February 11th 2017

I have recently been trying to raise much-needed money for Methodist Action North West. Although many of us are familiar with the work that started at Fox Street, providing a night shelter service for the homeless, I have discovered that there is much more happening now.

· The Fox Street Community now provides a 20 bed purpose built supported accommodation, where homeless men can be helped to turn their lives around and are given life skills and support. They can stay for up to 2 years.

· ‘A Place to Live’ is another scheme which is a social letting project providing affordable rented housing for families and single people alike.

· The ‘Empty Homes’ project carries out restoration work on empty properties to bring them back into use as affordable housing, which is then managed by ‘A Place to Live’.

· The Food Partnership in Blackpool has provided food parcels, support and advice to families and single people, working together with some 36 partner organisations locally. Literally thousands of people have been helped.

· Finally ‘Cedar House’ in Preston offers a counselling service for men and women, providing support for a wide range of issues including abuse, stress, eating disorders and bereavement,

Such wonderful, much-needed work is worthy of our support and encouragement so as well as writing a few quizzes, I planned a community singing afternoon and concert to raise awareness and money for all the projects mentioned above.

I enlisted the willing support of David Topping, who would help to recruit singers and I called on a music friend Jeff Borradaile, the leader of several community choirs, to come with some of his Blackburn People’s Choir members to lead a workshop where anyone who wanted to sing could come and be part of a choir for the afternoon. No experience was required and people did not need to be able to read music; all that was needed was enthusiasm. Perhaps I should explain that the whole ethos of the community choir movement is to be inclusive – just giving everyone the joy of making music and making friends. Such choirs are not ‘high brow’, but may well be of high standard, as certainly was the case with the Blackburn choir.

In the afternoon Jeff came with 30+ people, so that however few recruits we had, people would feel comfortable and happy to take part. They also brought prizes for the planned raffle.

We recruited about 50 people, so the afternoon we shared was wonderful, so relaxed and such fun. The songs learned in the afternoon became part of the concert in the evening where all the participants who wished to joined, the full choir.

Thanks to a valiant bunch of our Fulwood caterers, we sat down to excellent hotpot and delicious puddings between the workshop and the evening concert.

In the evening we were joined by more members of the Blackburn People’s Choir and 20 children from Vocalise, a children’s choir supported by the BPC. Many of these children came from disadvantaged homes, so this was a really special occasion for them. Their transport and all the training was provided by the adult choir. In all, the choirs must have brought around 80 people to support the work of our charity.

It was therefore disappointing that few extra people came to the evening concert, which was so entertaining. The Choir had suggested a ticket price of £10 and in view of all they did it would have been insulting to charge less, being seen as not to value them fully. All this in support of our Methodist charity! I do hope that next time we shall offer much more of our local support too.

Thanks though to all those at Fulwood Methodist Church who did so much to make the event such a success and for so willingly giving their time. Together with some generous donations we were able to raise just over £1000 for the work of Methodist Action NW.

Mavis Fletcher