Strength in Community

FS Blog 3

What is community arts? Generally speaking, it promotes participation, regardless of perceived skill or talent and brings groups together either through collective identity or goal (or both). You may have been told you were rubbish at singing or drawing at school, and have carried that belief with you through life. And if that’s the case, ditch it! Everyone has something to gain from being part of a creative community.

Something Freedom Studios does quietly well is champion the brilliant people of Bradford, creating opportunities for amateur artists to work alongside professionals.  Back in 2013/14 a call-out for non-professional, older actors resulted in us putting together the most amazing community cast for our show Home Sweet Home. And many of them returned with small roles in Brief Encounters in 2015, alongside a community choir, many of whom had never sung before.

Last weekend we performed the joyous Ice Cream: The Opera, by Ian McMillan and Russell Sarre to fabulous crowds of people as part of Bradford Festival 2017. And once again, community participation played a big role in the energy of this show.  Alongside the four, professional opera singers, this show called for a choir to sing choral parts and appear as a crowd of punters growing impatient with the turf war between arguing vendors. We had a very short window in which to recruit participants and learn the music, but we did it!

Led by the amazing Fran Wyburn, we ended up with a team of 26 people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities. Some joined us from Fran’s regular Bradford Friendship Choir; a number of young students came from Shipley College, and the rest responded individually to a general call-out.

Participant Paul Cottell said: “The day was great, most enjoyable and I noticed that we always had a good number of people spectating at all performances. For me it was about having fun as part of a group of people, we were regularly thanked by the cast and others so felt genuinely appreciated, giving something back to the community of Bradford, and finally doing something like this in public is a great confidence booster. I may consider becoming involved (on a small scale) in amateur dramatics in the future? Who knows?!”

And Ruth Dunstan commented: “I absolutely loved being part of it! It was fun and inspiring.  The audiences loved it. And it was great being involved in such a great, inclusive arts event”.

Our choir leader Fran Wyburn worked incredibly hard on this production, and her passion for the power of music in bringing people together inform the choir she runs each week in Bradford:

“Bradford Friendship Choir is a pocket of joy every Tuesday evening. We have new faces come every week, from Bradford and from many countries around the world. The joyous feeling we have through friendship and song lifts everyone’s spirits, and people seem to leave with all the things we sing about in their hearts – hope, freedom and friendship.”

It wasn’t the easiest journey, the music was complex and difficult to learn, but this amazing team achieved fantastic results and I for one am enormously proud of them.

Maria Spadafora, Education & Participation Coordinator

Bradford Friendship Choir meet every Tuesday evening at Freedom Studios 6-7.30pm, and welcomes asylum seekers, refugees and everyone who believes in a more united world. It operates on a pay what you can afford basis, and travel expenses are available for asylum seekers and refugees to make it more accessible.

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