Big Sing brings together hundreds of voices at venues across Durham

Durham Big Sing, an inclusive adult community festival, returned to the city yesterday (Saturday 20 May) for the first time since the pandemic.

This year’s festival aimed to bring individuals together to celebrate the joy of group singing, but members of choirs from across the North East and beyond were also welcome.

The one-day event was open to hundreds of adult voices of all skill levels, even “newcomers” who had never sung in public before.

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A flexible program offered three workshop sessions throughout the day, rounded off by an evening performance.

Participants were free to choose which sessions they wanted to attend and how much they were willing to pay. The ticket price varied between £5 and £25.

The Northern Echo: Male Voices perform at Durham Big Sing 2023Male voices will be part of the 2023 Durham Big Sing (Image: Stuart Boulton (The Northern Echo))

Those living near the city were also eligible for Pay as You Can grants, thanks to funding from the Durham Area Action Partnership.

Held at a variety of fully accessible locations in the heart of the city, the festival aims to help those with “hidden barriers” to participate by providing designated event parking and wheelchair-accessible shuttle buses between venues.

The event was sponsored by Durham’s Mark Masons, with a team of stewards and volunteers on hand to provide wellbeing during the sessions.

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It was organized by the disability-led social enterprise The Singing Elf, founded by Rebecca McGarvie.

The Northern Echo: Enjoying the Moment at Durham Big Sing 2023Enjoy the moment at the 2023 Durham Big Sing (Image: Stuart Boulton (The Northern Echo))

She said: “We are delighted to bring Durham Big Sing back after a long hiatus due to the pandemic.

“Times are tough right now and we know that many people in our communities are suffering from burnout. So our singing day was the perfect antidote.

“Singing has proven to reduce stress and increase well-being.

“For those unable to attend a weekly choir, this is a chance to experience all the benefits in just one day.

“Our team knows firsthand how difficult it can be to attend events when living with long-term health conditions, disabilities, or are neurodivergent.

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“The singers often tell us that they are afraid of attending events. That’s why we made it as easy as possible for them and offered them support right from the start.

She summed up the event’s ethos by adding, “Durham Big Sing welcomes adult singers of all abilities from all walks of life, regardless of previous experience.”

The venues for the event were the Elvet Methodist Church, St Cuthbert’s Catholic Church, Durham Town Hall and the Durham Amateur Rowing Club. Big Sing brings together hundreds of voices at venues across Durham

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