A very busy year!

Over the past year, this is what Red Leicester have been doing:

We had a very busy autumn in 2010: at the beginning of September we performed at the CND Annual Garden Party which raised £1200 for campaigning in the next year.

The following week a group of Red Leicester members joined singers from 45 choirs from around the country at London Sing for Water, a wonderful open air concert in the Scoop by the Greater London Authority Building near Tower Bridge. The weather was perfect, the concert, which was part of the annual Thames Festival, raises 000s for WaterAid each year mainly from the sponsorship of the singers.

At the beginning of October we busked outside Oxfam in Market Street and raised £130 for the victims of the Pakistan Floods. Two days later we contributed to a Let’s Get Reading event at Leicester Adult Education College: Books that Changed the World by singing a set of some world-changing songs. The following Saturday the English Defence League (EDL) held a provocative demonstration in Leicester. As far as we could make out most of the people (mainly young men) attending the demonstration had come on coaches from round the country. Although the police and the City Council were advising the public not to come to the city centre Red Leicester sang on the stage at the EDL counter demonstration organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Love Music Hate Racism. Although there were violent incidents at the EDL demonstration we were very pleased that the UAF demonstration was completely peaceful. The following day we were invited by the City Council to sing at the “One Leicester” event in Humberstone Gate (along with Billy Bragg and a number of others!). We donated our £100 fee from the Council to Love Music Hate Racism as a contribution to pay for the stage at the UAF demonstration. In the evening of October 10, after “One Leicester” some choir members stayed in town and sang at the Sunday evening Secular Society talk by David Grove on “Why we need Marx and Morris more than ever”. We sang our song “William Morris” which is composed of extracts from a number of Morris’ writings set to music together with the Internationale.

We sang before Professor Paul Rogers’ talk at the Secular Hall on Thursday 14 October. We performed a half-hour set composed mainly of peace songs before a talk on “The War on Terror” from this expert who works in the world’s largest Peace Studies Department which is at Bradford University.

We joined Julie’s 60th Birthday Party and sang a set of her favourite songs including The Internationale at the end of October. The following week we were the supporting act for Roy Bailey at The Musician (wow!). The Lord Mayor, Councillor Colin Hall, invited us to perform at the concert for the Lord Mayor’s “Forget-me-not Appeal” which has surpassed its aim of raising £100,000 to create a national centre of excellence for dementia care in Leicester’s NHS hospitals. Of course we included the South African song “Think of me, forget me not” in our programme! We were pleased to hear that the concert made £625 for the Appeal. On Saturday 6 November we busked in our usual position in Market Street and raised £125 for funds to cope with the Haiti Cholera epidemic. We then had a well-earned lull when we learned some new repertoire. We cancelled the busking on 4 December because of the bitterly cold weather but nevertheless several choir members led the carols at the LOROS Light up a Life open air carol service which 100s of people attend on the following day. We were pleased to see full Mercury coverage of this event when the Christmas Tree lights are switched on with a mention of the Choir. Just before Christmas a few Red Leicester members joined the Leicester Uncut Campaign singing Christmas songs with some new words about the low level of wages overseas in the garment industry.

On January 14 we had our annual Winter Warmer party for choir members and friends with party games, food and singing.

Our February busk raised £130 for SHARP, the Shelter Housing Aid and Research Project in Leicester which advises people with housing problems. On February 14 we sang at the Opening of the one-day Greenlight Festival at De Montfort University. This Festival of sustainable living was a really successful day with lots of stalls and activities. Our March busk raised £110 for an educational project in Asella in Ethiopia. After the busk some Red Leicester members joined Leicester Uncut in their take-over of Barclays Bank in Humberstone Gate – turning it into a job centre for the unemployed! We sang “William Morris”, a very appropriate song for the occasion.

On 26 March some Red Leicester members went to the Community Choirs Festival in Stratford on Avon. The day started with learning songs with some marvellous workshop leaders. In the late afternoon each choir sang one song, Red Leicester joined Amika Choir and sang Iquede which is one of the only songs in the repertoire of both choirs. It was really unfortunate that it clashed with the big TUC March for the Alternative in London. Red Leicester met up with the other political choirs and sang to the March. Our new banner was a great success at the Demonstration – thank you Frank, Eleanor and Susan.

On 2 April we busked for Friends of Bethlehem who arrange for a group of Palestinian children to come to the UK. We raised £70 for the children who put on performances of traditional songs and dances. On April 9 we organised our annual charity fund-raiser, an Evening of Song and Dance at the Ukrainian Hall in the West End. This year the charity we supported the Shelter Housing Aid and Research Project (SHARP) which provides an advice agency for the homeless and those in housing need in Leicester and Leicestershire. Despite various set-backs (including the hall being double-booked) we raised £575 at a very successful evening. Thanks to all who helped: selling tickets, running the raffle, bringing the fantastic food and the Greenshoots Ceilidh Orchestra for providing the music for the dancing. At the end of April we sang at an evening celebrating South Africa’s Freedom Day, performing on the same programme as the Afro City Swingsters who play classics of South African Township Swing. The concert raised funds for Buskaid which helps young township musicians in South Africa.

Our May busk raised £70 for WaterAid. At the beginning of June we joined other choirs at the big Leicester Sing for Water Concert Bede Park, Leicester, part of the Riverside Festival. We sang Feeling Good (a different version from Red Leicester’s),Tere Ghar Ke Samaane (a Hindi song) Iqude ( a Zulu song), Ise Oluwa (a Nigerian song), Shenandoah (a traditional American song), We are one/Tedumela (that we sang at London Sing for Water last year). The event made thousands of pounds for WaterAid. On June 18 we had a really busy day singing in Town Hall Square in the morning for Refugee Week organised by the Red Cross then going up to the Quaker Meeting House to sing at the City of Sanctuary Summer Fair. The following week we sang at Colleen and Phil’s party.

Our July busk raised £70 to help the Leicester Zimbabwe Choir buy T-shirts for their choir members. From 15- 17 July we went to the Street Choir Festival in Whitby, a great weekend meeting the other political choirs and taking part in singing workshops. We had a performance slot on Saturday night in the Pavilion when we sang Jane’s arrangement of Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed and Brother will you spare a dime the weekend ended with a picnic on the beach at lunchtime on Sunday.

Choir didn’t meet over the summer but there were weekly rehearsals for the choir members taking part in London Sing for Water together with a range of summer activities including walks, the Chumbawamba concert in the Cathedral, a party and a historical tour of Kibworth. Our August busk raised £130 for the relief of the Famine in the Horn of Africa. At the beginning of September we performed a 20 minute set at the CND Garden Party which raised over £1300 for CND campaigning funds.

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