Red Leicester is Leicester’s socialist choir singing songs expressive of social and political protest, and songs of worldwide celebration, struggle and change. To find out more about us, including when and where we meet and how to join us, please click here.
To read more news about what we are up to and recent events in which we have been involved, just scroll through the stories and pictures below.
News and Events
Several members of Red Leicester joined the Extinction Rebellion demonstration outside the BBC offices near Jubilee Square on Friday 21st December to urge the BBC to take the lead in promoting the truth about climate change. The protesters sang seasonal carols with appropriately adapted words and the event in Leicester was one of several taking place across the UK in places such as London, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester. You can read the Leicester Mercury’s report on the event here.
(Photograph courtesy of Leicester Mercury)
Red Leicester raised £165 for One Roof Leicester on its regular monthly busk in Market Street on Saturday 8th December. Alongside the normal busking repertoire, the choir also sang Leicester’s Bleak Midwinter first written by choir member Gill Taylor in 1998 to the popular tune by Gustav Holst. The words of the song, about the scandal of homelessness, are still as relevant today:
‘I’ve got no choice about it – Nowhere else to be – Give me rest and quiet – Not more cups of tea – I’ve been kicked and spat at – Hounded to move on – I make the place untidy – Reminder of what’s wrong’
On Tuesday 4th December, Red Leicester sang at the Sing for Syria Concert (organised by University of Leicester UNICEF on Campus Society) at Christchurch, Clarendon Park Road, Leicester. The free concert, which raised £329.74 for the UN’s Syria appeal, featured several choirs, amongst others Leicester Chorus, Amika and DMU Square Mile, and Red Leicester’s programme included: I Want Rosa To Stay, Pointless Packaging, Citizens’ Shanty, The Lads In Their Hundreds, Lay It Down and Peace Be With You Always.
On Sunday 2nd December at 12 noon, Red Leicester members helped to send a message to the UN climate talks in Poland by being part of a human number 12 (the number of years left in which to take radical action against climate change), photographed from the Big Wheel in Jubilee Square and sent to the UN negotiators. This event was organised by Leicester Friends of the Earth.and Red Leicester also led the singing of several anti-fracking and environmental songs (see video).
At 11.45 am on Saturday 1st December at the Clock Tower, choir members joined others in The Happening to commemorate the 107 female victims of domestic violence in the UK in 2017. This event was organised by Women’s Aid Leicestershire and raised awareness and funds for the valued charity.
Red Leicester raised £166.10 busking in Market Street for One Roof Leicester (running the Winter Night Shelter) on Saturday 10th November.
The Co-operative Party invited Red Leicester to sing at their weekend school at the Hilton Hotel, Fosse Park on Saturday 3rd November where they were discussing local government and housing policy. Red Leicester chose several appropriate songs expressive of collaboration and change including: Unison in Harmony; The Whole Wide World Around; Citizens’ Shanty; Power in A Union and the Internationale (below).
Members of Red Leicester members joined with Fosse Singers and the DMU Square Mile choir in two performances of Alice In Her Shoes at Curve on 25th and 26th October. This celebration of the inspiring life of Leicester suffragette Alice Hawkins is a superb one-woman show written and performed by Elaine Pantling and is part of a year-long Leicester celebration involving the council and local schools and featuring the Curve events, the arrival of the Suffragette Flag and the unveiling of the Alice Hawkins statue in Market Square.
Alice Hawkins (Elaine Pantling) and the choir performing in Alice In Her Shoes at Curve on 26th October.
Elaine and the choir rehearsing for Alice In Her Shoes on 20th October.
Earlier, on Friday afternoon at an Equaliteas event, the Alice choir met local schoolchildren at the old Equity Shoes factory (where Alice Hawkins worked) and led them in singing several songs from the show.
One of Red Leicester’s basses – Martin Pennington – completed the Leicester Marathon on Sunday 14th October in just over 4 hours and 17 minutes to raise money for Women’s Aid Leicestershire. So far, Martin has raised £2000 but you can still donate online here or email him at email@example.com with your pledge.
A rather exhausted Martin after the marathon trying to regain some body heat!
Martin with Pam and Jane from Women’s Aid Leicestershire.
Red Leicester’s monthly busk in Market Street on Saturday 13th October raised £111 for the anti-austerity movement We Shall Overcome to raise money for those hardest hit by the government’s austerity policy. As you can see, the sun shone on us as we sang enthusiastically!
Red Leicester last night (10th October) bade bon voyage to one if its sopranos, Mel (pictured below), and her partner Steve who are off on a six month trip on a sailing ship around the Caribbean. They are writing a blog of their exciting trip which you can read here. We wish them all the best on their travels!
In the Secular Hall on Wednesday 3rd October, Red Leicester hosted the Campaign Choirs Writing Collective in the launch of their new publication, Singing For Our Lives . This book is a detailed and vibrant history of the UK street choirs movement, of which Red Leicester is a proud member. The choir was on hand to sing a number of appropriate songs including Citizens’ Shanty by Boff Whalley (from Leeds Commoners Choir):
(courtesy of Ambrose Musiwiya/Civic Leicester)
Red Leicester sang several peace songs – Ain’t Gonna Study War, Peace Be With You Always, Keep You In Peace, Bury Trident and Lay It Down – at Leicester CND’s Peace One Evening on Saturday 22nd September. The evening also included other singers and performers, puppets, a splendid meal and rousing talks from various groups including Friends of the Earth, Save Our NHS and others.
Red Leicester raised £100 for the Kerala Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (to alleviate the devastation caused by recent floods) by busking in Market Street on Saturday 8th September (see below).
Christina Mottram, one of the Red Leicester altos, and her husband, David, will be walking the Coast to Coast Walk from the 15th September raising money for Loros (a local hospice charity). If you would like to sponsor them, please visit their fundraising page. Here’s hoping the weather is kind to them and that they don’t have to do too much sheltering under rocks as in the picture below!
On Friday 31st August, singers from Red Leicester joined family and friends at St Luke’s church in Leicester in remembering Julie Burnage, a longstanding member of Red Leicester, who died recently. Many memories were shared of a woman with a huge passion for life and strong socialist and Christian commitments demonstrated, not least, through her work on behalf of refugees in Leicester. Julie loved singing with Red Leicester and she will be much missed by the choir; it was fitting, therefore, that the choir sang two of her favourite pieces – Song of Peace and Feeling Good – in her memory.
Red Leicester members joined Elaine Pantling (on left below) to perform several songs from her acclaimed one-woman show, Alice in Her Shoes, celebrating the life of Alice Hawkins, the Leicester suffragette and campaigner at Curve’s 10th Birthday Celebrations on Sunday 26th August. Singers from Fosse Singers and DMU Square Mile choirs were also involved.
A few members of Red Leicester joined the many thousands of people on Friday 13th July in London protesting at the visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK (organised by the Stop Trump Coalition). A Big Choir was assembled by the Campaign Choirs Network to serenade marchers as they progressed down Regent Street singing songs with anti-Trump lyrics and sentiments. The day was good-humoured, festive but serious-minded about the threat he poses to peace, democracy and equality.
Red Leicester spent a scorching weekend in Brighton (29th June – 1st July) at the 2018 Street Choirs Festival. The atmosphere was brilliant and the organisation by Hullabaloo Community Quire, led by their Musical Director Kirsty Martin, was faultless. Here are a couple of photos of the choir busking in the Pavilion Gardens.
Love was definitely in the air on Saturday 23rd June when two of the Red Leicester sopranos, Belle and Sunny, tied the knot at Belgrave Hall! Other members of the choir serenaded them with a selection of their favourite songs and the happy couple can be assured of the best wishes of all the choir for a wonderful future together. Here are Belle (on right) and Sunny in all their finery!
On Tuesday 12th June, Red Leicester sang a couple of pertinent songs, Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed and Can We Afford the Doctor?, as a prelude to a fascinating talk by Professor Richard Murphy to the Secular Society in the Secular Hall (see photo below). Professor Murphy is a tax campaigner, academic and author of the book, The Joy of Tax. In his talk – How To Pay For It: the answer to the question every activist is asked – he outlined his unorthodox but compelling ideas about taxation and the mendacious way in which politicians of all parties have hoodwinked the British public into believing that there is no alternative to a low taxation, low investment economy based on the analogy of a household budget. There is and Richard communicated this to his audience in a non-technical, amusing and thought-provoking way – afterwards he even paid tribute to the choir in his blog!
Several members of Red Leicester joined singers from Leicester Amika to sing songs in support of Leicester Sing For Water at the Riverside Festival on Sunday June 3rd. Red Leicester also performed a short individual set comprised of I Am A River and Deep Blue Sea.
On Tuesday 22nd and Wednesday 23rd May singers from Red Leicester greeted the arrival and subsequent departure of the Anti-Poverty Bus Tour in Leicester organised by the European Minimum Income Network. Two buses are visiting all EU member states between April and July to raise awareness of the need for a guaranteed adequate minimum income for all. Red Leicester sang several appropriate songs including : Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed, Can We Afford the Doctor?, and Brother, Can You Spare a Dime (you can view Ambrose Musiyiwa’s videos of these here). The photo below (again courtesy of Ambrose) shows several of the Red Leicester singers plus City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, local Bangra dancers and members of the EMIN bus tour.
A few members of Red Leicester joined Friends of the Earth supporters in a vigil for the trees of Prebend Gardens on Wednesday 16th May singing a specially-adapted version of Gentle, Angry People. You can view a video of this here. If you live, work or study in the city of Leicester, please also sign the petition asking Leicester City Council to sign up to the Woodland Trust’s Tree Charter and to protect local trees.
At the annual International Conscientious Objectors’ Day ceremony on Tuesday 15th May on Peace Walk, Red Leicester sang Song of Peace, Deep Blue Sea and Lay It Down following news about Eritrean refugees fleeing from compulsory conscription and an update on the 2017 Leicester Charter on the militarisation of young people (you can sign this here).
A hardy few from Red Leicester journeyed to London and walked from the embankment to Hyde Park on the TUC New Deal for Working People March on Saturday 12th May hoisting our banner high in the rain!
Several members of Red Leicester attended the International Workers’ Day Rally in Leicester city centre on Saturday 5th May. In lovely sunny weather, we listened to a number of speakers including Marlene Sidaway (President of the International Brigade Memorial Trust) in the photo below.
A small slice of Red Leicester braved the wet weather to sing Unison in Harmony and There Is Power In A Union at the International Workers’ Memorial Day event in Town Hall Square on Saturday 28th April. Leicester South MP and Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth posted this video of the choir singing on his Facebook page.
Red Leicester took full advantage of the welcome sunny weather to busk in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care in Market Street on Saturday 14th April. We raised £62 to add to the collectors’ efforts. Here we are with the Marie Curie collectors!
Red Leicester sang Bandiera Rossa and the Internationale at the moving ceremony on Friday 30th March unveiling a plaque (see below) to three Leicester men (Roy Watts, Fred Sykes and Jack Watson) who died fighting with the International Brigade against Franco’s nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. You can read more about the event in the Leicester Mercury.
Once again, members of Red Leicester joined the UCU pickets on Friday 16th March outside the University of Leicester in support of their protest against attacks on their pensions. Spirits on the picket line are still very high despite the employers’ intransigence and the strikers are determined to prevail.
On Saturday 10th March Red Leicester held its annual Fundraising Ceilidh with Greenshoots Ceilidh Orchestra at the Ukrainian Hall, Fosse Road South. The evening was hugely successful and just over £714 was raised for our chosen charity, the Real Junk Food Project, who also provided all the food. The Real Junk Food Project takes food that would otherwise be thrown away and creates lovely meals at low cost. We sang (as you can see from the photo below, courtesy of Ambrose Musiyiwa/Civic Leicester), ate and danced the evening away!
Members of Red Leicester joined the early morning UCU pickets on Tuesday 6th March outside the University of Leicester in support of their protest against attacks on their pensions. Here we are singing Billy Bragg’s There is Power in the Union (photo courtesy of Ambrose Musiyiwa/Civic Leicester)!
Red Leicester sang several peace songs at the opening of the Art and Protest Exhibition on Tuesday 27th February in the Basement Gallery of the Adult Education Centre, Belvoir St. The exhibition runs from 27th February to 13th March and 40 years of CND’s local peace campaigning is being illustrated through the work of local artist and veteran peace campaigner, Anna Cheetham (pictured below with Red Leicester, Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and Bruce Kent – photo courtesy of Ambrose Musiyiwa/Civic Leicester).
On Sunday 4th February, members of Red Leicester joined singers from other choirs at the ceremony to mark the unveiling of the statue of Leicester suffragette Alice Hawkins in the new Market Square (perhaps that should be Alice Hawkins Square!). Elaine Pantling, reprising her role from her one woman show Alice In Her Shoes, once again inspired the crowds. She led the march and gave a speech in Alice Hawkins’s own famous words as the 7ft statue was revealed (read more about the event on the Leicester Mercury website). There was even a photo on the front page of the Guardian (see below)!
On Wednesday 24th January at 7.30 pm, Red Leicester opened a series of Choir Nights at Upstairs at the Western theatre. Red Leicester’s raised £123.60 from the ticket sales for this event and donated this to Leicester Time To Change, a local mental health group working to ‘reduce the stigma, prejudice and discrimination that surround mental health’.
Several members of Red Leicester attended the Tree Festival organised by Leicester Friends of the Earth to protest against the proposed chopping down of lime trees outside St George’s church near Orton Square. You can sign the open letter to Leicester City Council by clicking here. The picture below shows members of Black Annis Morris dancing enthusiastically in the rain!
Red Leicester again busked in the cold and damp on 13th January raising £71.50 for Leicester Friends of Bethlehem. You can see us all wrapped up below!
Leicester is one of the UK’s 2018 Centenary Cities, selected for their contribution to the women’s suffrage movement a hundred years ago and to mark next year’s centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 and Parliament’s ‘Vote 100’ initiative. In particular, Leicester’s Alice Hawkins is singled out for her courage and fortitude as a working class woman fighting for her rights. The city will receive nearly £200,000 to fund a series of cultural and educational events celebrating her part in the struggle. These will include the unveiling of a statue of Alice in the new market square.