It has been a busy year for Protest in Harmony, it started relatively quietly, but then things grew apace. The choir numbers have continued to grow, new blood is always important in any organisation. We are always looking for ways to encourage diversity.
The Committee believe that the changes introduced just before the previous 2014 AGM have been successful and ensured smoother running of our sessions. To improve registration the offer was made to pay by direct debit and a few members have taken advantage of this. The thing that has made the biggest difference was an issue which probably had more discussion time in previous committee meetings than everything else put together- teas and coffees. We now take a combined payment at registration, and now the books balance which is great for the Treasurer. Those not partaking of tea or coffee still pay the flat fee.
On the note of flat fee we are proud to have been able to keep our monthly payment to £5 or £3, despite the cost on the monthly fee to the Quaker Meeting House having increased.
Supporting new members is an issue that the Committee often discusses and to this effect we have recently introduced the wearing of name badges, a suggestion from choir members. It is early days but we hope that this will prove effective in getting to know names as well as faces.
The web site and Facebook are our public faces and we owe a debt of gratitude to Chris for his ongoing maintenance of the web site, Douglas for our public Facebook and Hilery for keeping our postings up to date. It is interesting the number of new members who reach us this way.
Protest in Harmony events are always well attended, but can be a bit of a nightmare for the co-ordinators and organisers trying to work out numbers and read email addresses from paper sign-up sheets. In the cause of lessening this burden and leading to greater efficiency we are working towards electronic signing up, we will keep you informed of how this progresses. Details are always in Choir Notes so that if you miss a session you are kept in the loop about singing and events.
So what have we been up to since last May?
In June there was our shared lunch after the session, which continues to be enjoyable for members. Many members joined the Wool Against Weapons action on the Royal Mile on 28th June, holding up the bright pink banner and singing lustily. There are also some very fine knitters and crocheters as well as singers in the group.
Over the summer there were some events in support of the people of Gaza which the choir supported informally.
September saw the sessions restart and on the 21st of that month a good number of members attended the March Against Climate Change and picnic, in late summer sunshine. A welcome change as many PIH events usually conspire to bring the rain.
On the 11th October we supported an event against TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) at their demo at the Mound where we enthusiastically sang a Beatles number and a new version of YMCA and there was a great deal of communal singing in yet more beautiful weather
In November we responded to a request from San Ghanny to demonstrate outside and to be a flash mob inside Barclays Bank, the first of many such events we attended. Roughly a dozen singers were present and were surprised at our cordial acceptance inside the building. St Andrews Day and a trip to Faslane for around 20 members to be with 1400 other protestors in the bright sunshine. There was a leisurely stroll from the Peace Camp and although little opportunity for singing to the crowd PIH presence was noticed and folks said that they were pleased to have attended.
In December about 25 singers supported the Commemoration Ceremony for Bhopal at Greyfriars. I am going to quote from Shereen ‘œI wanted to say that I’m always proud to be part of PiH whenever we sing, but today was one of those times when I was tingly-feeling-all-over-down-to-my-little-toes proud. I thought we sounded stunningly good. The way we did Think of Me, starting really quietly and building it, is musically a very difficult and challenging thing to do, even for the most experienced of choirs. It’s extremely hard to start a song confidently when you’re also singing quietly (which is one of the reasons we so rarely do it) and we managed it in almost pitch darkness barely being able to see each other. It felt so completely right after the minute’s silence. We sounded resolute and committed in all three songs, I thought, but somehow meditative and reflective as well, which again is a difficult thing to achieve.‘ I was there and it was one of the most moving events I have attended. Our usual event in support of CAAT on the 13th December after our shared lunch saw a very good turnout in a new spot, where we got more attention. Good weather provided a good sound.
On January 17th after a hard working session there was a visit to the new branch of Barclays. Over 20 singers entertained the customers inside the bank and then moved outside once they had overstayed their welcome. Heartening to know that this was recorded and posted on YouTube as part of a larger item. Also the members of SPSC (Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign) expressed their thanks, indicating that PIH singing gives their protest more of an impact.
In February we had our first public stage performance in a while at the request of the Freedom From Torture organisation. There were a lot of words and music to learn, but the 20 singers involved came up trumps on the night and we were warmly thanked for our contribution by the organisers. I would also like to warmly record thanks to the song leaders who went the extra mile for this gig.
In March there was our residential weekend 27th — 29th at the Wellhouse Centre in Moffat, which proved to be a stimulating weekend for the 33 members and 3 song leaders who attended. Intriguing activities took place such as a ‘œBoffins Blether‘ workshop and a Cutlery Band. Thanks are due to the small group who organised this, but mention must be made of Kathy Jenkins who stalwartly heads up this group and has done for many years now.
On April 4th Protest in Harmony made a strong showing at the March and Rally against Trident, with our very own Penny Stone leading some singing from the stage in George Square, Glasgow. Then about a dozen hardy souls set off at the crack of dawn on 13th April to help with the successful blockade of Faslane. April also saw the establishment of a PIH Walking Group and they had their inaugural trek. The Book Group continues to thrive as well. The 26th April saw a small group support Amnesty International on Portobello beach to draw attention to the tragic migrant deaths in the Mediterranean. Two days later,28th April saw the choir take part in the annual International Workers Memorial Day commemoration in Princes St Gardens, a very worthwhile and moving ceremony.
Finally there was a Protest in Harmony presence at the May Day Rally on May 2nd where our singing was welcomed and appreciated.
I think you will agree it has been a busy year, and as they say there is more to come. On 15th May there will be a vigil for Conscientious Objectors, at the end of May we have been invited to sing at Peace and Justice One World Ceilidh, in June we will take part in a fund raiser for a memorial for Conscientious Objectors and in July once more Protest in Harmony will have a presence at the Street Choirs festival in Whitby.
It goes without saying that our 3 song leaders Jane, Penny and Shereen, set the bench mark for the choir, a high one at that, without their input the choir not be the force that it is. Their unstinting dedication and effort each month is appreciated by all. This year in particular there has been a lot of extra work, which has gone on unseen. As a Committee we are always keen to support their development as song leaders, as we benefit directly. To this effect we gratefully helped with expenses for a Song Leaders Network Event. Thanks once again.
This year the Committee will lose the services of Hilery Williams as committee member and our efficient minute taker and web guardian for the last 4 years. Thank you, Hilery. Beryl Homan resigned from the committee, thank you Beryl for all your work, this was your second stint on the committee. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow committee members for all their support and hard work the past year.
Lastly thanks to all the singers who come to Protest in Harmony to sing once a month or to support our activities. There is no doubt about it you are a committed group of people who stand up against all that is unfair and prejudicial, but you are also a lovely bunch of folks who are welcoming and fun to be with. Without you, the membership, Protest in Harmony would not be the force that it is. So thank you, please keep up the good work. Here is to a successful 2015 and 2016 for Protest in Harmony.