All too often we are confronted in the news by negative stories. Images that tell a thousand of the wrong words. Half-true stories that alter perception and increase prejudices. Asylum seekers are presented as victims of persecution, or as propagators of violence and social dissonance. Far too rarely are they given the opportunity to be agents of their own image, to have their own voice. For the reality is that these are simply men, women and children, escaping horror and trying to find a new life. That new life should be as complete as anyone else’s.
Thus I am proud to be a part of a new project that will use music and song to help give expression, and provide an artistic outlet, for asylum seekers and refugees in South-East London. The Citizens of the World Choir has been formed by a small group of dedicated people who want to bring the project from rehearsals in Greenwich to sing in Westminster in June, and conduct a whole series of performances nationwide in a summer programme.
The value of the project is obvious. The rehearsals as social occasions provide opportunities for integration, for helping learn the language and for sharing ideas. It will aim to reduce isolation through community building in the Greenwich and Lewisham area, and through performance spread a different, positive image, of seekers of asylum. It is time we allow those without a voice to express themselves, and this is the first step in doing so.
The initial response has been fantastic. Already the choir has received cross-parliamentary backing; Baroness Bloomfield has been an early and enthusiastic supporter, Lord Price another generous patron. A number of musicians and actors, knowing the value of expression, have provided verbal and physical support, and we’re proud to have those like Ian Shaw and Emily Watson on board with us.
The project is lucky enough to be led by Becky Dell. Becky has her own successful academy and somehow finds the time to be philanthropic as well as a self-starter entrepreneur. Her vision has made the choir a reality and I cannot thank her enough for the work she has done. Surrounding her is a great team that works around their own schedules to provide this opportunity.
The first rehearsals start in a week, and will continue until June when performances begin. The choir will be a mixture of non-asylum seekers and asylum seekers, the music non-denominational but uplifting, spreading a message of unity and positivity.
Please continue to support the project and the work it does. Thank you.