At the end of 2018 City Harvest started working with the multi talented Choir With No Name London who rehearse on Thursday evenings at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church on Shaftesbury Avenue. The London Choir is run in partnership with the homeless service provider Look Ahead Care and Support who employ manager Ryan Burke. A national charity, The Choir with No Name run four choirs across the UK for homeless and maginalised people. For three hours each week there is a place to make the world sound like a better place. James Doyle who works for Octopus Energy is one of the committed London volunteers who 'do a bit of everything' during rehearsal, including cooking a nourishing hot meal for anything up to 70 people who choose to come and sing. When costs started mounting up for all the shopping involved in bulk catering, James contacted City Harvest to see if they might be able to help.
'Wonderful Paula Merrony at the Warehouse literally stepped up to the plate and delivered a van load of food. It was more than we could have hoped for and now we have a regular delivery. For those of us cooking it's a challenge because until the van arrives we don't know what we're goping to be making. We're lucky to have a very nifty kitchen with top notch gas hobs and equipment at the Church so we can be quite creative. Whatever is on our wish list, Paula comes up with extras. Around Christmas we made roasted chicken pies, vegetable satay, pigs in blankets, roasted parsnips. It was a feast. I cook with Jo another volunteer and within half an hour we've planned and got stuck into providing our hot meal. Without City Harvest we were starting to find it very difficult to keep going.”
Manager Ryan Burke is proud of all the singers who in their own way are giving back to the community. “Almost everyone is vulnerable. Many are homeless and sleeping rough or are in temporary shelters. Some have mental health issues. The age rang is between 30 and 70 plus. We welcome people with a cup of tea, a biscuit and a chat. If someone needs help we can direct them to the right agencies. No one needs to talk or tell anyone about themselves. From 6.30pm to 9.30pm the choir is a safe space away from the grim realities of life. Like all of us involved in the project, it never ceases to amaze me when one of our members suddenly steps up to do a solo and sings with the voice of an angel. Singing is such a powerful, healing activity. Sam Chaplin our choir master and the wonderful pianists who help out, bring out the potential of every member. They all leave feeling better than when they arrived and for once no one is hungry. Last week City Harvest delivered five crates of extra food. At first we didn't think we'd be able to use it but people were so appreciative to have something to take away. Not everyone is homeless, some have families and children so nothing from City Harvest every goes to waste.”
Stop Press: The Choir with No Name recently went into Milico Recording Studios in Bermondsey. Watch out for their sublime This is Me from The Greatest Showman – to be released early April.
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