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SUMMARY

“I FEEL HAPPY THAT WE SING, I FEEL CONFIDENT, RELAXED, I CAN FORGET ABOUT EVERYTHING. I JUST
FEEL THAT FEELING OF FREEDOM. THE THING I FEEL MOST IS FREE AND HAPPY” PARTICIPANT

Music Action International delivered music activity across Greater Manchester as part of a larger partnership project with The University of
Manchester and Bassajamba CIC: Recovery, Resilience and Happiness within Deprived Communities, supported by The Wellcome Trust. The Aims of
the partnership project are:

AIM 1: Explore diverse perspectives and experiences of resilience, recovery and happiness.
AIM 2: Collaborate with participants from the top 25th percentile most deprived areas around Manchester.
AIM 3: Run a music-based programme of interactive activities, musical approaches and shared experiences of resilience and recovery over 24
months.
AIM 4: Develop a creative portfolio linking music and resilience in deprived communities in collaboration with The University of Manchester.

Music Action International had an already proven model developed through their long-standing creative programmes with people affected by war,
torture and persecution. The original plan for the partnership project was to reach more refugees and asylum seekers and see how they could
benefit from the three partners in terms of aiding their recovery and rebuilding their resilience and happiness, with academic researchers and health
professionals sharing their expertise and interviewing them about this process. Music Action International brought their own experience of creating
programmes with refugee and asylum seekers to the project and adapted the music delivery aspect of the partnership accordingly. They knew that
many participants would have little to no English and providing the right interpreters in a drop-in setting would be difficult; and revisiting their recent
traumatic experiences would reduce rather than increase wellbeing. As a result the project shifted focus from delivery for a group of people who
have arrived ‘broken’ and can be helped to recover; to a group of people arriving with skills, passion, interests, warmth, creativity and humour who
can build on where they are today – individually and communally. And as such, that rather than be interviewed as beneficiaries, they would be
presented as experts in their own development and resilience through the actions and outcomes of the project

The aims were very well met by the project as the following summary shows.

Cover photo: Daniel Diaz Vera

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 SUMMARY 2


PROJECT MODEL
Music Action International worked with four different communities, each over ten weeks, in which participants all learned a handful of the same songs, chosen or
written by participants. All the groups came together to perform all the songs, in public at The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. Each session was delivered
by a lead musician facilitator, support facilitator, and one or two volunteers. Musicians brought varying levels of training and experience. Facilitators were almost
always musicians with first-hand experience of being an asylum seeker or refugee. Volunteers often included music students from Royal Northern College of
Music. A wide variety of instruments were welcomed, be they contemporary, traditional, Western or from any of the countries facilitators and volunteers have
experience of. Each group used the expertise of whichever musicians were in the room. Participants were also encouraged to bring instruments they play, if any.
All facilitators and volunteers attended a group learning and planning day before the project starts, introducing them to: the aims and shape of the project;
common things to be aware of regarding the asylum seeker and refugee experience; work through the songs which all participants would learn. The general
structure of the project was based on Music Action International’s large Crisis Choir programme which has built up slowly over several years.

PROJECT OUTPUTS
• Approximately 482 total workshops attendances
• Approximately 252 individual participants
• 250 audience members of the choir’s public performance
• 39 development workshops provided by 5 lead facilitators, 5 support facilitators and 6 volunteers
• 32 participants performed at The Whitworth Art Gallery
• 4 community organisations involved (including MAI)
• 4 groups worked with
• 4 new songs created
• 3 new long-term community choirs established
• 1 public performance
• 1 recording of the choirs’ new songs available for wider distribution including on the creative portal of the partnership

PROJECT DIVERSITY
• Participants are refugees and asylum seekers from 16+ countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East
• All participants based within the 16% most deprived areas in the country
• 60% of participants live within the 10% most deprived areas, including 12% who live in the top 1% of most deprived areas

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PROJECT OUTCOMES
1. WELLBEING: On average, participants experienced a 42% increase in wellbeing (using the Arts Observation Wellbeing Scale)
Wellbeing improved for all the individuals observed in the sessions.
Activity significantly improved the wellbeing of those who needed it the most.
2. RESILIENCE: The project strongly helped participants improve their sense of community, friendship and belonging; English skills;
understanding of other languages and cultures; and having a voice.
It also contributed to fitness, gratitude and a renewed sense of hope or ambition.
The project gave participants a sense of belonging, community and friendship.
3. HAPPINESS: The project increased the moods of participants, helping them become joyful and uplifted.
It reduced stress, helping them relax and feel free.
It also brought them laughter, fun and enjoyment.
4. AUDIENCES: Audiences saw refugees and asylum seekers in a different light and would think and find out more about their situations
The event created hope and optimism in audiences where it had not been expected.
It also generated great empathy and a strong will to do more to support refugees and asylum seekers.
Audiences felt the work has been crucial, and that it should reach more participants and wider audiences.

PROJECT VALUES
The outcomes and impact above were achieved by some common approaches shared by the different lead facilitators, which have been identified as:

1. ENABLING OWNERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT: Facilitators excelled at always putting participants first and making every effort to elevate
their experiences. There were no egos in the room and no pity, just empathy and support
2. FUN, PLAY AND CREATIVITY: Very closely linked to the ownership described above, was the freedom participants were given to explore and
experiment with their words, music and expression in the sessions.

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FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Participants’ engagement drops when they have not been given instruction. Giving participants a simple activity or having someone continue
a rhythm on an instrument can help bridge the engagement and maintain levels of wellbeing in these moments.
2. Ten weeks is not long enough to achieve the full potential of the work. Allow 5-6 months of project delivery including performance and
rehearsals to improve trust and build confidence.
3. Due to unforeseen venue and staffing circumstances, the performance day felt rushed to facilitators and resulted in some situations which
were detrimental to wellbeing. To avoid this in future work, projects should consider the following: one person consistently responsible for
finalising and sharing musical arrangements so each group learns the same version, and for all decision making on performance day; two
rehearsal sessions – one performing for the local partner group so participants can build confidence in a safe, familiar environment before the
main event, and one dress rehearsal type event to get used to the running order and performing as one cohesive choir for the public
performance (which can be the same day as the performance). A creche may also need organising for the final performance.
4. More time needs allocating to pre-project training. As well as the time given to the introduction to experiences of refugees and asylum
seekers, facilitators felt a full day was needed for musical arrangements. Time also needs to be built into new facilitator inductions to ensure
evaluation requirements / expectations are clearly and consistently understood so that all facilitators use the same systems.

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Public performance at The Whitworth Art Gallery. Photo: Francisco Espinoza

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CONTENTS
SUMMARY ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 2

INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 8
PROJECT CONTEXT ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 8
PROJECT MODEL .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 9
EVALUATION APPROACH ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 10

FINDINGS: PARTICIPANTS ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 13


CASE STUDY ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 13
PARTICIPATION SUMMARY................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 17
PARTICIPANT DIVERSITY .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 18
IMPACT: IMPROVED MENTAL HEALTH & WELLBEING ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 19
OUTCOME: RESILIENCE ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 20
OUTCOME: HAPPINESS ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 22

FINDINGS: PROCESS ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 24


VALUES & PRINCIPLES........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 24

FINDINGS: AUDIENCES........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 26
AUDIENCE PROFILE ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 26
AUDIENCE OUTCOMES ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 26

CHALLENGES & RECOMMENDATIONS................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 30

LEGACIES ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 32

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INTRODUCTION
PROJECT CONTEXT
Music Action International delivered music activity across Greater Manchester as part of a larger partnership project with The University of Manchester and
Bassajamba CIC: Recovery, Resilience and Happiness within Deprived Communities, supported by The Wellcome Trust. The aims of the partnership project
are:
AIM 1: Explore diverse perspectives and experiences of resilience, recovery and happiness.
AIM 2: Collaborate with participants from the top 25th percentile most deprived areas around Manchester.
AIM 3: Run a music-based programme of interactive activities, musical approaches and shared experiences of resilience and recovery over 24 months.
AIM 4: Develop a creative portfolio linking music and resilience in deprived communities in collaboration with The University of Manchester.

Music Action International had an already proven model developed through their long-standing creative programmes with people affected by war, torture
and persecution. The original plan for the partnership project was to reach more refugees and asylum seekers and see how they could benefit from the
three partners in terms of aiding their recovery and rebuilding their resilience and happiness, with academic researchers and health professionals sharing
their expertise and interviewing them about this process. Music Action International brought their own experience of creating programmes with refugee
and asylum seekers to the project and adapted the music delivery aspect of the partnership accordingly. They knew that many participants would have
little to no English and providing the right interpreters in a drop-in setting would be difficult; and revisiting their recent traumatic experiences would reduce
rather than increase wellbeing. As a result, the project shifted focus from delivery for a group of people who have arrived ‘broken’ and in need of recovery;
to a group of people arriving with skills, passion, interests, warmth, creativity and humour who can build on where they are today – individually and
communally. And as such, that rather than be interviewed as beneficiaries, they would be presented as experts in their own development and resilience
through the actions and outcomes of the project.

The interviewing element of the partnership project has also been adapted. A wide range of community groups all working to increase their resilience and
happiness are being interviewed. The overarching project has therefore been an action research process: where the diverse interviews provide breadth and
theory; and Music Action International’s delivery offers depth and practice. Collectively these will all feed into a larger understanding by the partnership of
what can be learned from the communities directly, about what they need from formal partners like health professionals and academic researchers, to
advocate for and improve the opportunities for building their own resilience, happiness, and where possible, recovery.

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PROJECT MODEL

The basic model of the project was to work with four different communities over ten weeks, during which participants learn a handful of the same songs, chosen
or written by participants. The groups would then come together to perform all the songs in public, at The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. The four
communities were:

• BRASS. A women’s centre in Bolton, for refugees and asylum seekers. The women come to the centre in the morning for English lessons, are given a home
cooked lunch, and can then stay on for the music sessions in the afternoon. Music Action International have not worked with BRASS before. BRASS does
run other creative sessions but these have not been music based before.
• Rainbow Haven. A community centre in Gorton, East Manchester. The centre runs regular drop-in activity throughout the week as well as targeted basic
skills sessions. The project’s sessions took place directly after lunch, which is a large, inclusive, sociable home cooked meal. Rainbow Haven had worked
with Music Action International previously, but had not created their own song before.
• Cornerstones. A day centre supporting vulnerable and disadvantage people around the Hulme and Moss Side areas of Manchester. Music Action
International had not worked with Cornerstones before.
• Stone Flowers. The group meets at Music Action International’s home in Ancoats, Manchester. Some members have been meeting and singing regularly
for months or years, others were new to the process.

Each session was delivered by a lead facilitator, a support facilitator, and one or two (sometimes more) volunteers. All were musicians of varying levels of training
and experience. Facilitators were almost always musicians with first-hand experience of being an asylum seeker or refugee. Volunteers often included music
students from Royal Northern College of Music. A wide variety of instruments were welcomed, be they contemporary, traditional, Western or from any of the
countries facilitators and volunteers have experience of. Each group used the expertise of whichever musicians were in the room. A core delivery group usually
stayed with the project through the ten sessions, though occasional sessions were covered by others when needed. Participants were also encouraged to bring
instruments they play, if any.

All facilitators and volunteers attended a group learning and planning day before the project started, introducing them to the aims and shape of the project, to
some common things to be aware of regarding the asylum seeker and refugee experience, and to work through the songs which all participants would learn.

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 INTRODUCTION 9


EVALUATION APPROACH
This project is one part of a wider research programme exploring the following aims:
1. Explore diverse perspectives and experiences of resilience, recovery and happiness.
2. Collaborate with participants from the top 25th percentile most deprived areas around Manchester.
3. Run a music-based programme of interactive activities, musical approaches and shared experiences of resilience and recovery over 24 months.
4. Develop a Creative Portfolio linking music and resilience in deprived communities in collaboration with The University of Manchester.
To better understand what that means for this project, this evaluation framework was developed:
STAKEHOLDER OUTCOMES IMPACT PROCESS MONITORING
• Evaluation brief /
• Improved mental • Creative outputs e.g. number of songs written
• Resilience methodology
health & • Indices of multiple deprivation rank of participant wards
• Recovery • Development / delivery
PARTICIPANTS wellbeing • Total number
• Happiness • What went well
• Other impacts • Place of residence / location
• Other • Barriers and future
• Legacies • Gender; age; ethnicity
improvements
• Baseline and end point group discussion about musical experiences/skills
• Mid-way session observation for each group
• Facilitator observation sheets; one per session, per group
• Registers
• Analysis of songs created by participants (analysed by musicians)
Planned • Project documents
• End of project musician facilitator interviews
methodology • Desk research
• Post-performance feedback
• Liaison with MAI project manager
• Project management records
• Established sector methodologies: ArtsObs1; Participatory Metrics2

• Total number
AUDIENCES • New / improved understanding of marginalised people
• Place of residence / location; gender; age; ethnicity
Planned • Observation sheet for public event, completed by project staff or volunteer
methodology • Audience survey (on site and online)

1
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283336524_Validation_of_the_Arts_Observational_Scale_ArtsObS_for_the_evaluation_of_performing_arts_activities_in_health_care_settings
2
https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/publication/quality-metrics-participatory-metrics-report
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DATA AVAILABLE
• Baseline and end point group discussion about musical experiences/skills: 3 out of 4 completed
• Mid-way session observation for each group: 4 out of 4 completed
• Facilitator observation sheets; one per session, per group: replaced by facilitator debriefs
• Analysis of songs created: available informally within facilitator end point interviews and audience feedback
• End of project musician facilitator interviews: 3 out of 4 completed
• Post-performance feedback: unavailable
• Registers: 24 out of 39 completed
• Project documents: completed
• Desk research of relevant Manchester ward deprivation rankings: completed
• Observation sheet for public event, completed by project staff or volunteer: replaced by phone interview with project manager
• Audience survey (on site and online): 28 completed

DATA LIMITATIONS
1. English language was extremely limited, and in each group many different languages or regional accents were at play, so finding a unifying vocabulary was
hard. Occasionally Arabic, French or basic English could be used. This made gathering feedback from individuals or groups was difficult.
2. Facilitators were not always fully committed to evaluation requirements. What they collected varied from musician to musician, group to group, and session
to session. The robustness of the data is therefore reduced due to inconsistencies. Musicians often (perhaps unwittingly) led the participants’ answers, in part
no doubt driven by a desire to get them to say anything at all. For these reasons verbal feedback is limited and often biased. MAI is aware of this and is
putting plans in place to introduce evaluation skills and aptitudes into facilitator training.
3. It was not possible to arrange an independent end of project reflective interviews with one of the facilitators, due to diary conflicts, although she was
interviewed by the MAI team.
4. Audience data is indicative not definitive. The nature of the work of Music Action International means many people involved, audiences included, have little
to no English language. So the survey is only accessible to those who can access the English language. Only 28 responses were received from an audience 250
visitors. In terms of reliable sample sizes this gives less than 80% confidence that the answers represent all the audience give with a margin of error of 12%
above or below the data provided. Ideally sample sizes should be at least 90% confident and no more than 5% margin of error. The feedback is a useful
indication that the project met its audience aims, if limited in quantity and robustness.

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UNDERSTANDING THE DATA

1. All percentages are rounded to the nearest full unit

2. As explained in the Project Context section, since the application was submitted, some differences between academic language, and the
approaches used by Music Action International have been clarified3. The original application talks about recovery, resilience and happiness.

Recovery is not used in evaluation of the specific Music Action International delivery work, because there is no identification or baseline of
what participants are recovering from, and to revisit a traumatic past would be counter-productive to achieving resilience and happiness
within the design of the project’s delivery. Not all conditions can be recovered from, only lived with more successfully. The work of Music
Action International is one factor that can contribute towards this, and this evaluation is best seen in that light.

Instead, subjective wellbeing (i.e. that which individuals have some control over) is used as the main lens for analysing the findings of this
work.
This is because subjective wellbeing comprises two main facets:4
1. Feeling capable.
Resilience fits well with this. Resilience is a life skill for all individuals and is appropriate. Resilience is not defined here explicitly,
however many sub-categories of resilience are referred to, such as learning, making social connections or developing new language
abilities.
2. Feeling positive.
Happiness fits well with this and is completely appropriate to this project as one of – if not THE primary aim of MAI’s work. It is also an
essential ingredient in being able to build skills that help towards increased resilience.

3
This can be summarised as a tension between deficit-based assumptions/theory, and asset-based assumptions/practice, should any of those involved in the project want to research this further.
4
Measuring Wellbeing, New Economics Foundation https://neweconomics.org/2012/07/measuring-wellbeing/
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FINDINGS: PARTICIPANTS

CASE STUDY
BRASS is an organisation in Bolton helping refugees and asylum seekers find their way into life in England. It offers advice about rights, entitlements and systems as well
as informal support through social, creative, language and signposting activity. The project took place at Christine Partington House, a small women’s centre in a
traditional ‘two-up two-down’ house close to where asylum seekers and refugees are most likely to find themselves living. The women taking part came mainly from
Arabic and African countries. Some have lived in the area a while, others arrived in the country very recently. They have little to no English and come to the house
specifically to learn English in the mornings, before enjoying a home cooked lunch, followed by the opportunity to stay on for the singing workshops.

This was the sixth of ten sessions. The choir plans to learn four songs and create one of their own. Musicians facilitating this session are Sarah, a singer and musician
from the Sufi tradition; Jo, a refugee singer songwriter from the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Helene, a volunteer and singer training with the Royal Northern
College of Music. The session this week involved five participants, though numbers vary each week. This session’s structure was:

• Recap on the aims of the project, learning and making songs, leading up to a public performance.
• Signing of the register and being asked about permission for photographs and recordings.
• A physical warm up involving stretching, twisting and shaking.
• A vocal warm up of high and low notes, and arpeggios.
• A group soundscape activity using various percussion instruments and whistling, to echo sounds of nature. The instruments are introduced by Sarah, and she
explains using the words ‘ocean waves’ and ‘rain’ – translating into Arabic through her phone, to explain what the instruments do. The instruments are passed
around the women, who are also encouraged to try whistling.
• Sarah leads the group through practice of the four existing songs and the song created by women at the centre in previous weeks.
• Finally, each woman is asked about what she has enjoyed or what could be improved.
• When the participants have left, the three musicians hold a short debrief conversation before leaving the building.

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DURING WORKSHOPS, MOODS IMPROVED BY AN AVERAGE OF 38%
Moods and emotions evolved throughout, with a good increase already achieved by the middle of the session, and scores reaching their highest points towards the end.
At the outset, most of the group were neutral or uncertain when entering and throughout the first few minutes. At times there were moments of uncertainty, fatigue and
distraction though these were in a minority. Throughout the session the women experienced calmness, relaxation, flow5, joy, delight, laughter, confidence and autonomy.

Using the artsobs wellbeing measurement scale6, each woman was given a score according to their visible mood when starting the session, and another when finishing.
The scale starts at one(low) and ends at seven (high); with a series of words to select from clarifying the mood of the person. Starting scores for this group ranged from
three to five; and ended at five to seven.
Across the group’s scores, the average score increased from 4.2 to 5.8; an increase of 62%. At one end of the scores, one woman stayed at 5 throughout though her
emotions changed; at the other end, the woman who started at the lowest point of 3, saw the greatest increase – doubling to 6 by the end.

EXAMPLE
E, an older woman with practically no English language, is visibly weary and exhausted at the start, and throughout the session, often yawning, closing
and rubbing her eyes, occasionally looking out of the window distractedly.
After some laughter in the warm-up, Sarah takes out a rainstick and says ‘rain’ before demonstrating how it works. E grins, laughs, takes it from Sarah
and tips it slowly. She then swaps it for the ‘ocean waves’ drum with another lady, slowly moves it round and round to realise the wave noise, and
laughs. She joins in more confidently, looking relaxed and peaceful. As the song, ‘Ezzayakoum’ begins, she starts to nod her head, not singing, then
mouthing the words, until finally joining in and singing loudly with confidence. When the next song is introduced, she chatters and animatedly repeats
the word, ‘Lyelle, Lyelle, Lyelle’ with excitement and joy – acknowledging she recognises and likes this song.
When it ends, and discussion between the musicians follows, she lowers her head, rubs her eyes, looking tired and confused. This continues for a few
minutes, with E becoming seemingly more distant with each minute that passes. Soon the conversation is over and it’s back to singing. Sarah’s foot
begins to tap as the next song is begun. E starts to sway her head and tap both her feet in time with Sarah’s, and she begins to smile. When the song is
done, she spontaneously and joyfully claps.
The next exercise is a call and response activity – everyone understands what they’re being asked to do, and the energy in the room is high.
Next, Sarah revisits the song the women at the centre have created in previous weeks. She reminds the women of the words and that this s their song. E
folds her arms and keeps them folded, not singing.
When the final song is introduced E says the words out loud into the room before the singing even starts. Everyone sings, the voices get louder as
everyone’s involvement and effort intensifies.
As they rehearse one phrase in different ways, E looks sleepy again then starts clapping along, head swaying, eyes resting contentedly.
At the end, E speaks in her own language and a musician translates her words, “She says she really enjoyed it, she’s happy she can say some things in
English and in other languages.”

5
https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow
6
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17533015.2015.1048695?journalCode=rahe20
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CHALLENGES
1. Attendance this week was very low compared to previous weeks. The women often have other appointments or commitments. Rounding the women up for the
workshop takes time which cuts into the workshop and restricts how much can be achieved. Getting the start time just right matters. A minute early and the general
hubbub means they can’t listen clearly or understand; a minute late and they may have left the building. Participants change from week to week which adds to the
challenge. BRASS say this is typical for projects and workshops held at the House.
2. Engagement in the session ebbs and flows. Being a small group helped limit disengagement, though there were still instances of ‘switch off’. All were moments when
women were not being directly asked to do something because songs were being changed or musicians were discussing next steps.
3. Lack of shared language had its drawbacks. At times participants were unsure what was happening or what they should be doing. It also affected at least one of the
musicians’ confidence. She explained she felt she would be more effective and make better, quicker progress, if everyone shared the same first language. That said,
this seemed to create only occasional and minor issues in practice, and musicians worked hard to overcome it.
SUCCESSES
1. Physical warm-ups created opportunities to laugh and be playful, helping inhibitions evaporate.
2. Recognising that women responded well to chances to build their English language this in past workshops, musicians made a special effort to clarify and repeat words
used, such as ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘back’, ‘down’, ‘up’, ‘shake’ and ‘circle’. Vocabulary was explored more throughout English sections of songs, such as explaining ‘want’ and
the difference between ‘has’ and ‘have’. This was welcomed by the women and helped them stay engaged, alert and invested.
3. Though Jo was limited by laryngitis, her presence provided continuity, carrying forward phrasing and structure of songs from one week to the next, which helped retain
confidence and learning. Repeating the songs each week has positively impacted on women’s confidence and engagement. Women started to take the lead
(unprompted) several times once the song was displayed on the board. Voices became significantly louder and more powerful in phrases they felt familiar with.
4. Sarah’s direction was clear, so everyone knew what they need to do most of the time. Because of the small numbers, musicians could acknowledge individuals without
losing the momentum of the rest of the group.
5. Keeping a musical presence going in the background had a noticeable positive impact on engagement, compared to times women felt they had nothing to do, even for
a brief moment. Women who were tired or withdrawn were instantly drawn back in with a simple drum beat or foot tapping in times when singing stopped for
musicians to talk with the group or each other. This led to them tapping their feet, swaying or nodding their head and closing their eyes to enjoy being in the moment.
6. Passing instruments to the women and creating a nature-based soundscape relaxed the women. It invited them to be collaborators not just recipients, take ownership
of their musical involvement and provided a prop – giving the women purpose where otherwise moments of uncertainty could create anxiety or disengagement.
7. Using the phone where translation couldn’t be done in person worked well. Focussing on key words helped women understand the significance in the context of the
song and added more opportunities for new vocabulary, in small, manageable, contextualised ways, increasing confidence and engagement.
8. Using pre-recorded music looked to be harder and less instinctive for the women to follow compared to following live demonstrations. This was shown in their
expressions which changed between studious, confused or uncertain to joyful, relaxed and confident respectively.
9. Call and response activity was a particularly successful way for the women to learn as they instantly and instinctively knew what they were being asked to do, and no
shared vocabulary was needed. These moments created high energy, with loud and confident voices.

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Photo: Daniel Diaz Vera

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PARTICIPATION SUMMARY
• 482 estimated total workshops attendances (see table below)
• 252 estimated individual participants (see table below)
• 250 audience members of the choir’s public performance
• 39 development workshops provided by 5 lead facilitators, 5 support facilitators and 6 volunteers
• 32 participants performed at The Whitworth Art Gallery
• 4 community organisations involved (including MAI)
• 4 groups worked with
• 4 new songs created
• 1 public performance
• All participants based within the 25% most deprived areas in the country
• 60% of participants live within the 10% most deprived areas, including 12% who live in the top 1% of most deprived areas

Registers were available for 62% of the sessions (i.e. 24 out of 39 sessions). The figures below show the known figures from those 24 sessions, and an
estimate of what the data would be for all 39 sessions, assuming the data we have is 62% of the overall totals. These are only for workshops and do
not include the public performance.

Known figures Estimated figures


(24 registers / 62%) (39 registers / 100%)
Individual participants 156 252
Repeat attenders 62 (40%) 100
Multiple attenders (3 or more sessions) 33 (21%) 53
Total workshop attendances (participants x attendance) 279 450
Total attendances: workshops + performance 311 482

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PARTICIPANT DIVERSITY
The project prioritises individuals living in the 25% most deprived areas in the country7
Because of the transient nature of their current lives, not all have a consistent postal address. Instead, the community spaces where the groups
meet have been used to represent them.
• Stone Flowers is within the 1% of most deprived areas (within the Bradford ward, Manchester)
• BRASS is within the 7% most deprived areas (within the Rumworth ward of Bolton, Greater Manchester)
• Cornerstones is within the 10% most deprived areas (within the Hulme ward, Manchester)
• Rainbow Haven is within the 16th% most deprived areas (within the Gorton North ward, Manchester)

Although we did not ask participants about ethnicity, they have told us where they came from (in their own words). These include:

Afghanistan
Cameroon
Central African Republic
China
Democratic Republic of Congo
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Iran
Iraq
Nigeria
Pakistan
Palestine
Somaliland
Sudan
Syria
Togo

7
Based on the 2015 Indices of Multiple Deprivation
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IMPACT: IMPROVED MENTAL HEALTH & WELLBEING
ON AVERAGE, PARTICIPANTS EXPERIENCED A 42% INCREASE IN WELLBEING.8

WELLBEING IMPROVED FOR ALL THE INDIVIDUALS OBSERVED IN THE SESSIONS. AVE % INCREASE FROM STARTING SCORES

Increase in wellbeing
The table below shows the start and end scores. Even though the scores of 75%
two individuals didn’t change, their mood shifted for the better.
44%
ACTIVITY IMPROVED THE WELLBEING OF THOSE WHO NEEDED IT THE MOST.
20% 17%
The lower their wellbeing on entering the session, the greater the increase in
0
their wellbeing by the end. Those with a score of three out of a possible seven
on entering the space, increased by 75% at the end of the session. Two of 3 4 5 6 7
Wellbeing score at start of session
these experienced a 100% increase. (Maximum score: 7)

EXAMPLE WELLBEING SCORES PER INDIVIDUAL


“One person had real mental health problems, a 7
6
result of trauma and detachment. During the project
5
our contact at the organisation was saying this
4
person doesn’t engage in anything at all and they’re 3
very hard to have a conversation with. But we didn’t 2
know. We’d never have known. They were the most 1
vocal, the most forward. Always smiling and joking. 0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26
Our contact there said it was a testament to the
project.” Lead facilitator END SCORE START SCORE

8
Based on observations of one mid-project session for each of the four groups, totalling 26 individuals.
Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: PARTICIPANTS 19
OUTCOME: RESILIENCE

“IT WAS AN AFFECTING PROJECT. PEOPLE DID NOT GIVE UP. MOST OF THEM ARE STILL ATTENDING.
THEY GET BAD NEWS FROM DIFFERENT OFFICES BUT IT’S GIVING THEM HOPE AGAIN. THAT’S WHY THEY
ARE COMING. IT’S A GOOD PROJECT AND I’D LIKE IT TO CARRY ON.” STONE FLOWERS PARTICIPANT

THE PROJECT STRONGLY HELPED PARTICIPANTS IMPROVE THEIR SENSE OF COMMUNITY, FRIENDSHIP AND BELONGING.
IT HELPED THEM BE HEARD, IMPROVE THEIR ENGLISH SKILLS AND LEARN MORE ABOUT OTHER LANGUAGES AND CULTURES.
IT ALSO CONTRIBUTED TO FITNESS; GRATITUDE AND A RENEWED SENSE OF HOPE OR AMBITION.

THE PROJECT GAVE PARTICIPANTS A SENSE OF BELONGING, COMMUNITY AND FRIENDSHIP.

Over a quarter (27%) of all participant comments related to resilience in terms of how much the project helped people feel connected to others,
finding commonality, and getting to know a wide diversity of people from around the world.

“I learn from this project, when you feel bad or you feel alone because you are not in your country, not with your friends, you can make your country
and your friends with song, with music, because it’s shared between us.” Cornerstones Participant
“I think when people hear our song they notice a sense of belonging, that even when we are outside our countries, we are also contributing to the
communities in which we live. Most of us come from different places but we join together and sing about our motherlands.” Rainbow Haven
participant.”
“I think when people sing alone without being in a group, that weakens the feeling. But when I sing with a group and we all sing together, at that time
I’ve got a really strong feeling and compassion to everyone in my situation, and I feel really strong and happy.” Stone Flowers participant
“I come here for friends, for the group.” BRASS participant
“We learned a lot from each other and made friends.” Rainbow Haven participant
“I feel very proud that we are able to record a song which is meaningful which will bring memories about where we come from and at the same time
uniting us.” Rainbow Haven participant

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: PARTICIPANTS 20


IT HELPED THEM BE HEARD: EXPRESSING AND ADVOCATING FOR WHAT THEY WOULD LIKE OTHER PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THEM.
Another 27% of comments emphasised how much it meant for people to be able to share their story and communicate their lives as people, more
than refugees.
“I feel happy that I can express my feelings.” Rainbow Haven participant
“I think each of our songs has a message in it, our experience, how we feel, how we feel about our home, about here, because each song is original and
it comes from our hearts and it’s got a message in it. We want people to understand that message and think about it” Stone Flowers participant.
“I want people hearing the song to do something good for me and my country, to know another different culture, another different song.” BRASS
participant
“We are singing not because we are musicians, but we want to express our feelings – so they can put themselves into our shoes by what we are
singing.” Stone Flowers participant
“When I sing, [I want] people to listen to my voice, my song, in any language, in any country. We are from different country. Not everyone understands
my language, but they understand the music – like a smile, it’s a world language.” Cornerstones Participant

THOUGH NOT A PLANNED PART OF THE PROJECT, PARTICIPANTS WERE INCREDIBLY KEEN TO IMPROVE THEIR ENGLISH LANGUAGE SKILLS AND THIS WAS THE THIRD MOST SUCCESSFUL
ASPECT OF RESILIENCE THEY FELT THE PROJECT HAD BROUGHT TO THEM.
A quarter of comments showed how the process was helping people develop their English language, which was important to them, even though not
an explicit intention of the project.
“We learned some English today, we learned, we understood some bits [translated]” BRASS participant
“For me, I want to say, because we know talking in English, thank you.” Cornerstones participant
“I liked sang in English” BRASS participant
“I liked practice English [translated]” BRASS participant

TO A LESSER BUT STILL NOTABLE EXTENT, PARTICIPANTS CAME TO BETTER UNDERSTAND AND APPRECIATE OTHER LANGUAGES AND CULTURES.
“I enjoyed singing different languages.” Cornerstones participant
“First time do this – learn new song, met different people, different countries. I enjoy.” BRASS participant
“[I want to carry on] learning about other cultures and traditions.” Rainbow Haven participant
“[I will remember] hearing many words in different languages. It was the singing and performance from a lovely person in each country, beautiful.”
Rainbow Haven participant

A few individuals felt improvements in other ways:


Ambition - “I felt happy because I wanna study for music again now.” Cornerstones participant
Gratitude - “I feel grateful.” BRASS participant
Fitness - “Today I like most the exercise – the warm-ups, I liked all of them, because I have pain.” BRASS participant

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: PARTICIPANTS 21


OUTCOME: HAPPINESS

“WHEN I AM SINGING, THAT’S WHEN I AM FREE FROM MY EXPERIENCES, EVERYTHING I’VE BEEN
THROUGH. I FEEL FREE WHEN I SING SO THAT THEY DON’T PILE UP IN ME. I CAN REMOVE EVERYTHING
THAT IS IN MY HEART.” STONE FLOWERS PARTICIPANT

THE PROJECT INCREASED THE MOODS OF PARTICIPANTS, HELPING THEM BECOME JOYFUL AND UPLIFTED.
IT REDUCED STRESS, HELPING THEM RELAX AND FEEL FREE.
IT ALSO BROUGHT THEM LAUGHTER, FUN AND ENJOYMENT.

As participants grew in confidence over time, they got to know one another more. Trust
and sharing among each other and project staff emerged, despite language barriers.
Sometimes the language barriers were themselves a cause of comedy. Finding out what
one another had in common, what they loved about the countries they’d left, and what
kinds of lives they have led so far all brought people together with smiles and joy.

The word cloud to the right shows the responses when participants were asked to sum
their experience of the project up in one word:
In observations, as well as a starting score,
participants were assigned a word from a
given list which best described their mood at
the outset, and another at the end. These
have been condensed into the word clouds to
the right:

Moods at start of session Moods at end of session

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: PARTICIPANTS 22


IN TERMS OF HAPPINESS, MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, THE PROJECT IMPROVED PEOPLE’S MOODS, HELPING THEM BECOME
JOYFUL AND UPLIFTED.
Over a third (38%) of comments relating to happiness were about feeling more positive.
“One thing I can’t forget was the audience. They really liked our song, they were really happy and dancing
and singing with us, this part was really good for us.” Stone Flowers participant.
“Very nice good song. I love this song. Anyone hears Ezzayakoum [name of song] feels good.” BRASS
participant
“The fun [has been] the best thing for me” Rainbow Haven participant
“I feel excited and it’s a good thing that I can make and do it [the music]” Rainbow Haven participant
“When I sing in three languages, in Kurdish and English and Arabic, that is beautiful.” Rainbow Haven
participant
“Every time we play, I feel really more stronger than before and I enjoy that.” Stone Flowers participant

REDUCED STRESS AND A SENSE OF FREEDOM WERE ALSO COMMON RESULTS OF THE WORKSHOPS.
“I feel happy that we sing, I feel confident, relaxed, I can forget about everything. I just feel that feeling of
freedom. The thing I feel most is free and happy” Stone Flowers participant
“My word [to sum up how I feel when I sing in a choir] is relaxed.” BRASS participant
“Pressure from the day is gone, it’s a nice way to end the day” Cornerstones participant
“When I am singing I feel happy, I feel I forgot my stress. I have bad news, I try to think of the song to make
me happy.” Stone Flowers participant

ENJOYMENT, FUN AND LAUGHTER WERE ALSO FREQUENT OUTCOMES.


“Today thank you, I enjoy, funny.” BRASS participant
“It’s been very awesome, very funny, I like it a lot.” Rainbow Haven participant
“Fun[ has been] the best thing for me.” Rainbow Haven participant

Photos: Daniel Diaz Vera

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: PARTICIPANTS 23


FINDINGS: PROCESS
VALUES & PRINCIPLES
Although no group experience is identical, because each group meets in a different place, works with different musicians, and involves different
participants, two sets of qualities clearly underpinned the work of all the lead facilitators. These were identified from interviews with lead facilitators,
and from workshop observations.

ENABLING OWNERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT: Facilitators excelled at always putting FUN, PLAY AND CREATIVITY: Closely linked to the ownership
participants first and making every effort to elevate their experiences. There were no described, was the freedom participants had to explore and
egos in the room and no pity, just empathy and support. Some volunteers were also experiment with their words, music and expression.
seen sharing these same characteristics (others are still building their confidence and
stayed more in the background). “We had a lot of fun. My sessions – I have a policy
that it’s about having fun. And then they realise
“I didn’t want to lead people into a certain place, but to be supportive and there’s something to be gained from it.”
let things go where they wanted them to go.” “I turn into a clown. My warm-ups are comical, I’m
“You would come with a plan but then just work with what you found in the a joker.”
room, so sometimes the plan got scrapped.” “They’d be shy then we’d have a giggle.”
“Our song was What Makes us Happy? So it’s their lyrics, the things they “We had time to have fun as well as doing the
enjoy, topics they want to talk about.” work. If you can enjoy it, then it doesn’t feel like you
“There was nothing Western about our song. And that was because it was have a lot to learn. We laughed every session.”
their song from start to finish and they could really stretch their legs.” “We start with something low pressure, highly
“We listened to what they told us they wanted, it was a journey not a creative.”
discipline.” “The way our sessions were, we kept things really
“On the day of the performance they were so proud to be in such a grand free, we left the room feeling like children.”
space. It was really important to them to have their words heard in such a “It was a space where they [the women especially]
public place.” could be unshackled, free.”
“It was important for it [the performance] to happen somewhere like that – “It taught me a lot, being free to be loose around
with its displays of culture from around the world, and traditional dress on what a song could be. We changed the time
show. It looked to be respectful of their cultures and it was a real signature – it was enriching because there was
celebration.” African and Arabian style composition, Iranian
“It was a community choir not a refugee choir, that was important. It percussion, and that encouraged a lot of the
wasn’t loads of people with a sad story in common but loads of people with women to sing.”
shared experiences and positive ideas that just loved coming and singing.”

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: PROCESS 24


Participants echoed this in their
Average Scores: Quality of Project Participation
experiences. The playful aspect is
demonstrated in previous pages where the My ideas were taken seriously 9.4
positive impact on mood is outlined. With
The organisers responded well to the needs of the group 9.5
regards to ownership and empowerment,
24 people (4 - 8 people per group) gave I was clear about what we were all here to do 9.5

feedback about their experiences of the I got helpful feedback 9.5


project (based on Arts Council England’s I felt encouraged to try new things 9.5
Participatory Metrics model). They were
I felt like I could be myself 9.6
asked to score these statements based on
how much they agreed, from 0 (not at all) to I felt my contribution was valued 9.0

10 (extremely so). All aspects of the I was treated as an equal 9.5


participatory processed scored very highly. The project was well organised 9.7

Photo: Daniel Diaz Vera Photo: Daniel Diaz Vera

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: PROCESS 25


FINDINGS: AUDIENCES
AUDIENCE PROFILE
250 people watched the shared performance event at The Whitworth Art Gallery. According to those who provided feedback, the audience was
• 64% from Manchester
• Two thirds female, one third male (compared to an average of 50/50 in both Manchester [M] and Greater Manchester [GM])9
• Mainly younger and middle-aged adults
• 71% white (compared to M average of 68% and GM average of 84%) Where do you currently live?
Ethnicity Asian / Asian British
64%
11% 0% 11%
Black / African / Caribbean
7% / Black British
0% Mixed / Multiple Ethnic
12%
Groups 8% 8% 4% 4%
0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
White

Other Ethnic Group

Unknown Ethnic Group


71%
Audience genders
0%
Audience Age
Female
19-25 50-59
33%
Male 22% 40-49 22%
26-29 17% 60-69
Other genders
13% 13% 70-79

30-39 9%
67%
11-16 17-19 4% 80+
0% 0% 0% 0%

9 Baseline data: Manchester, from the 2011 census. Greater Manchester, from Office for National Statistics via https://citypopulation.de/php/uk-greatermanchester.php.
Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: AUDIENCES 26
AUDIENCE OUTCOMES

AUDIENCES SAW REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT


AND WOULD THINK AND FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THEIR SITUATIONS

Audience members were asked about what surprised them, as an indication of what preconceptions and assumptions had been overturned. They
were asked what they would do as a result of having attended the performances. And they were invited to provide any other comments they wanted
to. Answers to all three questions clearly showed that :

THE EVENT CREATED HOPE AND OPTIMISM, WHERE IT HAD NOT BEEN EXPECTED.
In answer to the question What Surprised You Most at this Event?
• 48% of answers described the unexpected joy and uplifting nature of the event.
• 33% highlighted the high quality of the event, the music and the performance.
• 19% outlined enjoyment of seeing such a large and diverse audience at an event like this.

THE EVENT GENERATED GREAT EMPATHY AND A STRONG WILL TO DO MORE TO SUPPORT REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS.
In answer to the question What Will You Do as a Result of this Performance?
• 50% of responses described various ways of wanting to continue supporting Music Action International. In turn this will support the refugees and asylum
seekers they work with and continue to influence a wider audience.
• 27% want to do more to support refugee and asylum seeker communities by attending more events, spreading the word about their experiences of the
performances, and help or learn more about the situations of asylum seekers and refugees.
• 23% want to use the arts to express their feelings and communicate with others more about the opportunities refugees and asylum seekers do or don’t
have.
AUDIENCES FELT THE PROJECT AND PERFORMANCES HAVE BEEN CRUCIAL AND THE WORK SHOULD REACH MORE PARTICIPANTS AND WIDER, MORE DIVERSE AUDIENCES.
This was the most frequently mentioned response in answer to the question What Else is Important to Tell Us About This Event?

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: AUDIENCES 27


WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST AT THIS EVENT? WHAT WILL YOU DO AS A RESULT OF THIS WHAT ELSE IS IMPORTANT TO TELL US ABOUT THIS
PERFORMANCE? EVENT?

the beaming faces - the enjoyment in it. It's very important to


spend time reflecting on the continue.
plight of refugees.
Should be repeated
It giving me goosebumps, and
all across the city.
passion, making me smile.

pay more attention to the It'd be good to do it in places like streets.


The joy in the power of music to cure and
the combined Galleries have just a certain kind of audience!
room, the connect people
energy + positivity.
colourfulness.
There should be more things
like this happening regularly.
Read more about the issues
the high standard of singing faced by refugees and asylum
and enthusiasm. it brought people
seekers.
together in joy!!!
The complexity of the music.
Helps to put refugees / asylum
The lyrics they've written. ....continue to write poetry to counter
seekers in positive light.
oppression the worst of our humanity
and believe that as a human family,
great to see a full + diverse audience. Joyful, life-affirming, uplifting
together we are stronger.
- THANK YOU SO MUCH.
I stayed until the end
even though I'm meant talk about it to people who The different languages are
The number of
to be somewhere else! were not here and tell them beautiful!
people attending
(loads!). how amazing this project is.

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: AUDIENCES 28


Public performance at The Whitworth Art Gallery. Photo: Francisco Espinoza

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 FINDINGS: AUDIENCES 29


CHALLENGES & RECOMMENDATIONS
Participants’ engagement drops when they have not been given instruction.
This tends to happen either: when facilitators are discussing how to deliver the next step, or, when transitioning between songs. At these times,
participants can become withdrawn again or looks anxious or confused.
Recommendation: Giving participants a simple activity or having someone continue a rhythm on an instrument can help bridge the engagement and
maintain levels of wellbeing in these moments.

Ten weeks is not long enough to achieve the full potential of the work.
Though designed on the basis of existing projects run by Music Action International, their other work already has had several years to build, starting
from a more established position where trust has already been established and participants know the way projects progress. Facilitators felt there
was not enough time to build trust with these new groups before having added pressure of having to learn new songs and start creating their own
song. More breathing space was needed early on to develop relationships and confidence. At the end, extra time would have enabled the groups to
rehearse together.
Recommendation: Allow 5-6 months of project delivery including performance and rehearsal to build trust and improve confidence

The performance day felt rushed to facilitators and caused some situations which were detrimental to wellbeing.
The groups operated as four separate projects, coming together in one day at the end. Because of this, groups developed different arrangements of
their shared songs which meant quickly trying to relearn new ways of singing on the day. Likewise, the way one solo was sung in one group, upset a
participant in another group because the different dialect it was sung in sounded alien to her. Though this seems a small detail, as facilitators from
both groups recognised – when all you have left from a former life is the music you remember, to have that taken away can be too much to bear. The
logistics of the day and some misunderstanding on the part of the venue meant there was no dedicated rehearsal time and space available, which
further added to the pressures.
Recommendation: Future projects should consider the following: one person consistently responsible for finalising and sharing musical arrangements
so each group learns the same version, and for all decision making on performance day; two rehearsal sessions – one performing for the local partner
group so participants can build confidence in a safe, familiar environment before the main event, and one dress rehearsal type event to get used to
the running order and performing as one cohesive choir for the public performance (which can be the same day as the performance). A creche may
also need organising for the final performance.
Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 CHALLENGES & RECOMMENDATIONS 30
More time needs allocating to pre-project training.
Facilitators were grateful for the induction day. They found learning about
life for refugees and asylum seekers in the morning, an afternoon finding out
about the shared songs for the project, and a clear week-by-week project
structure very useful. However, they all said that trying to pack all the
content into one day was too intense. The morning’s session needed time
afterwards to absorb and process, especially emotionally. They also all said
that half a day was not long enough to work through the music, and that this
may also have contributed to some of the above issues regarding different
versions or arrangements which only transpired later on in the project.
Recommendation: More time needs allocating to pre-project training. As well
as the time given to the introduction to experiences of refugees and asylum
Public performance at The Whitworth Art Gallery. Photo: Francisco Espinoza
seekers, facilitators felt a full day was needed for musical arrangements.
Time also needs to be built into new facilitator inductions to ensure evaluation
requirements / expectations are clearly and consistently understood so that all facilitators use the same systems.

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 CHALLENGES & RECOMMENDATIONS 31


LEGACIES
The most important legacy is that each of the choirs, at
BRASS, Cornerstones and Rainbow Haven, will continue. At
the time of writing this report, other than a break over
summer, each choir has continued meeting weekly, and will
continue do so for the foreseeable future. At BRASS, the
women’s group have agreed they are happy to open it out
more fully and so the choir will meet at another BRASS
location which provides a bigger, more suitable venue and
now includes men too. Music Action International have
contributed funding from their own budget lines, and will
embed further fundraising into their strategic plans, to
ensure choirs can keep developing and performing.

In addition, the choirs have made a recording of the songs


they have learned and written. This will be made available to
their own local networks and form part of the online portal of
resources to share the learning of the wider partnership.

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 LEGACIES 32


Public performance at The Whitworth Art Gallery. Photo: Francisco Espinoza

Sally Fort www.sallyfort.com August 2019 LEGACIES 33