'It’s ludicrous' - Choir forced to rehearse outside after rule change

The Victoria Park Singers community choir at their winter concert. Picture: Genevieve Girling

Community choirs, like the Victoria Park Singers, have not been given permission to rehearse indoors if larger than six people or two households. - Credit: Genevieve Girling

As Hackney residents flock indoors to pubs and gyms following the easing of lockdown, choirs of more than six have been left out in the cold. 

A last minute revision of rehearsal guidelines issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) saw thousands of community choirs across the country disappointed that they would have to practice outdoors or not at all following May 17. 

The news has led to the creation of a nation-wide petition, signed by more than 11,000, which calls out the revision and asks why DCMS updated the guidance so late in the day, about 36 hours after step three of the Government's roadmap out of lockdown was implemented

Founder of Victoria Park Singers, Hannah Brine, said: "Our members have adapted impressively to singing on Zoom, but we know it isn’t the same as being together and making a joyful sound, in harmony.

"It is part of the fabric of our society and something we wish the government would celebrate.”

Conductor Hannah Brine will be leading the singing workshop on November 5. Picture: Peter Anderson

Conductor and founder of Victoria Park Singers, Hannah Brine. - Credit: Archant

Hannah, who was awarded a BBC Unsung Hero Award for her work with community choirs worked with more than 250 singers a week pre-pandemic. 

She says choir members have followed Covid guidelines "exceptionally well" and emphasised the health benefits of community singing.

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Hannah said: "Just this week singers have described rehearsing together as making them feel lighter and the activity as being good for my brain.

"It’s ludicrous we can sit in the pub together but we can’t sing indoors, albeit two meters apart.

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"We feel like the government has just forgotten about us.”

The criticism levied against DCMS comes after choir leaders sourced venues and conducted risk assessments and, despite thousands of football fans being able to return to Premier League stadiums. 

Currently, amateur choir or performance groups can sing indoors in groups of six or as two households and in groups of up to 30 outdoors. 

In response a government spokesperson said "a cautious and phased approach" must be taken in easing restrictions, adding: "We understand this is disappointing but are taking decisions based on the advice of our public health experts."

To view the online petition for the safe return of singing visit http://chng.it/TWJ4y69Jqw


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