Refugee choir under threat of closure after government grant rejection
- Credit: Holly Jones
The team behind two north London choirs, including a lifeline group for torture survivors, is appealing for funds to stay afloat after being rejected for a government grant.
Together Productions runs the Mixed Up Chorus and Sing For Freedom Choir based at Hargrave Hall, Archway, and aims to break down race, wealth and age barriers by bringing together singers from all walks of life.
With members hailing from Camden and Islington, concerts have included the Union Chapel and Barbican.
But they migrated online during lockdown, getting devices and data to members of Sing For Freedom - founded by survivors from Islington charity Freedom From Torture - so they could continue connecting through song.
The tiny not-for-profit company kept going with emergency funding, but was unsuccessful in its last application to the government's Culture Recovery Fund, leading it to launch an emergency £30,000 Crowdfunder campaign.
Directors Holly Jones and Hampstead choirmaster Jeremy Haneman said it would enable them to survive until they could secure more funding.
“Together Productions works with people from across the social spectrum, bringing together people with mental health challenges, people who’ve experienced loneliness and isolation, refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people," they said in a statement.
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"When the pandemic hit what kept us going was the determination of our communities to carry on meeting, creating and making music. It became even more important to them during these really challenging last two years.
"We’ve taken activities online but this has really stretched our resources and we now face a funding shortfall that threatens to close us down, meaning we’d have to shut our choirs and lay off our small team."
A member of the 70-strong Mixed Up Chorus said it was "a mental health promoter" during the pandemic.
NHS doctor Sian Phillips added: "This year it’s been going to work, dealing with Covid, dealing with staff who’ve got Covid, going home getting up and doing the same thing. I love singing. Its the only time in the week when I forget everything except what’s coming next."
And Kushinga Hare, a coordinator of the Sing For Freedom Choir who is originally from Zimbabwe, said: "I've been in the UK for 22 years and never really felt at home in the UK but the choir is the one place where I feel part of the community and feel I belong."