Do what you love video still

Five new inclusive choirs “born out of the pandemic” launch in-person in the West Midlands

Launch coincides with the release of a new song and music video created in lockdown by the West Midlands Inclusive Choir members

Five new choirs for the West Midlands bringing together young people of all abilities and that were created during the pandemic, are meeting for the first time in-person this Saturday (September 18th) as part of a major UK initiative. The West Midlands has the largest number of choirs in a nationwide scheme – the Soundabout Inclusive Choir network – that celebrates that everyone, no matter their abilities or disabilities, has their own way of sharing their voice.

Five West Midlands Inclusive Choirs will be launched, led and supported by Midlands Arts Centre and based in Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull and Worcestershire. The first in-person gatherings of the choir members coincides with the release of Do What You Love a new composition created in lockdown by choir members in the West Midlands (private link below). Disabled and non-disabled musicians took part in a six-week online process that included song-writing workshops and vocal sessions overseen by renowned composer Alexander Campkin who has himself experienced disability and who, in the West Midlands, has previously worked with Birmingham Cathedral Choir and Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

MAC Makes Music, along with music charity Soundabout, have joined forces with Birmingham’s Services For Education and four other West Midlands’ Music Education Hubs to launch the five in-person choirs after meeting for the past 10 months via Zoom in people’s homes. The choirs have been supported with funding by Midlands Arts Centre alongside Vinci, who have enabled them to buy the equipment to launch the choirs.

The West Midlands Inclusive Choir project was inspired by MAC Makes Music who saw the work of Soundabout and reached out to fellow charities aiming to give voice to children of all abilities in the region and provide more accessible musical opportunities.

Holly Radford-James, Producer for MAC Makes Music, said: “In recent years, MAC Makes Music has been developing inclusive vocal opportunities for children and young people in Birmingham, and noticed a need for more. We wanted to expand and ensure young people across the region had an inclusive and accessible way to share their voice.

“We partnered with Soundabout, to combine their experience working with people with complex needs with our musical provision and network, to launch the West Midlands Inclusive Choir online during lockdown. Thanks to support from our funders, Youth Music, it’s been possible to partner with local music hubs and create in-person choirs, launching soon for the local community.”

Clare Cook, CEO of the charity Soundabout, said: “These new choirs – that will bring together young people of all abilities – would not have been created without the pandemic.

“The pandemic acted as a call to action – to overcome the increased isolation faced by young people with learning disabilities by making music together from their own homes. Now, thanks to the passion and drive of MAC Makes Music and the five Music Education Hubs, the choirs will meet for the first time in person. In due course, we are looking forward to welcoming other new members of all abilities to join us too.”

In the West Midlands, Soundabout, MAC Makes Music, Services For Education (which delivers the Music Service in Birmingham), Coventry Music Hub, Sandwell Music Hub (SIPS), Severn Arts (Worcestershire Music Hub) and Solihull Music Hub, have collaborated to create the five new choirs that will be launched at their local venues on Saturday, September 18.

Stuart Birnie, Head of The Music Service at Services For Education, which is responsible for the development of the Birmingham Inclusive Choir, said: “The pandemic has been devastating for so many young people – especially those with profound and multiple learning difficulties. However, out of challenging circumstances, have come new opportunities. If it had not been for the pandemic, we would not have been able to simultaneously create so many choirs to support so many people.

“Bringing together young people of all abilities is key to the development and success of the West Midlands Inclusive Choirs. Getting together, whether on-line or in-person, removes barriers, encourages inclusivity and celebrates that everyone, no matter their abilities or skills, can enjoy and benefit from music-making.”

Twelve Soundabout Inclusive Choirs have been formed nationwide – all with the intent of welcoming all voices and actively removing barriers to participation from those with severe and profound learning disabilities. They will meet regularly in-person with virtual meetings in between.

The project is backed by Youth Music, thanks to the National Lottery via Arts Council England.