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
This Too Shall Pass
Whilst Red Leicester cannot physically meet because of national restrictions, this does not mean that the choir’s members have been inactive over the past few months. The choir has been meeting on Zoom to learn new songs and practise old favourites and hopes to get together again before too long.
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 worthy 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 noble 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‘.
Red Leicester has supported International Conscientious Objectors’ Day for many years, joining others at the memorial on Peace Walk in remembering those people who stuck to their non-violent principles during two world wars. This year’s event on Friday 15th May was different as no such physical gathering was possible. Instead a virtual programme of readings and remembrance was held using Zoom.
May Day will not be shut down or locked down! The world’s first global virtual May Day is taking place on Friday 1st May. Organised by Labour Start working with the International Trade Union Confederation and all the global union federations, it promises to be ‘a 12 hour broadcast of videos and live events from trade unions around the globe’. The provisional programme will be released on 30th April on the Labour Start website.
An ex-member of Red Leicester, Alex Christoyannopoulos from Loughborough University, is seeking crowdfunding to publish Essays in Anarchism and Religion: Vol. III. Click here if you would like to know more.
Spot the difference! One of Red Leicester’s sopranos, Clare Scott, took her toothbrush and water to clean up the memorial on Peace Walk to the 250 conscientious objectors who refused to fight in World War 1. This makes a huge difference just in time for International Conscientious Objectors’ Day on Friday 15th May which, this year, will be celebrated online.
Red Leicester again met virtually on Wednesday 8th April with the help of Zoom technology and practised Lean on Me by the recently-departed Bill Withers, an appropriate song for the times. This is a song that we hope to be able to sing when we all get back together again. We also sang Sing John Ball and Lay It Down. Below you can see a screen shot of all our smiling faces (thanks, Adey)!
Red Leicester made the pages of the New Statesman on April 3rd in an article about the rise of political choirs and how they are faring during the coronavirus lockdown (see below). You can rest assured that Red Leicester continue to sing – albeit at a distance and via the medium of Zoom – and will be out and about again when all this is over!
Red Leicester featured on the BBC Inside Out programme (Monday 16th March) in its report on the ethnic diversity of Extinction Rebellion. The report is interesting in its own right (it begins at about 19 minutes 20 seconds into the programme) with footage of Red Leicester singing at the ER event in Leicester on 1st February (see below) near the end (see below).
Red Leicester busked on Saturday 14th March raising £85 for Women’s Aid. The organisation’s Chief Executive wrote to thank the choir, saying that: ‘We are very grateful to you for this donation, which will go towards helping the women and children in our refuges, many of whom arrive with little or nothing after fleeing a difficult situation. The money we receive helps to ensure the families have essential items and a safe, comfortable environment when they arrive.‘
Red Leicester’s Annual Fundraiser on Saturday 7th March at the Ukrainian Hall raised £485 for the Ghirass Cultural Centre, an educational, cultural and leisure facility for the children of Bethlehem, and £310 for Perfectly Edible who provided all the delicious food. As ever, Greenshoots Ceilidh Orchestra played some wonderful music for dancing, Red Leicester sang a set of six songs, and a great evening was had by all!
On Saturday 1st February, Red Leicester busked in aid of toilet twinning and raised £110 enabling us to pay for two toilets in Kabale, Uganda. The certificates (see below) will be displayed in the appropriate places in the Secular Hall.
We then moved across town to sing at the Extinction Rebellion event at the City Hall to help mark the 365 days since LCC declared a climate emergency (PS don’t forget to respond to the City Council’s Climate Action Plan consultation!).
Red Leicester contributed towards a wonderful evening of song and music on Thursday 30th January at the Sing for Syria concert, organised by the University of Leicester UNICEF On Campus Society. £650 was raised for children in Syria and the choir was praised for a ‘brilliant and polished performance’ by a member of the audience. Scroll down to videos of our performance below.
Red Leicester members (see below) braved the cold weather on Saturday 11th January in Market Street to busk for Leicester South Foodbank, raising £160 for this important local service. Bruce Harrison from the Leicester South Foodbank said: ‘Thank you so much for your generous donation and support‘. Once again, thanks to all the Leicester shoppers and passers-by who stopped to listen and donate!
Singing some frack-free Christmas Carols, Red Leicester joined members of Leicester Friends of the Earth in protesting about climate change, and particularly the role of major banks in investing in fossil fuel companies, in several locations around the city on Saturday 14th December.
Red Leicester raised £140 for One Roof Leicester at its monthly busk in Market Street on Saturday 7th December. Thank you to all the Christmas shoppers who stopped to listen and gave generously to an organisation that provides accommodation and support to homeless people, destitute refugees and refused asylum seekers.
Red Leicester members joined the picket line with UCU members taking strike action to defend their pay, working conditions and pensions on Friday 29th November at the University of Leicester. This is the second time in the last two years that UCU members have been out on strike and demonstrates the effects of the increased marketisation of higher education.
Red Leicester sang at the opening of the Journey to Justice Exhibition at the Attenborough Arts Centre on Friday 11th October. This free event celebrates the US civil rights movement, its significance, and its links to the UK and tells the stories of some of Leicester’s own protestors and radicals who contributed to the long and vibrant history of social activism and protest in the city. Red Leicester’s set included: Harriet Tubman, We Shall Overcome, The Dirty Thirty, Nana Was A Suffragette and the Internationale.
Two members of Red Leicester have been involved in the XR Peace Roadblock in London this week. Despite the hostile press coverage depicting such protestors as crusties and luvvies, they have a strong message which Red Leicester supports and endorses in many of the songs that we sing. So, three cheers for Cee and Mel – and all the other people putting themselves on the line in London and in other cities across the world this week – we respect your commitment and are humbled by the bravery of your actions! See pictures below.
Hundreds of people congregated in Leicester city centre and marched from the Clock Tower to Jubilee Square on Friday 20th September to support the UK Student Climate Network’s Global Climate Strike. For the first time, older people were invited to participate alongside school and college students, the initiators and organisers of the action, and Red Leicester members were there in force. Get a flavour of the event through the pictures below.
On Wednesday 11th September, Red Leicester sang the Internationale for a film being made by Ady Pole, a University of Leicester History student. The subjects of the film are Roy Watts and Fred Sykes, two Leicester men who fought and died with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39. Ady’s film is a contribution to the Journey to Justice Exhibition which will be held in Leicester next month. As you can see below, the choir was happy to oblige with their customary enthusiasm!
Red Leicester raised £100 for the Red Cross Hurricane Dorian Bahamas Appeal at their regular busk in Market Street on Saturday 7th September. Many thanks to those good Leicester people who stopped to listen and contribute!