Monday May 7th
So last week I spent a long and positive day in Roehampton looking for a venue. It was the first day of spring, with bright blue skies, and the blossom full on all the trees. A lovely day to be walking outside and talking.
I was really encouraged by the first venue that I saw – a HUGE space with lots of windows, chairs, loos & drinking water nearby (thirsty business singing) with tea & coffee thrown in and no hire charge only to realise later that it was 2 flights up and no lift, not making it user friendly for all, plus there is a transient local population in this area – it was still my favourite ……….
I then went to meet the head of a local primary school who could not have been more enthusiastic – she gave me a choice of spaces, the first two were big and echoey which would make the way I teach songs (fast call and response)really hard due to the acoustics, the last one was perfect – again it was only later that I realised that as I am setting up an afternoon choir that would mean the receptionist having to buzz in and out every choir member plus there would need to be supervision for loo visits
The head of college at the local university could not have been more helpful as well, offering the chapel for free – another lovely space (but very hot and open doors would mean our singing could disturb lectures – need to check this out further) – there could be reticence I was told from some in the community to feel comfortable in the uni space and I don’t want to end up with a choir JUST for students (although they will be welcome) – my thinking is this would be a great space for an established community choir IF the community want it to be and we won’t know that until we are up and running
Finding a ‘neutral’ space was proving a challenge and there were many more meetings and many more spaces viewed that day but each one seemed to have an affiliation to a particular group and highlighted the need for a neutral community space – I noted that the Heathside resource centre (ex Wandsworth MIND) was closed and 166 Roehampton Lane had good spaces but really only parents with children under 5 visiting
So many people I met that day felt a community choir was a great idea, but not for them , “I can’t sing” was the standard response of the day – my standard response is “In 15 years I have never met anyone who can’t sing but I have met a LOT of people who have been told they can’t sing” – shocking the damage caused by a careless word from a teacher, sibling, parent or so called friend!
Cafe Joy is indeed just that – an absolute oasis and I don’t think a single customer escaped my excited chatter about these new venture. I look forward to setting up a taster there. There was a lot of chat though about how the community has changed with street drinkers and drug pushers moving in & how people keep themselves to themselves. I really noticed how further up Danebury Avenue, there are rows and rows of flats without any public spaces.
Eastwood Childrens centre were equally supportive as was the library where I spent a long time researching how to find potential participants. Community development officers were helpful in pointing me in the right direction for both venues and singers. LOTS of positivity waiting to be tapped. Not least the lovely man in the chemist, the fabulous receptionist at 166, the librarian, Jo at Kairos – all of whom I hope will come and sing (they all seemed to know a lot of other people they thought could come!)
Next few days will be busy for me as I get the flyers printed having finalised a venue and get going offering free tasters. It was a busy weekend for me too as Friday evening I went to the opening of the Wandsworth Arts Festival and bored everyone senseless I imagine with my enthusiasm for getting this project off the ground (interestingly there seemed to be minimal understanding amongst some of the importance of a ‘neutral space’ in which to sing which can be FULLY inclusive). On Saturday I sang and ran workshops at the Southbank centre as part of the CHORUS festival which was an incredible experience.