The West Midlands’ Inclusive Choir has won the ‘Excellence in SEND (Music and Drama)’ Award at the prestigious Music and Drama Education Awards 2023. The choir celebrates that everyone, no matter their abilities or disabilities, has their own way of sharing their voice. Disabled and non-Disabled young people come together, alongside their parents, carers, and siblings to create a musical community without barriers.
Over 260 members in the West Midlands challenge the concept of a traditional choir by taking part in a variety of ways including signing, movement, using assistive technology, alongside singing. The choir has in-person, online, and hybrid rehearsals to allow everyone to join in equally, including those who zoom in from hospitals, hospices, or their homes.
The Music and Drama Education Awards celebrate the extraordinary contribution made by charities, and other organisations to the lives of others through the performing arts. Winners are chosen by a prominent panel of expert judges.
The choir is run as a partnership between Soundabout, Midlands Arts Centre and four local Music Hubs: Birmingham’s Services For Education, SIPS Music and Arts, Solihull Music, and Severn Arts. The choir is part of a national network of 14 Soundabout Choirs which all put inclusivity at the heart of the musical community. The choirs collaborate nationally to record songs while also putting on local performances across the country.
The West Midlands Inclusive Choir has had a busy year with events at Symphony Hall, Midlands Arts Centre, Worcester Cathedral, and performing as special guests at the National Association of Special Educational Needs awards in the Grand Hotel Birmingham. The success of the West Midlands Inclusive Choir was also recognised at the Youth Music Awards in late 2022, with the choir finishing as a finalist for the ‘Outstanding Project’ Award.
One parent commented: “The choir gave her [daughter] a place to find her voice with different people who all love music”.
Holly Radford-James, CEO of the charity Soundabout said “We are absolutely thrilled that the West Midlands Inclusive Choir has been recognised with such a distinguished national award where competition is fierce – making us even more proud that a West Midlands based programme has won. It’s a testament to the incredible partners, families, and volunteers involved. The choirs are mini musical examples of how inclusive communities can thrive when you work equitably – an example for wider society!”
Stuart Birnie, Head of Music Service at Services For Education – who has been a keen advocate throughout – said: “I am thrilled that we collaborate with Soundabout on the Inclusive Choir programme. The West Midlands choir provides us with the community provision we have been longing to develop for some years. Our Birmingham Inclusive Choir was born out of the West Midlands Choir and the team we have leading on the project have gained valuable and key skills for life. We look forward to seeing the Choir grow and have further opportunities to perform.”
The choir continues to welcome new young people and their families. For more information visit https://soundaboutchoirs.org.uk/
Soundabout is a small national charity that supports people of all ages with severe and profound learning disabilities to find their voice through music. Soundabout pioneered the use of music, rhythm and sound to give Disabled children and adults a voice, a way to express themselves and be listened to. They use simple, sound-based, playful techniques to nurture the self-expression of people with learning disabilities, so that they can connect with others and feel the warmth of music. Soundabout works to create and maintain an open and accessible community where someone profoundly Disabled can feel relaxed, safe, and enjoy themselves. We want to support everyone to use their voice and create their own rhythm.
Since 1995, Soundabout has been supporting parents/carers, teachers, musicians, and other professionals to learn simple techniques and activities to communicate through music with people with severe and profound learning disabilities. Alongside training and resource production, examples of Soundabout services include music making within schools, inclusive choirs, multi-sensory festivals, and Sounds Wild projects where sound is explored outdoors using a forest school approach. Soundabout’s virtual music making sessions are a key strand of delivery, supporting families who have always been restricted to staying at home, or in hospitals and hospices.
Music is just the start; we want to help develop a sense of belonging and confidence for people to take through life, as we all deserve to live in a community without barriers.
Further information about Soundabout can be found on our website: www.soundabout.org.uk.
Soundabout’s Annual Review for 2022 is available here: https://www.soundabout.org.uk/about-us/annual-reports-and-accounts/
About Services For Education:
An education and training charity based in Birmingham, Services For Education brings music and learning to life. It is the recipient of several major awards including as a finalist and winner of previous Music and Drama Awards. It has recently been recognised in the Asian Chamber of Commerce |Awards and The Charity Awards.
Services For Education employs more than 200 staff delivering music tuition to children, and expert training and development to teaching and school support staff. Part-funded by the Arts Council, England it also has its own fund-raising and subsidised commercial operations.
● Services For Education’s Music Service, one of the largest in the country, works with 93% of Birmingham schools and each year teaches music to nearly 32,000 children – as well as running 97 free ensembles. It provides 27,000 musical instruments free-of-charge so all children have access to playing and enjoying music together and its Youth Proms at Symphony Hall give 4,000 young musicians the opportunity to perform to an audience of more than 10,000. It also runs music schools, has a world music department, provides private music tuition to all ages as well as working with partners to deliver music and choral opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. Its award-winning Online Music Educational Resource was completed and launched free to schools in 2021 to appeal to a young IT-connected audience attracted to learning online and to complement traditional tuition.
● Services For Education’s School Support Service provides expert training and development to teaching and support staff in nearly 600 schools in the West Midlands and increasingly across England, to improve practice and ensure teachers are best equipped to respond to developments in curriculum and policy. As a leading provider of safeguarding education, Services For Education works with 400 schools delivering training in-person and on-line. It also delivers innovative programmes to support the physical and emotional health of children and young people through Health for Life and other community-based activity.
Services For Education’s Annual Review for 2022 is available here: https://www.servicesforeducation.co.uk/annual-review-2022/
Issued on behalf of:
Soundabout and Services For Education
For further information on Soundabout:
Holly Radford-James (CEO, Soundabout)
M: 07930 593 550
For further information on Services For Education:
David Clarke, Clarke Associates, (Public and media relations, Services For Education)
M: 07808 735255
John Eccles House
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Services For Education
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