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Open letter to Pride in London

The Pink Singers have decided not to participate in London Pride this year due to the racism and bullying experienced by Black people and People of Colour within Pride in London and the lack of progress in addressing this so far. 

We remain committed to the Pride cause and hope to see evidence of concrete change within Pride in London that results in an event that is inclusive and welcoming for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. We will continue to mark and celebrate other Pride events, such as London Trans Pride on 26 June, and use our platform to both raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and showcase the joy and diversity of queer life in the UK and overseas.

In response to our letter, Pride in London invited us to meet with them to discuss the issues we raised. We are grateful for the meeting and the opportunity to ask questions and to hear about their approach to dealing with the accusations of racism and bullying within their organisation. Our position on participating this year hasn’t changed as a result of this discussion but we will continue to engage in discussions with Pride in London and look forward to seeing evidence of positive changes in the future. Specifically we would like to see evidence of a thorough investigation into concerns raised about racism and bullying, and plans to ensure a culture of open communication and genuine engagement with a range of stakeholders in the organisation, particularly people of colour.

Our letter to Pride in London in full:

Dear Pride in London,

We are writing to you following the resignation of Pride in London’s Community Advisory Board on 19th March citing a “hostile environment” for volunteers of Colour and your subsequent promise to carry out a full review of your processes and procedures to address their concerns. 

The Pink Singers is Europe’s longest-established LGBTQ+ choir and was specifically formed in 1983 at the request of the Pride organisers to provide a choir for the Pride March. We have not missed a London Pride March, Parade or Festival since then and we are committed to supporting Pride as a safe and inclusive celebration. 

Since that first Pride, we have established ourselves as a charity and one of the choir’s key objectives is to promote equality and diversity for LGBTQ+ people by example, education and raising awareness; and by promoting activities to foster understanding between people from diverse backgrounds. 

We work to ensure that the choir is a place that welcomes and offers solidarity to all. 

As such, we were deeply concerned to hear of the racism and bullying experienced by Black people and People of Colour within Pride in London. These events have caused us to consider our relationship with you as an organisation. 

We abhor racism of all kinds. We care about the problems that have been raised by Pride in London. In terms of our own inclusivity, The Pink Singers does not fully reflect the diversity of London. We still have work to do to be a space where all LGBTQ+ people feel welcome and at the heart of the community, no matter their “race” or ethnicity. We are therefore putting the voices of the Black people and other People of Colour in our choir front and centre as we decide how to approach London Pride this year and in the future.

We note that, back in March, you acknowledged that you needed to “rebuild trust with Black communities and People of Colour” and committed to a board-level review of your processes and procedures “to bring about tangible and meaningful change”. We are concerned that this review has not yet been published and also that its scope will fall short of the Community Advisory Board’s demand for a full investigation.

You have more recently released a statement apologising to volunteers who experienced racism, bullying and other forms of discrimination. At the same time you set out your ‘Proud of Pride’ plan consisting of actions you would take to address these issues within the organisation. We welcome the apology and the plan, however we are concerned that these actions may not be implemented or go far enough. We will not be reassured until we see evidence of concrete change.

Therefore, we feel unable to participate in London Pride until such time as your organisation can demonstrate in actions, not simply words, that racism has no place in your organisation and that you are truly committed to diversity, inclusion and equality. 

If we can be of help to you in achieving that aim and creating a London Pride that serves our entire community, we stand ready to assist.

Yours sincerely,

Joey Tabone, Charity Chair

Zoë Burdo, Trustee

Helen Drew, Trustee

Rusty Livock, Trustee

Alice Milton-Doyle, Trustee

Benjamin Peters, Trustee

The Pink Singers

Pinkies do Peckham – a Tale of Car Parks and Unruly Hearts

Amy Delamaide talks about our recent unorthodox approach to face-to-face rehearsals. Over to Amy!

Amy Delamaide (front) with the Alto posse

Finally the big day was here!

I had waited, and waited, and waited, for fifteen long months. What was the big day? Was it a well-rehearsed concert performance on stage at Cadogan Hall? Was it an event or gig that we were performing at for an audience? No. The big day was just … a normal Pink Singers rehearsal. But after fifteen months of sitting alone at home, on mute, singing along to a recording over Zoom, I was ready for just a regular rehearsal.

I left my flat super early – there was no way I was going to be late. I cycled to Peckham, where I found a disused car park turned into an arts venue and ran into some friends straight away as I arrived. We walked up the pink, very pink, staircase together. Of course, we had to stop for a mini-photo shoot because pink is kind of our color.

When we got to the roof there was a restaurant and an outdoor sculpture garden with people from the neighborhood enjoying the great views of London from the rooftop.

We got a quick drink at Frank’s Restaurant. I sat at a picnic table with friends who I hadn’t seen in person since March 2020. I even got to hug Paul, the chair of the choir (we’re both vaccinated). Over the fifteen months of Zoom rehearsals and choir coordinating meetings, I felt like I had gotten to know him better that before. Greeting him felt like greeting an old friend! That hug was long awaited.

Alto realness!

Then, we walked down the car park ramps one level. It was definitely an old car park – but one that had gotten a good power-wash. It was concrete and there were pigeons flying overhead, but there was also electricity and a wavy background of board to make it a good place to present live music. Across the length of the car park, I could see a solitary table with two choir members preparing to take the register. We all brought our own pens or pencils to sign in.

Before the rehearsal started, we waited – socially-distanced from each other – but so incredibly happy to be in-person. But no more hugs – once we were in the rehearsal space, hugging was not allowed under the guidance.
Then we sat down in our seats. Since we were more than thirty people, we separated into two groups, altos and basses on one side and sopranos and tenors on the other side of the line. Ne’er the twain shall meet! We had planned for separate breaks and dismissal by section after the rehearsal to ensure proper spacing.

Each chair was spaced out from the other chairs around it by at least a meter, or more. Compared to our pre-pandemic rehearsals, it seemed like we were miles apart from each other. In our previous rehearsal spaces, we were used to being shoulder to shoulder in a small studio, so this was a big change.
Our director, Murray, was at the front on a small dais with a stool. He had a music stand for his music and other short tables and stands to hold a microphone attached to a small amplifier so those of us in the car part could hear him. He also had a microphone connected to a laptop which was running our simultaneous Zoom-casting of the rehearsal, for those who couldn’t be there in person. And there was a fish-eye camera trying to capture some video of us in the car park singing.

Happy faces!

To help us get our jitters out and get ready to sing, Murray took us through some warmups. We started with some gentle hmms, and some zzzzs going up and down like bees, then some sharp, percussive consonant sounds like puh-kuh-tuh-kuh and kuh-puh-guh-puh. Then, I’m not sure what we were supposed to do next because a train went by on the elevated tracks and I couldn’t hear Murray. So I followed along with his facial expressions and hand gestures and just kept warming up.

What followed the warm-up was three hours of musical bliss – it was the most amazing rehearsal. The voices of my choir members wrapped around me. The deep basses resonated, the tenors were confident in every note, the sopranos rang out like clear bells. And behind me were the altos, these beautiful human beings I hadn’t sung with in over a year, sending their sweet tones around me like another long-awaited hug.

Before the rehearsal, I had thought the part that would make me really emotional was when we sang Chosen Family. This is a song about an idea that is really important in the LGBTQ community. Often, when queer people come out to their families, they get emotionally or physically cut off from their biological relatives. If that happens, you find your people in the LGBTQ community who become your substitute parents or siblings to make up for being ostracized from our bio families. This is your chosen family.

To get the timing of Chosen Family right, Murray had us turn to each other, within our own sections and across the sections. “Look in each other’s eyes,” he said. “Sing these words to them.”

I choose you, you choose me, you’re my chosen family.

And it worked! Across the distance, we used our eyes to connect and get into the same rhythm. You can’t do that over Zoom! For those of us who had felt quite isolated during the pandemic, coming together to sing about our chosen family was incredibly powerful. But that wasn’t the part that got to me the most…

The part that got me the most, as the alto section leader, was when we sang Unruly Heart together for the first time. I was in the front row of the altos, with newbie Rauwa to my right, who has just joined choir this Summer 2021 season. Behind her was Molly, who joined in Spring 2020 and had rehearsed in person just a few times before we went into lockdown. Two rows behind me was Georgina, who joined this season as well. And there were the familiar voices of Pippa, Gill, Nicki and Ben with whom I had sung in the Winter 2019 season, our last normal season before everything changed.

Newbie Rauwa with Molly and Ben

When we sang this popular song from the musical The Prom, the altos voices sang out with strength around me. Singing “this heart is the best part of meeeee!” I heard their gorgeous tones supporting my own voice as we sang together in the car park, some of these voices I’d never heard before. And they can SING! It sounded so beautiful. That was the moment that made me tear up a little bit.

It’s been a long, long wait. But, we’re back! We have had two in-person rehearsals and we are hoping for more. We’re looking forward to a time when we can perform again and we hope you will join us!

Amy Delamaide, Alto

Being LGBT+ and Muslim – 10th June

Please join us for what we expect will be a fascinating seminar.

Being LGBT+ and Muslim – in conversation with Khakan Quereshi
Date: 10 June 2021
Time: 1930-2030h
Zoom webinar link: https://zoom.us/j/92091895504

This event has finished but you can watch a recording below.

The Pink Singers is London’s LGBT+ community choir and for this year’s Pride Month we are celebrating the diversity of our and our wider LGBT+ family. Within our choir we have several members who have religious beliefs including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. There has traditionally been friction between faith-based and LGBT+ identities, but the sense of purpose, social justice and wider community they both engender suggests they have significantly more in common than appears at first glance. In today’s webinar we will discuss the intersectionality between being muslim and LGBT+ and explore how these two worlds may be brought closer together.

Khakan Quereshi is a Senior Independent Living Officer and founder of Finding A Voice, Birmingham’s first voluntary-led, independent multi-faith South Asian LGBT social /support group, a Diversity Role Model, speaker, writer, and one of the Stonewall School Role Models. He organizes events for LGBT+ South Asians to empower and inspire them to celebrate their authentic selves, offer support, provide representation and a connection to reduce isolation and discrimination. He recently spoke in support of the No Outsiders programme in Parkfield Community School in Birmingham. His faith has given him the impetus to question the traditional ways, culture and boundaries/barriers we have placed upon ourselves and believes that as LGBT+ Muslims, we can be united by reaching out and speaking up.

Please free to share this event with your anyone else you think may be interested. There’s no need to sign up, simply add the zoom link to your calendar and join us on the night. We look forward to seeing you then!

Communities Under Covid – 21st June

Please join us for our second public seminar during Pride month.

Date: Monday 21 June 2021
Time: 19:00-20:00 BST
Zoom webinar link: https://zoom.us/j/93783318589

The Pink Singers is London’s LGBT+ community choir and for this year’s Pride Month we are celebrating the diversity of our and our wider LGBT+ family.

While the pandemic has made it difficult for certain LGBT+ communities to meet, it has also opened up possibilities for other communities to emerge. In this panel talk, we will hear from two people who have founded new international LGBT+ communities under lockdown: Maya Joseph-Chavez, founder of the Queer People of Colour Project, and Filip Kaleta, founder of King’s College London’s LGBT+ Peer Support Group and Queer Film Club. We will hear how the ideas for their communities were conceived, how they have managed to create a feeling of closeness despite physical distance, and what their plans are for a post-lockdown world.

Please free to share this event with your anyone else you think may be interested. There’s no need to sign up, simply add the zoom link to your calendar and join us on the night. We look forward to seeing you then!

Please also find details about our first public event “Being LGBT+ and Muslim – in conversation with Khakan Quereshi” on 10th June @ 7.30pm

Eastern Europe Project: LGBT+ Lives in the UK

As part of the Pink Singers Eastern Europe project, our choir has been collaborating with other LGBT+ choirs in Warsaw (Voces Gaudii) and St. Petersburg (Obochina) to explore what being LGBT+ is like in each of our home countries.

Last year, our first “LGBT+ Lives In” seminar focused on Russia, with a second seminar presented by Voces Gaudii on Poland. The last of our talks, presented by the Pink Singers, is one of our Pride Month 2021 events, and focuses on what life is like in the UK.

We polled members of our choir to identify where they thought the current challenges lay and put together a conversation around three key areas: legal equality and the mainstreaming of LGBT+ identity, intersectionality, and minority voices within the LGBT+ umbrella, with members of the choir talking about their day to day lives in the UK. Though these interactions we hope that members of all three choirs develop an understanding of the similarities and differences which exist between the communities in all three countries, create a sense of solidarity and make friendships before we actually meet in person to sing together.

Check out our Eastern Europe Project page for more details on our project mission and our past blogs on LGBT+ lives.