Moving on Up - Ian Bennett writes about the first 17 weeks of our exciting pilot

'Moving on Up' is a project which we are piloting with our original, North London choir, providing more time for those members who opt into it to help them achieve their dreams and integrate more closely into mainstream society. Ian Bennett writes about how things are going so far...

Hello there! I thought it was high time I introduced myself and the Moving On Up project to the masses as it is now in its 17th week. I’m sure there will be quite a few people reading this already thinking "what on earth is Moving on Up?" so this is a good opportunity to explain what I have been asked to do and how it is going.

So, 17-and-a-bit weeks ago I was overjoyed to get the job as Moving on Up Co-ordinator. I knew it was the job for me but until I got the magic phone call from Marie I had no idea it was mine. What a moment that was! I jumped… very high… and probably punched the air too, but can’t quite remember because by that point I was just completely shocked and excited!

Of course, once you manage to get the position the next challenge is to actually do a good job! Thankfully I can say that these past 17 weeks have seen so many great things happening for everyone involved with the Moving on Up pilot: members, volunteers, staff and myself alike.

So what exactly is Moving on Up? Well, every Monday night - at the North London choir – I have a good old chat to all the members to find out how they are, what they’ve been up to over the past week and gather information about things they’d like to be achieving – what their goals are. There’s an emphasis on workshops, courses and progression routes but certainly not limited to these.

My job is to take all that information and help the members to find great opportunities that, for whatever reason, they might struggle to find alone.

After the Monday evening choir practice and dinner is over, I go away and connect with all sorts of course providers, clubs, community groups, colleges, skilled individuals, places providing volunteer opportunities etc, and report back to the members either the following Monday or give them a call if something comes up starting sooner.

I also meet up with individual choir members during the week if they need face-to-face support in applying for these opportunities, or they ask me to go along with them for support at the beginning.

It's such a simple idea, but one that has had an incredible effect on the choir as a whole.

It's early days, but we have already had some success stories - individual members getting the confidence , support or information they needed to help them to achieve long-held aspirations such as....

  • Building a hobby-orientated website
  • Finding arts funding options for a personal theatre project
  • Learning Dutch
  • Improving their harmonica playing
  • Finding the strength and determination to do a City Lit vocal course
  • Applying for volunteering positions or paid jobs
  • Applying for TV extras work
  • Finding free stuff on the internet and then owning it!
  • Accessing local council information for elderly relatives
  • Understanding complaints procedures and accepting them
  • Accessing and attending mainstream social groups 
  • Attending an inspirational taster session at a mainstream choir

A few weeks ago, I organised an 'open mic' session after choir rehearsal, where about 15 choir members took turns to perform a song for their fellow members. This was a really fun experience, and we can't wait to have another one! We have also seen choir members collaborating on songwriting and recording, helping each other, which is great.

I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has flown by. It has been an amazing experience getting to know everyone so far, and as time goes on the list of success stories will hopefully just keep growing!

As a final note, I want to share something that a choir member told me. We were having a one-to-one feedback session and when I asked him if anything has changed since Moving on Up started he said to me, "It has restored my faith in people".

I was taken aback by the honesty and weight of the statement but it was all the confirmation I needed to know things are certainly moving on up in the right direction for all of us.

And if you're wondering what inspired us to call the pilot 'Moving on Up', the answer is that we took it from a famous Primal Scream song from our repertoire. The lyrics of the chorus are: 

"I'm moving on up now / Getting out of the darkness / My light shines on, my light shines on, my light shines on..."