The Cantando Female Voice Community Choir has recorded a version of Something Inside So Strong to raise money for Portsmouth-based charity for victims and survivors of domestic abuse, Aurora New Dawn. Sarah Cheverton reports.
The BBC reported on 27th April 2020 that calls to the national domestic abuse helpline have risen by 49%, while domestic abuse killings doubled within weeks of the lockdown. Calls to a helpline dedicated to male victims have also risen by 17%.
Despite being in lockdown themselves, the members of Cantando FVC Choir were determined to get involved in supporting the rising number of victims and survivors of domestic abuse in Portsmouth and Hampshire, and came up with a creative and inspiring way of doing just that.
Working across 42 of their members’ homes in Portsmouth, the choir recently recorded and released a cover of Labi Siffre‘s (Something Inside) So Strong. The song is dedicated to charity Aurora New Dawn, which recently launched an around-the-clock helpline for victims and survivors across Hampshire, running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Member of the choir, Julie Eden, told S&C on Facebook, ‘We have set up a Go Fund Me page where we are collecting money to help support Aurora New Dawn and the essential work that they do. I know that these times are financially difficult for a lot of people but if you can donate to this cause then we would really appreciate it.
‘We’ve increased our fundraiser target twice now because people have been so generous!’
CEO of Aurora New Dawn, Shonagh Dillon, said, ‘Everybody who comes forward to fundraise for Aurora means so much to us as a team. What the choir have done is really make something that comes to life – music in particular has the power to create meaning for people in a powerful way. The song they’ve picked obviously speaks to victims and survivors especially.
‘We’re just so touched by people like the Choir who have come forward on their own initiative to raise money for victims and survivors. The song is absolutely beautiful and I’m not ashamed to say it made me cry, in the very best way!’
You can listen to the song below, and donate to or share the fundraiser here: www.gofundme.com/f/singing-Against-domestic-violence.
How we went from community choir to a community fundraiser
Choir member, Julie Eden, gives us a behind-the-scenes insight into the Cantando FVC Choir and the fundraiser for Aurora New Dawn.
In 2012 I joined a choir. I saw a Facebook post in a local group from someone saying that they were thinking of setting up a choir and would anyone be interested. This came at a time when I desperately wanted to try and build something into my life that was just about me and for me. I didn’t really have any other expectations other than I wanted a space where I wasn’t a mum, or a partner, or an employee – I was just me, doing something just for me – so I thought I’d give it a go.
In those early days, there was probably about half a dozen of us, it was all a bit awkward, we didn’t really know what to say to each other. It took us forever to learn – often going over the same few bars for an hour or more, only to have forgotten it the following week. Over time, however, we got better – we remembered, we learnt quicker, we grew in confidence, and we started learning some choreography. Our reputation grew, and people starting asking us to perform in their pubs and at their personal events, like anniversaries and weddings. We’ve performed with people of celebrity status, and at huge organised public events and theatres. It’s been an amazing journey, with some fantastic opportunities.
Along with our reputation, our numbers grew and with this came something even more special that none of us anticipated in those early, awkward days; our connections with each other grew, we became each other’s social network, a sisterhood, a family.
There is a lot of research showing the benefits of singing in a group; it releases both endorphins and oxytocin, for example, which means even on days when you feel rubbish, it makes you feel better. I’m sure this is partially responsible for the bond that we have with each other, we literally help each other feel good. But we also share the difficult times – we’ve supported each other through loss, grief, illness, relationship breakdown. We share resources, we help each other out with DIY projects, we look after each other’s children. We socialise together, we celebrate together. We know that there is always an ear, a shoulder, a hug waiting for you if you need it. We’ve created a safe space, where everyone feels able to share, no matter how dark life feels for them.
Like everyone else, we’ve all struggled with lockdown and struggled to adjust. It’s been a challenge to find ways of maintaining our connections with each other, but we’ve managed it. Through various social media platforms, we’ve found a way. Instead of arranging to meet up for coffee, our chats are about seeing if anyone has any flour or pasta they can share (someone always does). Crafting mornings have been replaced with puzzle swaps. We offer to shop for each other and check that everyone’s ok.
A number of us are key workers and are working on the front line, others have been directly affected by the virus. Nearly all of us are parents or have caring responsibilities – at points we’ve all found it tough. It is during these testing and difficult times that we see the true value of our choir family.
Over the last few weeks it has become increasingly harder to ignore the impact of lockdown on more vulnerable groups in our community. I think because of the sisterhood that we have, the challenges that lockdown presents to those experiencing domestic abuse is a social issue that we have found particularly challenging – how difficult it must be for someone to feel unsafe in their home, to be unable to leave, and to feel isolated from family, friends and support. It’s been shocking to see the increase in demand for support services, and heartbreaking to see the number of domestic abuse-related deaths double during the lockdown.
So, we wanted to help – in the best way we know how. Over the last few weeks we’ve learnt a new song that has a clear message of hope and strength to those experiencing adversity and oppression. We’ve been practising via social media, and using our own mobile devices and computers, we have recorded our parts from our homes around Portsmouth.
We dedicate this song to Aurora New Dawn, a local charity that supports those experiences domestic abuse. We open up our sisterhood and in our own way extend our support and our love to those that need it.