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Lottery funding for street choirs project

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Lotte Reimer: With members of Côr Gobaith on Remembrance Sunday

HAVE YOU SEEN the woman who sings the streets of London? On Thursday, December 8, Lotte Reimer from Blaenplwyf hopped on the bus to the UK’s capital to busk at Earl’s Court.

That same night, she joined up with a group of people singing outside the tube station to raise money for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP). In truth, Lotte’s adventure was about interviewing members of this street choir than busking as an extreme long-distance sport! That said, she told The Herald she was very glad to be able to contribute a little towards the often forgotten cause of people suffering in Palestine, where MAP is working across the West Bank and Gaza and in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Lotte is part of a project to interview members of street choirs from all around the UK. Although they get little or no media attention, street choirs sing regularly in many communities from Edinburgh to Brighton and from Aberystwyth to Whitby. Funded by the Sharing Heritage strand of the National Lottery, Lotte’s project is unusual in that it sets out to record oral histories of street choirs throughout the UK. Typically, Sharing Heritage projects focus on the history of one place-based community, for instance a village, rather than a network spread across places in different nations.

Lotte told The Herald: “It’s difficult to fully define what a street choir is. Obviously, they sing in the street! Community choirs are great, but the street choirs that we’re interested in for this oral history project are definitely political; they are out there all the time singing for campaigns and causes. Many of them have been around for decades. Lots have working class origins, coming out of initiatives like the Workers Education Association or the Clarion movement. Raised Voices, whom I sang with at Earl’s Court in London, sing for peace, justice and the environment, and against militarism, capitalism, racism and sexism. The choir is based in North London and has been in existence since 1986. They have more than 25 members, and we managed to interview five of them this weekend – old-stagers, beginners and some in between. It was very busy!”

CAMPAIGN CHOIRS

Apart from interviewing members of Raised Voices, Lotte somehow found time to interview a former member of Velvet Fist. Now disbanded, Velvet Fist were a well-known feminist women’s choir founded in 1983 as part of an arts project organised by the Communist Party. Finally, Lotte also managed to get to a rehearsal with Strawberry Thieves, an activist choir based in Telegraph Hill, South-East London.

The oral history project which Lotte is co-ordinating is called ‘Singing for Our Lives’ and will, ultimately, record the oral histories of more than 40 members of at least 10 different street choirs. Apart from Raised Voices, Strawberry Thieves and Velvet Fist in London, the project has already interviewed members of Liverpool Socialist Singers and the sharply named Red Leicester. In the coming months, Lotte will visit Sheffield to interview Sheffield Socialist Singers and the LGBTQ choir Out Aloud.

She will also trek up to Edinburgh to interview members of radical singing group Protest in Harmony. Supported by online resources, the main output of the project will be a book introducing ‘stories from the street choirs’ to a much wider public.

Lotte told us: “The aim is to share these amazing personal stories and encourage more people to get into singing with their local political communities. It’s such a great way to support local and international campaigns, to meet people and sing with them. We’re also hoping we can learn something about how street choirs themselves can attract new people, especially younger people and people from a wider range of ethnic groups. Even the London choirs were mainly older people and mostly white faces! We also want to explore ways that choirs can work together more, sharing songs, knowledge and skills, and coming together as combined choirs to sing at actions and national demonstrations. We have an initiative, Campaign Choirs, which is taking a lead on increasing cooperation between choirs. Also, many choirs simply struggle to get enough basses – they just need more men, basically! Most street choirs believe everyone can sing and people don’t need to be able to read music or to be experienced singers to join. No one needs to be scared or shy.”

STREET CHOIRS IN WALES

In 2013, Côr Gobaith, in which Lotte sings, hosted the annual Street Choirs Festival in Aberystwyth, an event which many Herald readers will remember fondly. The Festival in Aberystwyth attracted some 50 choirs and hundreds of people to the town for a glorious, sun-blessed weekend in the middle of July. Beginning in Sheffield in 1983 as the ‘National Street Band Festival’, the breakaway Street Choirs Festival seeks to ‘put the music into protest to make it more creative, joyful and thought-provoking’. The ambition is to help create a world free of oppression, exploitation and violence. With its roots in the north of England, the Street Choirs Festival has blossomed across the UK, being staged every year in a different town or city. In Aberystwyth, the Festival took place in the Arts Centre over a very full weekend that included a ‘mass sing’ with all the choirs gathered on the seafront.

Perhaps Wales’ most famous contemporary street choir is Cardiff’s near legendary Côr Cochion Caerdydd. Since 1983, ‘Cardiff Reds Choir’ have sung, ‘campaigning for peace, freedom and justice’. In the process, they have raised many thousands of pounds to support people in the UK and abroad who are struggling against hardship and oppression. Lotte Reimer told The Herald: “We’re certainly going to interview members of Côr Cochion for the Singing for Our Lives project. They are amazing activists and have actually been to sing in places like Ireland during the Troubles and in Palestine. I remember Ray Davies, one of South Wales’ most colourful and dedicated political characters. In his trademark red beret, Ray was a staunch member of Côr Cochion until he died last year. It’s stories like Ray’s that we don’t want to miss out on recording and sharing.”

IDEAS IN ACTION

Back in Aberystwyth, at lunchtime on Saturday (Dec 10), Lotte’s comrades in Côr Gobaith joined in the singing outside the Christmas Fair, held at Medina restaurant on Market Street. The singing raised £70 for Mind and Blood Bikes.

Happy to be home, Lotte Reimer was also a little sad to have missed out on singing with her own beloved choir: “Still, you can’t do everything!” – although Lotte does seem to try her level best!

To find out more about Singing for Our Lives, visit www.singing4ourlives.net.

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Changes to bus services in Ceredigion confirmed by local authority

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THERE will be changes to local bus services in Ceredigion from Tuesday 3 January 2023.

The tenders received as part of a procurement process for operating several services have shown significant cost increases. This has resulted in substantial increases in subsidy levels being requested at a time when public finances are under tremendous pressure. The higher costs are largely reflective of particular challenges affecting the bus industry currently which includes considerable increased operating costs, lack of qualified and available drivers, uncertainty around future funding mechanisms as well as declining passenger numbers and changing travel behaviours.

Bus passenger numbers have been in decline across Wales and essentially halved in the period between 1982, where there were 181 million passenger journeys and 2019/20 where there were 91 million passenger journeys. This has been severely compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw a drop to 26 million passenger journeys in 2020/21, that has further impacted on the viability of local bus services.

The 22T (Aberystwyth-Devil’s Bridge), 27T (Penrhyncoch-Penbontrhydybeddau) and T29 (Tregaron Circular) demand responsive services will stop at the end of December 2022. This is due to the significant costs associated with providing them and the very low level of usage, which equate to unviable levels of public subsidy per passenger journey.

There will be changes to the timetables on the 525 (Aberystwyth-Ponterwyd), 526 (Aberystwyth-Penrhyncoch) and 585 (Aberystwyth-Tregaron-Lampeter) services. The timetables for these services, subject to submission by the operators and approval by the Traffic Commissioner, are attached. These timetables are based on proposals provided by the local bus operators and reflect what is operationally deliverable with the resources available, in terms of buses and drivers, at this time.

The T21 (Aberystwyth-Llanafan-Tregaron) and 552 Cardi Bach (New Quay-Cardigan) services will continue as currently.

All these contracts have been awarded on a 6 month basis to allow for a wider review.

Councillor Keith Henson, Cabinet Member for Highways and Environmental Services and Carbon Management said: “I would like to thank the local bus companies for their ongoing engagement in what is very challenging operating environment. We continue to work with them and in partnership with the other key stakeholders including the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales, seeking possible solutions and a way forward. Bus services and networks are dynamic and subject to change. Further changes are likely as the reality is that, in addition to the sparsity of resources, the amount of subsidy now required to provide the services is unaffordable, unjustifiable and unsustainable in the current financial climate.”

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Urgent police appeal for missing Ceredigion man

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POLICE in Ceredigion are appealing for help to find Dyfed who is missing from the Talybont area.

He was last seen at his home address in the Ceredigion village at around 10.30pm or 11pm on Saturday, 3 December.

Dyfed is described as being 5ft 10ins, of medium build, with short mousey brown hair with short ginger beard, and was wearing grey waterproof trousers over jeans, a blue-check padded shirt and woolly hat and wellies.

Have you seen Dyfed, or do you have info that might help us find him? Please, let us know:

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New Rural Health Economics Professor builds on University healthcare provision

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AN ACADEMIC who played a key role in decision-making in the adoption of medicines in NHS Wales and NHS England has been appointed as Professor of Rural Health Economics at Aberystwyth University.

Professor Murray Smith, an expert in the use of economics and statistics to predict outcomes in health and health-related behaviours, joins Aberystwyth Business School.

His recent research has centred on the quality of use of pharmaceutical medicine, with one project exploring the use of an inhaled analgesic for acute pre-hospital trauma pain, and others on topics that have spanned medicine use across a number of chronic disease areas.

After beginning his career in Australia, Professor Smith moved to the United Kingdom in 2007 and has worked at the universities of Aberdeen, Nottingham and Lincoln.

Professor Smith said: “I am delighted to join Aberystwyth Business School. Health economics is a vital subject because it provides methods and tools to help decision makers in the choices they face when trying to deliver high quality healthcare in a modern resource-limited economy.

“I am excited about adding to Aberystwyth Business School’s existing portfolio of expertise in research and to being given the opportunity to continue to use my skills to help the NHS to identify and deliver cost-effective healthcare and services to the people of mid Wales.”

Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University said: “It is vital as a society that we continue to innovate in our approaches to healthcare and Aberystwyth University is stepping up to the challenge with the launch of our first ever nursing degrees in September 2022 and through interdisciplinary research into combating diseases, using artificial intelligence to improve patients’ health, and exploring new techniques to improve human health through diet.

“The appointment of Professor Smith demonstrates our continuing commitment to developing and delivering high quality healthcare education and research at Aberystwyth. His expertise will focus on the economic aspects of healthcare, and his teaching and research will benefit our students and beyond.”

Professor Smith’s appointment coincides with the awarding of Honorary Professorships to three executives from Hywel Dda University Health Board, further strengthening Aberystwyth University’s expertise in healthcare as well as building on its partnership with the local health board.

Dr Helen Munro, Consultant in Community Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare at the Board; Dr Leighton Phillips, the Board’s Director of Research, Innovation and University Partnerships, and Huw Thomas, its Director of Finance collectively have decades of expertise in the health sector in the United Kingdom.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda University Health Board, added: “On behalf of the Board I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Helen, Leighton and Huw on their appointment as Honorary Professors at Aberystwyth University. Our partnership with Aberystwyth University continues to go from strength to strength and we look forward to continuing our vital work together in the future.”
Professor Elizabeth Treasure added: “I am delighted to welcome our new Honorary Professors, who together will bring decades of experience to our research and teaching. Their expertise will further contribute to the role we have to play as a University in helping improve healthcare provision for everyone.”

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