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
On our monthly busk in Market Street, Red Leicester raised £120 for the Cyclone Idai Relief Fund. Thanks to all passers-by who gave so generously. You can see us below in good voice singing the Internationale at the end of our busk.
A full recording of the spectacular Always and Always Facing Toward the Light, a free public event on 3rd March about the life of local suffragette and socialist Alice Hawkins, is now available. It featured singing from members of Red Leicester and two other local choirs and a 3D video projection from Shared Space and Light. Click here for the full video (just over 30 minutes).
Red Leicester held its Annual Ceilidh and Fundraiser on Saturday 30th March at the Ukrainian Hall and raised over £600 for the local charity One Roof Leicester plus over £400 for Perfectly Edible UK who provided the delicious food. Red Leicester sang several songs including: Quiet; Citizens’ Shanty; Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed; Justice Is Coming; Lives In The Balance; Peace Be With You Always; and You’ve Got a Friend. There was also dancing to Greenshoots Ceilidh Orchestra. The photos below show Ceilidh-goers demonstrating variations on the terpsichorean art!
On Wednesday 27th March, Red Leicester performed at the Upstairs at the Western theatre, part of the regular Choir Night series, singing a range of songs including: Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed; Lives In the Balance; William Morris; Quiet; You’ve Got a Friend; Justice Is Coming; Citizens’ Shanty; and others.
Red Leicester busked in the spring sunshine raising £120 for the Save The Children Yemen Crisis Appeal on Saturday 9th March in Market Street.
On Sunday 3rd March, members of Red Leicester joined singers from Fosse Singers and DMU Square Mile choirs in the spectacular Always and Always Facing Toward the Light – a free public event about the life of local suffragette and socialist, Alice Hawkins, in New Market Square near her statue. As well as the choirs, it featured Elaine Pantling in the role of Alice, Peter Shenton as her husband Alfred, and a 3D video projection from Shared Space and Light.
It was a real highlight of the series of events in Leicester celebrating the life and achievements of Alice and the wider movement for female suffrage culminating in women being granted the vote in 1918.
Elaine Pantling is pictured below holding a maquette of the statue of Alice Hawkins with which she was recently presented to mark her huge personal involvement in the series of events in Leicester over the past year celebrating Alice’s achievements.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!