Singing for Our Lives – New HammerOn Title 6th July 2017 – Posted in: HammerOn titles – Tags: Campaign Choirs, new books, Oral History, Singing for Our Lives, Street Choirs
We’ve got some news about a new HammerOn title.
It’s called Singing for Our Lives and is written by the Campaign Choirs collective.
It will be published – appropriately – on May 1st 2018.
We’ll post more details about the book, as well as other HammerOn news, soon.
Meanwhile enjoy this post, written by the collective which explains more about the project, and the choirs featured in the book…
We’re freshly back from taking part in the annual Street Choirs Festival with our respective choirs. The festival, this year in Kendal, reinforced, yet again, why we wanted to write this book. Over years (a combined total of more than 35 for the three of us) of meeting up with other street choirs, the idea has grown from meeting inspirational individuals who make up extraordinary choirs, to wanting to share their stories and experiences more widely. After doggedly pursuing funding from various sources, we finally secured a modest sum from the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust, enough to get going. Then, we were awarded a Sharing Heritage Lottery grant, enabling us to continue our journey. And what a journey!
We’ve interviewed members of 10 street choirs in England, Scotland and Wales, and every visit has given us a joyful insight into how other choirs operate and the motivation of their members – why and for what they are singing. The choirs have embraced the project enthusiastically, eager to share their history and their individual stories. Our one big regret is that our limited budget has not enabled us to interview more people from more choirs.
Before we got funding, armed only with the belief that we’d find a way to carry on, our first choir visit was to Red Leicester, rooted in the Workers’ Education Movement. We were welcomed to join in their practice, talk briefly about the project and confirm interviews with individual choir members for the following day (plus we joined the choir in a spot of pub singing after practice!) This became a very enjoyable pattern for organising the rest of the choir visits. There were, understandably, variations, according to the various choir commitments. In London, we joined Raised Voices in action, singing for Medical Aid for Palestinians at Earl’s Court; in Cardiff we took part in Côr Cochion’s (Cardiff Reds Choir) weekly Saturday street singing. Teaming up with London’s Strawberry Thieves choir, we spent a wonderful week at the French Revolutionary Choirs’ reunion near Limoges. There, we found time to do interviews with some Thieves, while discovering an international world of street choirs, socialising and singing rousing songs in French, English, Spanish, Italian and more languages late into the night.
Out Aloud, Sheffield’s LGBT choir, were practising for their 10th anniversary concert, and so on this visit we listened in awe rather than joining in, except when they treated one of our collective to a harmonious ‘Happy birthday to you’! While in the city we also interviewed Sheffield Socialist Choir. In their practice we revisited songs we had shared shortly before in London, during a Campaign Choirs gathering to celebrate Strawberry Thieves’ 20th anniversary. Interviewing Liverpool Socialist Singers gave us a unique flavour of the rebellious history of that city. Talking of history, we visited Birmingham Clarion Singers, a choir that has been going for 77 years and whose choir leader is the daughter of two founding members! We revisited Côr Gobaith (Choir of Hope) in Aberystwyth, where the Campaign Choirs network was formed during the 2013 Street Choirs Festival and, finally, we spent an inspirational, sunny weekend with Edinburgh’s feisty Protest in Harmony.
It has been an incredible experience for us, bonding with other choirs beyond the Street Choirs Festivals or Campaign Choirs actions, and we can’t wait to share the committed, moving and inspiring stories we were told. You can follow our writing progress at Singing for Our Lives.