I am a judge specialising in administrative law – civil cases which have an individual on one side and the state on the other. My work as a judge often brings me into contact with people who are experiencing a time of crisis – whether that is being detained in a psychiatric hospital, being deported or facing having their benefits being stopped. While I do what I can in my day job to achieve justice, legal justice will only ever be a small part of the answer to an individual’s problems. I have always had a strong belief in the importance of social justice, social cohesion and giving people the tools to help themselves.
In recent years I have pursued these goals in charities running volunteer-led street gyms in communities affected by gang violence, giving young people an opportunity to improve both their physical and mental/emotional health in a friendly, supportive atmosphere with trainers drawn from their own community who have experienced the same peer pressure to make bad choices and who have themselves made mistakes from which they have learned.
I am also on the board of a social enterprise working with school-age young people from groups who tend to fare less well in education, providing educational and “nourishment” programmes to help them compete on a level playing field with those from more privileged backgrounds for places at top universities. I am vice-chair of governors of an outstanding state primary school in Ladbroke Grove and a governor of an NHS Foundation Trust.
When I heard about The Choir With No Name I was impressed by the clarity and simplicity of vision of Marie and her team. When I attended rehearsals and got the “feel” of the choir I knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of. Anyone who has stood in a rehearsal and felt the hairs stand up on the back of their neck as the choir really belts out “Don’t Stop Me Now”, or who has experienced a member finding the courage to volunteer for a tricky solo and being supported by their fellow choir members until they nail it, knows instinctively that there is something magic going on in the room.
We don’t need research to tell us that singing together makes us feel good (although there is an increasing amount of research validating this proposition out there). We all feel it – the staff and volunteers as much as the members.
I feel that this is a really exciting time for The Choir With No Name. We are keen to extend our reach to help more people and to encourage and support others who want to set up their own choirs. I would strongly encourage anyone who likes the sound of this to come to a rehearsal to find out more.