoed across the membership of our group, with many people saying the chance to come together and sing is the highlight of their week.

We’re very excited to be developing more and more ways for our members to share their choir experiences and through that have more of a voice in the Brighton community, whether that be through speaking at gigs, giving interviews and writing social media releases. It all flows from the humble yet truthful belief that creativity is something we all have within us, and all deserve the space to explore. Through exploring it, we find new ways to express ourselves and be heard. It’s a great thing to be part of!

You can find out more information about the Brighton Choir With No Name on their website.

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