Local musicians raise local spirits through song

Volunteers at Whitefoot and Downham community food project Pic: Chloe Edwards-Wood

A group of local musicians from Lewisham have been singing at food banks to raise community spirits. 

Give A Song, a local Lewisham community group, are donating their time and musical ability to those in need by singing at the Whitefoot and Downham Community Food Project. 

Chloe Edwards-Wood, founder and volunteer of Give A Song, said: “The arts can often be seen as more of an afterthought than a necessity but I think music is vital in these tough times. I think we underestimate the impact live music can have. It can act as a communicator where words often fail and can connect people of all backgrounds and generations. A volunteer at one of the Food Banks we visited said “I was so confused as to why all the visitors and volunteers were in such good spirits and then I realised it was the music.”

The project, which was inspired by a book Edwards-Wood was reading, was launched this summer during lockdown and was originally designed to entertain those affected by Covid-19.  

Edwards-Woods said: “The idea came about during Lockdown as a way of reaching isolated residents and keeping live music playing. Having lost most of my work and sense of purpose as many creatives had, I was feeling the need to do something positive.

“I was so inspired by the local community response to the pandemic that I wanted to think of other ways to contribute – this coincided with me reading a book called ‘How Music Can Make Us Better’ by Indre Viskontas. I’ve always been fascinated by the power of music and I realised now more than ever, we all need it.”

Edwards-Wood was horrified by Rishi Sunak’s statement to ITV earlier this year, where he appeared to suggest that musicians and those in the arts should retrain. 

She said: “The arts is what has kept many of us going through this pandemic, it’s what gives our lives colour. Instead of just deeming the arts as unviable I think we need to look into redirecting arts jobs into projects like ‘Give a Song’, roles that use creativity but are functional in Covid times and have a big impact on the community.”

Give A Song volunteers. Pic: Nico Creates 

In its first couple of weeks, Give A Song sang 26 songs and performed in areas such as Catford, Lewisham, Forest Hill and Sydenham. The group is usually out doing 10-15 visits a week, this is expected to rise to 20-30 times a week during December. 

The project is in collaboration with Goldsmiths Community Centre in Catford and is funded by Lewisham Local and Lewisham Council. However this has only funded 150 of the visits.

The group usually work on referrals from local agencies but now people can nominate a person they want to send a song to via a form on the Give A Song website. 

Edwards Wood said: “All our team started out as volunteers and many who have other jobs continue to volunteer. With this in mind we wanted to find a way of paying them to continue spreading musical cheer to the community. We’ve created a fundraising page so that we can continue paying those musicians who’ve lost their work and livelihood to reach those who need music most.”

A donation link has also been set up to help pay the musicians. 

Edwards-Wood hopes that Give A Song will continue in the future as there are always people who are going to be isolated regardless of a pandemic. 

She said: “There are always people who have an illness and are bedridden, or are elderly and don’t get out very much. I think this is something that could be sustainable for a long time.”

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