Chair’s Report 2015–2016
2015–2016 has been a successful year for Protest in Harmony. As you will hear there have been many events to support and we continue to attract new members. We are not resting on our laurels and in the near future there are some exciting developments to encourage diversity, wider participation and challenges to develop the group further, so watch this space.
Helping members to feel part of the group when they are unable to attend sessions is very important. I hope that the monthly Choir Notes help to keep members informed when sessions are missed and the Committee hope to develop the website to include information about the material we sing and to publish upcoming events in advance to attract new singers. A very positive spin off is that the Protest in Harmony Reading Group and Walking Group go from strength to strength encouraging closer ties for members.
The Committee has also worked hard ensuring that events and sessions run smoothly and I feel that quicker registration, wearing name badges, split teas and coffees, and easier payment methods have all ensured that even with larger numbers we maximise our singing time. Again we can proudly state that we have kept our fees static. We have opened up our meetings to members, although no-one has yet taken advantage of this.
With the help of the Song Leaders we have prepared Performance Notes to help prepare members for singing on the street or in a performance. We hope that members old and new have found these useful and that our performances will be enhanced and our song leaders less stressed.
The website and two Facebook accounts are our public face and private means of communication. Our thanks once again to Chris, Douglas and Hilery for their sterling efforts. In particular we must mention Douglas who has made all our lives easier by transferring us from Yahoo to Google groups for our communications. This was a lot of hard work, but Douglas quietly worked his way through hundreds of contacts.
So what have we been up to since last May?
Protest in Harmony joined friends from the Peace and Justice Centre for a vigil commemorating Conscientious Objectors on 15th May. This was a moving event for those taking part.
Then on Saturday 20th June our first performance gig in a while. We took part in ‘Unsung Heroes’, a very successful fundraising concert held at the Pleasance, raising funds towards a Conscientious Objectors Memorial in Edinburgh. Members said afterwards that it felt good to be performing to an audience once again.
10–12 Jul 2015 saw a group of about 18 singers attending the Street Choirs Weekend in Whitby. It was a great weekend with fabulous weather. Some intrepid members cycled there, do I foresee a Protest in Harmony cycling club being formed in the near future? It was hard work learning many new songs. Led by Shereen, we gave an excellent performance at the concert.
Considering August is part of our recess it was a busy month. On 6th August some members attended a Vigil at the Mound marking the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Further to this On 8th Aug PiH singers supported a fast at Parliament by Ellen Moxley and Janet Fenton. A sad occasion on 29th, Helen Kendall’s Funeral where PiH singers gave a very moving rendition of Bambalela for a long standing member of PiH. Her family emailed their appreciation.
By September we were fairly busy with a Song Writing Workshop & Radical Creative Café at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall recognising Wool Against Weapons and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom 100th anniversary. On 12th Sept we supported Edinburgh Sees Syria with a morning spent rehearsing songs with refugee, migration and welcome themes. We then busked in the Royal Mile before joining the large Edinburgh Sees Syria demonstration outside Parliament where about 30 singers were very well received. A few days later on 14th Sept singers joined with Wildfire to sing at the screening of Wool Against Weapons video clips and the film ‘These Dangerous Women.’ 26th Sept was a Climate Change Rally and Anti-Fracking Demonstration There was a special extra morning rehearsal before about 28 singers supported the rally held at the Mound from noon to 1am.
October was a quieter month. A small group, in very good voice, took part in ‘Hands Over Our Forth’ and enjoyed a new version of Auld Lang Syne with a pipe band. It was generally thought our presence added to the day.
At the beginning of November on Sat 7 Nov after our session an impressive turnout of singers, led by Penny and Jane, successfully joined forces with Women in Black and Gareloch Hortis in the pouring rain outside the City Chambers on the day before Remembrance Sunday. This was followed on Sat 28th with Scotland’s Climate March and Singing Workshop where Protest in Harmony hosted a successful and well attended open workshop led by Jane in Teviot House before the march from the Meadows to a rally held in the Ross Bandstand. ‘Longer arms’ were suggested as a way of conducting singers at the back of larger marches. At the end of the month a number of singers joined ‘Don’t Bomb Syria’ events and also attended a demo outside the Scottish Parliament. Our small contingents certainly made their presence felt.
Despite atrocious weather on 3rd December, about 15 members met to commemorate the disaster at Bhopal, ably led by Shereen. As usual it was a very moving event. Beforehand choir members also showed solidarity with supporters of the ‘International Day of Disabled People’ outside St Giles Cathedral. On 6th Dec a first for us, yoiking on Portobello beach .About 30 people from PiH and other groups met to do this on a beautiful, cold day. It sounded great. It was recorded on YouTube to be shown in Paris. Thanks to Penny for challenging us to expand our repertoire and develop our skills. On 12th Dec about 35 people sang at our annual fund raising event for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. We raised a record £124 and singers were pleased that members of the public stopped to listen and show solidarity.
Thankfully January was quiet before two major events very close together in February. On 25th Feb we gave a performance as part of ‘The World is My Country’ exhibition at the Story Telling Centre, ably conducted and rehearsed by Jane. Then a few days later on 27th Feb 24 singers travelled to London to join other campaign choirs, and many others from Scotland and the rest of the UK, to encourage the government not to renew the Trident missile system.
On 10th March, unusually for us a women only event where a pop up choir sang at an event held in the Scottish Parliament, celebrating 40 years of Scottish Women’s Aid. This was a really successful evening and such a change to be singing inside the Parliament rather than protesting outside. 17th March saw a small group of singers back at the Parliament to voice their support for the EIS Demo by FE lecturers. On 19th March about 25 members made it through to Glasgow for a ‘Say No to Fascism, Refugees Welcome Here’ march and rally. We sang many of our very moving songs lead by Shereen. The beautiful weather contributed to a great atmosphere.
April saw about 30 members head to Moffat for our annual residential weekend. From 15th-17th April we had a busy but above all enjoyable time singing, socialising, waltzing, eating chocolate spoons.… If this has roused your curiosity you will need to sign up for next year to find out more. On a more serious note on 28th April we took part in International Workers’ Memorial Day. It was a very cold and blustery day, but as usual the group of singers felt privileged to contribute.
Finally an enthusiastic group marched in the May Day Rally on 8th May.
We will not be resting over the coming months. We will be supporting Conscientious Objectors Memorial Day on 15th May and a sizeable group will be heading to Leicester for Street Choirs in June this year. Knowing Protest in Harmony we will be supporting other events as they arise over the summer months.
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. They are always well prepared for our sessions and provide us with challenges and write us such wonderful songs. An extra thank you to Jane and Penny for covering so well when Shereen enjoyed a well-earned sabbatical abroad. 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.
Earlier this year the Committee lost the services of Kath Oldham who passed away after a long illness. I miss her quiet presence and willingness to help out. Douglas is stepping down after five years; he has reliably seen us through many technical challenges, thank you for all your hard work. I have served on the committee for five years as well, three of these as chair and my time has come to an end. It has been eventful and a pleasure to be involved. I would like to thank all my fellow committee members for their support and choir members for reading my emails and Choir Notes and working out whether I have included the correct date in communications.
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 in the world, 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 2016 and 2017 for Protest in Harmony.