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
Conscientious Objectors’ Memorial Day (May 15th)
Red Leicester joined other Leicester folk in commemorating and celebrating the brave people who have stood out against war and for peace over the last 100 years or more. The choir performed Lay It Down to begin the proceedings and Song of Peace right at the end. In between there were poems, testimony and readings from others; a defiant and moving occasion held at the memorial to conscientious objectors in Peace walk.
Red Leicester perform at Yes! Yes! UCS! (March 29th)
Red Leicester (below) sang two songs to round off a performance of Yes! Yes! UCS! by Townsend Productions at the Quorn Grange Hotel. The production celebrated the famous work-in at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in 1971-72, led by trade unionist Jimmy Reid, and featured Heather Gourdie and Janie Thomson plus music from Neil Gore. It was a fabulous evening and Red Leicester was proud to perform at such a tremendous event! Click here to watch a short video of the choir singing the Waverley Polka.
Nationality and Borders Bill
Olivia Colman (below) delivers a trenchant challenge to MPs to do the right thing and to vote to change the cruel and heartless Nationality and Borders Bill currently going through Parliament. Send this to your MP and encourage them to find their compassion and vote against the government’s proposals – we stand Together With Refugees.
Red Leicester raise money for Ukraine (March 5th)
Red Leicester busked in aid of the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal on Saturday 5th March, raising £1388 from this and other sources – many thanks to those who donated generously.
In addition, the choir said goodbye to Mel (pictured second from the left below) who is shortly moving to Brighton, Bon voyage, Mel!
Citizens’ Shanty raises awareness of pernicious anti-refugee bill (February 9th)
Red Leicester recorded a rousing version of Boff Whalley’s Citizens’ Shanty in order to draw attention to Together With Refugees’ campaign against the Nationality and Borders Bill currently being debated in Parliament. Members of the choir then sent copies of the recording to their MPs in order to encourage them to vote against various clauses in the Bill which, according to Together With Refugees will: ‘deny many refugees the chance to seek sanctuary in the UK, criminalise those who try, isolate refugees in harmful out-of-town institutions, and undermine 70 years of international co-operation under the UN refugee convention. Combined with the government’s refusal to set a clear target on new safe routes, it would drastically cut the overall number we give safety to. As well as being inhumane, it will be expensive, unworkable and undermine our international standing.’
Red Leicester busking for Red Cross (February 5th)
Red Leicester busked outside the Globe in Silver Street on Saturday 5th February raising £100 for the Red Cross Appeal. Many thanks to everyone who donated so generously.
Yes! Yes! UCS! filming (January 19th)
Red Leicester is involved in the latest production from Townsend Theatre Productions about the work-in by the Upper Clyde Shipybuilders (UCS) in 1971-72. It is called Yes! Yes! UCS! and it features a couple of songs as a backdrop to the main dramatic action. Red Leicester has rehearsed these and you can see our rendition of the stirring song Yes! Yes! UCS! below. The production will be touring the UK from February including a show at the Quorn Grange Hotel in Loughborough on 29th March.
Red Leicester’s return to busking!
Red Leicester busked on Gallowtree Gate on Saturday 11th December in support of Medical Aid for Palestinians raising £80 in total. The choir sang alongside the Palestine Solidarity Campaign stall raising awareness of the Elbit factory in Leicester which makes the Hermes 450 drones. These have been deployed against Palestinians in Gaza killing many including children. The new song Shut Elbit Down, written by Janet Wood, was given its first public airing in Leicester along with several perennial peace songs including Song of Peace and Deep Blue Sea.
Red Leicester’s first outing for over 18 months!
Red Leicester sang at the Salt of the Earth Fundraising Community Sale on Saturday 20th November at Christchurch, Clarendon Park. Our first outing since March 2020 included songs about the arms trade and the environment (the perennial favourite Get On Yer Bike, written by choir members Sue Skyrme and Chris Morley). Afterwards, soup, samosas and cake were the order of the day to help ward off the cold weather!
Red Leicester’s November donation in lieu of busking went to Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire – ‘a group of people living in Leicester and Leicestershire who are terrified and inspired by the climate crisis and climate justice and are working together to address these issues‘. As Red Leicester intends to busk on the streets of Leicester in December, this is probably our last such donation!
New Members’ Evening
Red Leicester held a successful New Members’ Evening on Wednesday 10th November at Christchurch, Clarendon Park Road with several new faces coming along. Our MD, Jane Bursnall, presented a specially-tailored session as an introduction to our repertoire and a chance to meet current choir members. If you were not able to attend this session and would still like to try the choir out, please contact us first; either send an email to email@example.com or ring Veronica on 0116 270 3143.
In October, Red Leicester – still not able to busk and raise money in Leicester – donated £50 to After 18, a charity which specialises in supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young refugees under 25 to adjust to living in the UK, consider their options and prepare for their future.
This week, Red Leicester returned to singing together indoors for the first time since March 2020! Choir members reassembled for rehearsals at Christchurch, Clarendon Park on Wednesday 8th September.
This is a bigger space than the Secular Hall and our COVID Guidelines ensured that singers were as safe as possible whilst the virus is still in the community. On the right are some of our socially-distanced and masked sopranos!
The Child Poverty Action Group is raising funds for a new phone system to support about 36,000 families a year with advice; a vital resource in the fight against poverty. Red Leicester chose them as their September charity in lieu of busking and sent them £50. The CPAG replied: ‘Thank you so much for your donation. Your support makes it possible for us to advise families facing financial hardship so they get the support they need.‘
August’s busking was once again cancelled – although Red Leicester hope to be back on the streets of Leicester before too long! – so the choir donated £50 to the Leicester LGBT Centre which does important support work for LGBT people in the local area.
Whilst busking is still off the agenda for Red Leicester, July’s £50 donation has gone to support the legal fund of Malka, a refugee well-known to members of the choir, currently aiming to raise £15,000.
The money is urgently needed for legal representation in her appeal against a judicial decision to refuse her political asylum in the UK. You can read more about Malka and donate to her fund by clicking here.
In December 2020, Red Leicester donated £50 to the Citizens of the World Choir – ‘a choir for people who are refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and the wider community of Londoners’. They have now successfully recorded their first album of music – Symphony of Voices – available for download at a cost of £5. Composed in collaboration with composer Tom Donald, it comprises the voices of 30 nations recorded on phones throughout the winter lockdown. Read more about how the album was recorded on Refugee Week with further features on BBC radio, BBC TV and in the national press.
Red Leicester joined with Liverpool Socialist Singers in a joint singing session on Saturday 12th June to show solidarity and to learn new songs. Among the songs that the choirs sung together were Get On Your Bike, Citizens’ Shanty Mashup, All the Homeless People (Eleanor Rigby), Legal-Illegal and There Is No Planet B. A great time was had by all and the power of song was revitalised yet again. You can see all our happy faces below!
Shortly after the XR event below, a member of Red Leicester was hit by a car whilst cycling up London Road. Following his excellent treatment at Glenfield Hospital, he suggested that June’s £50 donation in lieu of busking should go to the Leicester Hospitals Charity to support the great work that they do.
Several members of Red Leicester joined others in Extinction Rebellion’s Spring Into Action: Sink or Swim event in Leicester on Saturday 29th May. This involved a noisy procession from the railway station to Jubilee Square led by a beautiful Noah’s Ark – a true Carnival of the Animals as many demonstrators had dressed as wildlife to draw attention to the heavy price paid by the natural world for humanity’s neglect of its climate responsibilities (see below).
A special online International Conscientious Objectors Day ceremony was held on Saturday 15th May, organised by Leicester CND. It included recorded singing by Red Leicester (Song of Peace) and Global Harmony (Melton Mowbray), poetry and, above all, stories of courageous conscientious objectors.
May’s busking also fell victim to COVID restrictions and so Red Leicester agreed to donate £50 to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines via the UK-SVG Friendship Trust, to whom financial contributions can still be made.
Instead of busking in April, Red Leicester has donated £50 to the Disasters Emergency Committee whose Coronavirus Appeal is saving lives in fragile states and conflict zones such as Syria, Yemen and South Sudan. They have replied to say: ‘Thank you so much for your donation to the DEC Coronavirus Appeal. …Your donation will help families protect themselves with simple things like soap and clean water, and go towards providing essential supplies and equipment to the frontline workers caring for those who fall ill’.
Despite the roll-out of COVID vaccinations and the improving national picture, it will be some months before Red Leicester is able to busk again. In lieu of its usual March busk therefore, Red Leicester has donated £50 to the Big Issue Foundation to support their vendors during this difficult period when they can’t be out on the streets selling their magazines.
Red Leicester members were saddened to hear of the death of Pam Minchin on 14th February at her home in Hunstanton. Pam was a tenor with Red Leicester for many years possessing a very deep, rich voice. When she auditioned for another local choir in the early 2000s she was told that, although musically she was fine, her voice was too low for a woman in their choir! As a result she returned to the choir until she and her partner Robin moved to Norfolk in 2016.
Pam was very committed to choir activities, regularly attending rehearsals, taking part in many gigs, concerts and busking sessions and arranging country walks in the summer holidays when the choir was not meeting. Robin and Pam continued to maintain contact with choir after they moved by coming to some of our annual fund-raisers and keeping an eye on our web-site.
Pam was a midwife, working with fellow-Red Leicester member Sue Skyrme who knew her for over 40 years, and later teaching Health and Social Care at at Wigston College of FE. She was widowed early in life and raised her two children, Ruth and David, on her own.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago and bore the medical treatment with her quiet cheerfulness. Despite COVID restrictions, she was recently visited by her son and daughter, Ruth and David, and was able to cuddle her grandson, Oscar, born just before Christmas. She came home in January when no further treatment was possible apart from wonderful NHS palliative care. Pam’s funeral will take place on Tuesday 9th March and donations in her memory can be made to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. The thoughts of the choir are with Robin, Ruth, David and the rest of Pam’s family.
Once again, with no busking in February, Red Leicester has donated £50 to a great cause, Right To Remain which ‘works with communities, groups and organisations across the UK, providing information, resources, training and assistance to help people to establish their right to remain, and to challenge injustice in the immigration and asylum system‘.
On Friday 22nd January 2021, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force following its ratification by Honduras in October last year and Red Leicester joined many other choirs, organisations and bodies campaigning for a peaceful world in celebration of this historic day!
The Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Beatrice Fihn welcomed the historic moment: ‘This is a new chapter for nuclear disarmament. Decades of activism have achieved what many said was impossible: nuclear weapons are banned‘.
With no opportunity for busking in sight yet, Red Leicester has donated £50 to Leicester Musical Memory Box, a local not-for-profit organisation that uses ‘singing, music and gentle seated exercises to help improve health and wellbeing whilst reducing loneliness and social isolation‘.
Red Leicester Choir wishes a Merry Christmas to everyone! 2020 has been a dreadful year for many obvious reasons and we trust that 2021 will bring more joy and hope to people around the world. The words of the poem (right) may provide some solace over the Christmas period.
A new short film about Extinction Rebellion, by Frankie Dean, features Red Leicester’s Cee Martin explaining her reasons for joining the campaign. Red Leicester also make an appearance during an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Leicester in February this year (it seems a long time ago now!) and singing over the closing credits.
As we move into December and further COVID-19 restrictions, Red Leicester are once again frustrated at not being able to busk. Instead, and in tune with the season of goodwill to all, the choir is donating £50 to both Women’s Aid Leicestershire and Citizens of the World Choir – ‘a choir for people who are refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and the wider community of Londoners’ – to enable them to keep singing throughout the winter months.
Leicester Friends of the Earth and Climate Action Leicester have been hard at work during the pandemic putting together a response to Leicester City Council’s Local Plan, currently out for consultation. Feeling that the plan as written inadequately addresses the challenges of climate change, they have written their own alternative plan containing a vision of Leicester as a truly sustainable city. They have even constructed a model of what the city might look like incorporating the views of young and old alike (see below). As Hannah Wakley of Leicester Friends of the Earth, and also a Red Leicester member, explains: ‘The idea behind the model city is a play on the word model; we want Leicester to be a model city when it comes to sustainability’.
In early November, Red Leicester would normally be busking to raise money for a good cause but, once again, find ourselves stymied by the virus. Instead, the choir has decided to donate £50 to Woodgate Community Food which runs a food bank in Fosse Ward, Leicester. They say: ‘Many of our local people suffer deprivation and poverty with the ward scoring high on deprivation indices. Covid has only made this worse and we want to work in solidarity to help those who are struggling by providing free supplies of basic food, provide for special diets and nutritionally-balanced food, toiletries and sanitary products, baby supplies and other urgent items which local families may struggle to afford or access’.
Once again, Red Leicester decided to donate £50 to a worthy cause in lieu of our normal October busking. This month, we chose Rainbow Railroad, a group helping LGBTQI people to escape from persecution around the world. The organisation ‘is focused on providing solutions for LGBTQI people who need immediate assistance because they are facing a serious threat to their lives and safety’.
With no busking in sight yet for Red Leicester, the choir decided to donate £50 in September to the Hope Not Hate Charitable Trust which ‘works in the UK to build communities and celebrate shared identities’ and campaigns ‘for a world free from mistrust and racism‘.
Several members of Red Leicester joined forces with members of other choirs in the Campaign Choirs Network in August to produce this inspiring video in support of the current XR action. It was co-ordinated by Penny Stone from Protest in Harmony and uses the words of Margaret Mead: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world, indeed, it is the only thing that ever has‘. Please share this video via social media and email.
Red Leicester did not busk during August but again donated £50 to a good cause, in this case the British Red Cross Beirut Emergency Appeal.
Red Leicester’s normal July busk to raise money for a good cause has, for obvious reasons, been cancelled. So the choir has donated £50 to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, working to end the international arms trade. They have replied to say: ‘Your support, especially during these unprecedented times, is invaluable in helping us to continue to challenge the arms trade and stand up for human rights.’
Read this article in the New European by Liz Gerard to understand the truth about COVID-19 pandemic and the UK government’s response: The British People Are Being Played For Fools.
Red Leicester should have been singing at the Riverside Festival on Sunday 7th June to raise money for Water Aid but, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been cancelled this year. Nevertheless, the choir has agreed to donate £50 to Leicester Sing for Water to support this vital cause which works to help provide clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene as basic human rights to all across the globe.
Members of Red Leicester joined crowds in Leicester city centre on Saturday 6th June for the Black Lives Matter demonstration to protest at the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25th May (pictures below). There were several other similar demonstrations across the UK and, of course, across the world.
Several members of Red Leicester joined the Extinction Rebellion action (socially-distanced, of course) at County Hall on Saturday 30th May to remind councillors to honour their pledges on climate change (pictures below). Mel Gould said ‘Post-COVID we need a new normal that will help us avert an even worse climate crisis. We can’t go back to a situation where road building and using fossil fuels are seen as a viable way forward‘.