Published on February 3rd, 2014 | by Gaelle Finley



The Choir’s Christmas concert in Symphony Hall is starting to feel quite a long time ago and it is time for them to plan for their next series of workshops. There are some exciting plans starting after half-term.

The Choir has recently experienced a lull, due to their conductor leaving in December and to the initial funding coming to an end. A small amount of additional funding has now been secured to allow them to continue in February and March. The aim is to have some longer-term and more definite plans in place from April onwards.

Until then, the Choir will have the opportunity to work with different conductors and get the benefit of their different styles and approaches to singing in a choir.  They have all had contact with the Choir before and are all excellent choir trainers in their own right.

There will be a series of one-off workshop rehearsals from Wed 26 Feb (i.e. after half-term) until the end of March.

  •  Wed 26 Feb – James Keefe
  • Wed 05 Mar – Nia Llewelyn Jones
  • Wed 12 Mar – Ula Weber
  • Wed 19 Mar – Ruairi Edwards
  • Wed 26 Mar – tbc

Each week, there will be the opportunity to learn some new music from scratch over the course of the rehearsal.

The sessions will all take place at Rookery School’s Red Room, from 18.00-19.30 .

All are welcome, regardless of singing experience.

Mike Flower, Chorus Manager at the CBSO, wants to give the context for the extended Christmas break as well as outline some of the issues surrounding future plans for the choir.

‘The choir started last May (2013) as a pilot project in partnership with Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust and Rookery School.  Although funding was originally secured to run the choir for just one term, we managed to stretch the budget and continue rehearsals throughout the autumn term as well.  The initial funding has now run out and the CBSO is currently bridging the funding gap through to the end of the financial year in March, while reviewing the options for April onwards.

This coincides with the start of the CBSO’s three-year Arts Champions residency in the Perry Barr district.  The Arts Champions scheme forms part of Birmingham City Council’s funding of arts organisations in the city.  The CBSO replaces Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) as Perry Barr’s Arts Champion and, in turn, BRB will now take up a new residency in a different parliamentary district.  The aim of the Arts Champions scheme is to let Birmingham residents get closer to the city’s world-class arts offerings.  Birmingham Arts organisations (the Arts Champions) act as advocates for the arts sector, giving advice and support within the community to promote and deliver new activities by working with residents in their local area.

Katie Lucas, CBSO Learning & Participation Manager, is now undertaking a mapping exercise to identify current arts provision and activity in Perry Barr, before creating a three-year plan for its residency.  Whether Handsworth Community Choir – or some other singing opportunity in the district – can form some element of this plan is still to be decided.

Another potential avenue for the choir is to seek local business and/or corporate funding.  The CBSO is also actively researching this option, but the current economic climate makes a successful outcome far from certain.  Membership subscription was also mentioned from within the choir last week – and that is another possible option – but it would only ever be a part-solution, due to the significant overheads involved in running the choir on a weekly basis.

While I cannot currently give any guarantees about the future of the choir in its current format beyond the end of March, the CBSO’s commitment to the provision and support of music-making opportunities in the Perry Barr district over the next three years is assured. 

In the meantime, if you have any ideas – either about possible funding opportunities for the choir or about the wider arts provision in Perry Barr – please let Amy Cassels know in the first instance (see below), or contact Katie Lucas at

Come and Sing!

With thanks to Mike Flower.

For further information, please contact Amy Cassells:

Photo: Gaelle Finley


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