If you are at the RGS conference next week and at a loose end on Thursday lunchtime, please come along to this book launch:

Book Launch: ‘Singing For Our Lives: Stories from the street choirs' Campaign Choirs Writing Collective (sponsored by the Participatory Geographies research group)

Thursday 30 August 2018, Plenary & lunch (13:10 - 14:25)

Sir Martin Evans Building - Physiology B Lecture Theatre

‘Singing for Our Lives’ draws on more than 40 oral histories gathered from members of the UK’s many street choirs (campaigning choirs). Their stories explore the politics, music and relationships that sustain street choirs, as well as the futures they imagine when they sing. The Campaign Choirs Writing Collective are members of street choirs, carrying our participatory action research with the national network.

The title is taken from ‘Singing for Our Lives’, a song by Holly Near that is popular in the repertoire of many street choirs. Exploring the role of street choirs in political culture, Singing For Our Lives introduces this neglected world to a wider public, including activists and academics.

The book intends to inspire the reader to engage with this world: to find out more, to join a choir in their community, to enlist their local street choir to support campaigns for social change and, more generally, to mobilise artistic creativity in progressive social movements.

Signing for Our Lives also elaborates the personal stories and experiences of people who participate in street choirs, and the unique social practices created within them. The book tells the important, if often overlooked story, of how making music can contribute to non-violent, just and sustainable social transitions.

For more information, or to order a copy: 

About the authors: Campaign Choirs Writing Collective are Kelvin Mason, Jenny Patient and Lotte Reimer. Kelvin Mason is a writer with background in social movement activism and academia, particularly participatory action research (PAR). He is the author of three non-fiction books on participatory technology development and has published numerous research, feature and news articles. An environmental campaigner with Sheffield Climate Alliance, Jenny Patient is engaged in action research on the future of energy-intensive industries in Yorkshire and the Humber. Her background is in teaching, community development and project management, and she loves to sing in the streets and on actions. With a keen interest in promoting song as a political tool, Lotte Reimer is an activist and prime mover in the Campaign Choirs Network. She is a Natural Voice Practitioner, choir leader and member of the Natural Voice Network, NVN. Lotte compiles and edits the Wales section of Peace News. Campaign Choirs Writing Collective academic adviser and editor, Gavin Brown, is an academic geographer at the University of Leicester. He has researched a range of LGBTQ social movements and has recently written a book about young people’s involvement in anti-apartheid solidarity activism in London in the 1980s.


“I have supported this project from its early beginnings and CERTAINLY endorse this
important account of the street choir movement.” Peggy Seeger

“This is a gem of a book. If you’re not actually listening to – or singing with – the harmonious voices of these rebels, singing truth to power, then reading their testimonies of the highs, lows and disc(h)ordant moments of the street choir is surely the next best thing.”

David Harvie is associate professor of finance and political economy at University of Leicester. He sings with S¡ng Meanwood! and Commoners Choir, both Leeds-based.

“It seems that everywhere you look nowadays there’s a choir – they’re popping up all over the place, these ready-made communities that remind us how good we are at being creative, communally, without the help of digital technology. Our voices, that’s all, gathered in a way that teaches us to listen, share, learn, play and empathise. But what are we singing about? And with all the benefits of joining a choir, does that question really matter?

The answer, cleverly and exhaustively set out here, is a definite yes. It does matter what we sing. Choirs can be an incredible force for telling the stories of our times, the stories of the world around us. This analytical framework – I take that phrase directly from the book’s introduction – is a crucial element of many choirs, an element that gives a choir focus and purpose. This book rightly champions those choirs who take their singing out of those warm rehearsal rooms and onto the streets, who use songs as clarion calls, revitalising the role of the 17th century broadside balladeers who set up on street corners to sing the news.

This book, based on interviews with street choristers up and down the country, collects the arguments for these glorious gatherings of singers who aren’t afraid to put their ‘analytical framework’ to a catchy melody with added harmonies. Street choirs, campaigning choirs, choirs who recognise that singing together can be effective and vital in pushing towards a fairer, more just world. As one of the contributors to the book, Bernard Bourdillon, puts it: ‘Everything is a contribution to a big cause – the big cause is the sum of those small contributions…’”

Boff Whalley, Chumbawumba and founder of the Commoners Choir


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