Running Total Raised £
Since April 2018
When Sing United launched we started our Sing United Supports initiative that puts “community” firmly at the centre of community singing. Each term we adopt charities and connect with organisations in our community that have a connection with the theme of the songs we are singing. Then we do whatever we can to support them in that term, whether fundraising, volunteering our time to help them, singing for them, or often all three!
During Sing United‘s first term, “River’s Pride“, we adopted RNLI Blyth. Established in 1810, Blyth lifeboat is just one of over 300 RNLI lifeboats operating from over 230 RNLI lifeboat stations around the UK and ROI. The RNLI depends entirely upon voluntary contributions of both money and time. Through entirely voluntary craft making from our singers, raffles, a social night with fundraising games, and donation buckets at the concert at Discovery Museum, Newcastle in July 2018, we raised an amazing £1339! As one of the lifeguard’s outfits costs around £1000, we were delighted to be told that we had funded their latest vital lifesaving equipment and more!
Little did we know that whilst this was an amazing achievement, of which we were rightly proud, it was only a marker in the sand for what was to come next! In term 2, during Autumn 2018, we worked on our “Power to the People” show, packed full of songs with messages of hope for positive change. For this show, Sing United Supports adopted the incredible People’s Kitchen, Newcastle, in order to try and support their work supporting the homeless of the region. This really struck a chord with our singers, and they took our fundraising to heart in incredible ways.
Every week at rehearsal, food and clothing donations arrived by the dozen, and were dutifully delivered to the Kitchen the next day by our singers who volunteer there regularly. If we’re honest, we thought that would be the main kind of donations that we passed on during the term. However, as weeks went on, more and more singers (completely off their own backs) started to bring crafts, jewellery, jams, paintings, raffles of all kinds, all with the generous intention of the proceeds going in the pot. Before we knew where we were, the running total had long passed the incredible total of the previous term’s efforts for RNLI Blyth.
As well as our main concert at The People’s Theatre, Newcastle, we gave our additional non-venue venue performances (community singing in unusual places) at both Newcastle Central Station and Haymarket in the centre of the city, as part of our commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Suffragette movement. We invited volunteers from The People’s Kitchen to attend with their donation buckets every time we sang, and the total kept going up and up.
By the time we reached our final show, we could scarcely believe how much we had raised, but the best was yet to come! The People’s Kitchen go through certain foods more than most, so we asked the audience to bring with them a small donation of a packet of custard, gravy or mash. What arrived, was really moving.
178 pkts of instant custard powder
23 tins of custard powder
3kgs catering bag of custard powder
112 pkts of smash
102 tins of gravy granules
39 pkts of gravy granules
6.5 kgs of pasta
3 kgs of rice
25 tins of beans etc
1.5 kgs crumble mix
1.5 kgs flour
160 tea bags
11 assorted sachets of mixes
4 tubes of toothpaste
2 bottles of handwash
8 pkts of sanitary products
We still had one more appearance in us for the term, and where else to finish, but at the Kitchen itself as they served up another hot meal for their friends and guests. It was a truly humbling and emotional experience, especially when one of the friends of the Kitchen, dressed as Santa, asked us if he could join us for an impromptu “Silent Night”. How could we resist?
And then the question came. What was the final total? The singers and their families had generously sent food and clothing every week, the audience had been incredibly generous, but everyone wanted to know, what had all the fundraising amounted to?
The answer was simply incredible.
Not only that, but there had been so many donation envelopes given to us in rehearsals over the weeks, that a couple of weeks later, we found another one that had been slipped in between papers for safe keeping which had another £183 in which was immediately passed on to the Kitchen!
The FINAL total therefore for Sing United Supports “Power to the People”?
So how on earth could we top that??? We started 2019 and the “This Land Is Mine” term knowing we needed to get a little more creative with our community efforts. Instead of raising money for a worthy cause, we were intent on giving our time. The groups of people we worked with were all located at or near sites that were previously mines to fit with our theme. Sing United teamed up with the Manor House Whickham, which is a home for the elderly and those with dementia. A little band of the #greenheartarmy over several weeks visited the home for “a cuppa and a natter” with the residents. Soon after this we were on to planting nearly 100 trees for the Durham Wildlife Trust in Milkwellburn Wood! These efforts make a huge difference to the communities involved, bringing us all that little bit closer, sharing unique and wonderful experiences together.
Then we were on to our non-venue venue performances as we got stuck in to our Sing United Supports campaign once again. Who would have thought an outside performance singing in the woods could be quite such an experience? Then a small group of singers gave an emotional musical treat to the residents at the Manor House. That same day we were joined by more of the #greenheartarmy at Woodhorn Museum, one of the biggest mining museums in Europe. It was a powerful experience that started outside, singing Take Me Home a cappella under the old pit wheel, then moving inside to stand under the march band banners to sing The Jarrow Song. A moment in time firmly lodged in the memory banks of everyone there.
Despite the fact we weren’t focussing on raising money for this term, we still managed through various collections and donations to raise…
We donated this to the Durham Wildlife Trust and added the funds to the ever growing total of giving back that Sing United have become affectionately known for.
What a special term, proving that money isn’t everything when it comes to supporting your community. Time is something precious that simply money can’t buy.
We kicked off rehearsals for “Always On My Mind” in Spring 2019 and pondered how to ignite the passion and enthusiasm again for raising money and supporting our next chosen charity. Our support fittingly went to the SHINE fund who are the mental health charity for the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.
Worry not! More and more singers came out of the woodwork and set up their stalls in crafters corner, selling their wares and showing off some truly amazing talents! Again we were so humbled by the time and effort our lovely lot put into fundraising this term, not to mention everyone who gave so freely and willingly.
We now even have a dedicated Sing United raffle department who really excelled themselves with a raffle to end all raffles
This term’s tour of the non-venue venues got off to a shaky start when rain stopped play at our planned performance at the Angel of the North. We went on to a very moving performance in the mental health department at St George’s Hospital, Morpeth and did finally get to perform at the Angel after show day. This included a special performance by Sing United Family to round the term off beautifully.
So, did we manage to scrape a few pennies together for the amazing SHINE fund? Did we ever, with a whopping...
Well, that wasn’t quite the end of the story! Sing United Family raised £65 with their own raffle to give a FINAL total for Sing United Supports “Always On My Mind” of…
Starting the term for our fifth show, “Lest We Forget” in Autumn 2019, we wondered what this term would bring. With the endless energy, creativity and passion of our singers, our sights turned to the special theme of our show and where Sing United Supports would take us next. Our theme was one of remembrance and we were very proud to work in partnership with the wonderful veterans charity, Launchpad.
It was soon clear that our crafty lot hadn’t been dwindling away the summer break lying in the sun. Oh no! They’d already been preparing a whole host of fundraising crafts and ideas to raise some well needed cash for our charity. From jam making to knitting, Geordie coasters to bookmarks, this was just the beginning. Alongside this was the first of many raffles, something we’ve come to know and love!
Our trio of non-venue venue performances for the term started only a few weeks in, with a very exciting flashmob at the beautifully restored Spanish City in Whitley Bay. The recording of our moving rendition of “We Shall Overcome” was seen by over 50,000 people! These performances provided us with a great opportunity to raise funds for Launchpad. Just a few weeks later we were singing in Eldon Square, and who knew a shopping centre would result in such an emotional performance? Our final stop was Mowbray Park in Sunderland in a very special collaboration with the National Veterans Walk. Before we’d even sung a note, a homeless veteran had been linked up with the amazing Launchpad team to give him the help he desperately needed. Such an incredible thing to happen.
How did we do this term? We knew from the huge amount of singer connections to the theme of this show, and the show falling on Remembrance Sunday, that this was a special one. Launchpad were so supportive of everything we did throughout the term and we really wanted to do them proud. Did we manage it? I think we did, with an impressive…
We were so close to equalling our highest ever total in a term and we were incredibly proud too!
We kicked off the start of the year full of renewed enthusiasm for our new term and gearing up for our sixth show, “Emergency Planet Earth“, in Spring 2020. As with every other term we continued with our community giving, in the form of fundraising for a local charity, but for the first time through the Sing United Foundation. We are so proud to have our very own registered charity to use as a platform to enhance our fundraising efforts and take them to the next level. With our theme focused on the hugely important subject of the wellbeing of our planet we were thrilled to be raising money and awareness for, North East based charity, Recyke y’Bike.
This news of the Sing United Foundation seemed to provide our giving and clever singers another boost (as if they ever need any encouragement!) Just when you think you’ve seen it all on the Sing United Craft Market someone else comes up with yet another fundraising idea. We also continued with more environmentally friendly initiatives led by members of the Green Heart Army. This included Lawrence Straker with yet another collection – this time spectacles for Vision Aid Overseas. The time and effort everyone puts in is truly amazing and we’re so grateful to each and every one of them.
After an initial challenge to find venues to fit our theme, we kicked off our non-venue venue performances for the term at Northumberlandia. The howling wind didn’t stop us singing to a small audience amongst the trees! We then moved on to a bumper weekend of performances that began with a very special visit to Josephine Butler Primary School in Ashington. One of our singers, Clare Marriott, is the Head there and our show inspired her to organise a dropdown week where the entire school and academy trust went off timetable to focus on their Emergency Planet Earth project. Next was a Sing United first, performing in a bike shop for our charity Recyke y’Bike!
Then straight into our final performance in the Ouseburn, an area predicted to be underwater by the end of the century if we don’t take action to reverse the impact of climate change. We descended on the Ouseburn band stand and then the steps outside The Ship and The Cluny to give our loyal following and passers by a performance to remember.
Sadly our last non-venue performance was actually our last performance of the term. The Green Heart Army can overcome most obstacles but a pandemic was a little bigger than even we could bear.
Even without our usual collection on show day we managed to raise a fantastic…
This couldn’t have come at a more crucial time for the charity so we made sure the money was with Recyke as quickly as possible. We had so much to look back on and, whilst it was challenging and didn’t end the way we’d hoped, there was still so much to be proud of. The term and the memories of all the special performances will be with us forever.
Not to be deterred by the pandemic and national lockdown, the Sing United fundraising cogs still turned courtesy of Mark’s piano playing and Mark Deeks Music. As the UK and the rest of the world ground to a halt, Mark started with a little idea to hold a Pop Up Piano concert from his home in Blyth. Through the wonderful powers of Facebook, and some pretty nifty tech, he held his first virtual concert in March. You might say this little idea took off! Mark went on to put on regular Pop Up Piano NHS concerts for our amazing health workers. The story was covered by BBC Radio Newcastle and Mark was also interviewed by them, both times Mark’s version of “Local Hero” by Mark Knopfler was played in the background. Both times listeners phoned in demanding Mark should release it as a single. The people had spoken… twice!
As the Geordie expression goes “shy bairns get nowt” and music legend Mark Knopfler gave our Mark his official approval to release his piano version of the Geordie anthem “Local Hero” as a single in order to raise money for NHS Charities Together. Mark’s fundraising was on behalf of the Sing United Foundation and raised an amazing £2,754.24 for our incredible NHS heroes.
Sing United continued virtually from April 2020 and that term and the one that followed was a little bit different from all other terms as we’ve known them. At first we all thought that a few weeks down the line perhaps we might be heading for somewhere back to normal. Then months later we weren’t quite sure we could remember what normal was!
So as worldwide events continued to unfold throughout the year, Sing United carried on getting their singers together online and bringing light and joy to each other on a weekly basis. Not only that but we grew our membership in the process, and had singers zooming in from not just all over the country but across the globe!
Our term focused on our favourite Sing United songs of all time, as voted by the singers. Songs with meaning that have brought us together for the past two years.
Our theme very much had unity in mind and we were so thrilled to be supporting the Percy Hedley Foundation as part of that. The Foundation was started in 1953 by a group of parents who came together to set up a special school for children with cerebral palsy.
Without our usual opportunities to raise money for our chosen charity we had to get a little creative! Our rehearsal craft markets, non-venue venue performances and of course our shows would usually form the basis for the majority of our fundraising. We have to admit that, whilst we were all up for giving it a good go, we did think that it would be a huge challenge to get anywhere near our previous terms’ totals.
So… we came up with a string of online events and singers took on individual challenges and projects in a bid to make this term a fundraising success. And my what a success it was! Between the virtual quiz night, Mark’s Pop Up Piano concert and our amazing virtual raffle and auction night we raised a whopping…
In December Mark was treated to an incredibly emotional and special afternoon at Percy Hedley with the children and staff who sang a specially prepared song for him. They made this card to say Thank You to everyone at Sing United. Look closely as there’s a special message…
Their vision at Percy Hedley is to inspire, believe, achieve. We’re so honoured to have raised this money for their music provision to help with their mission to make music accessible to as many of their children as possible.
Sing United captures the positive potential of people and music in one unique community singing group. As Mark puts it, “The most important desire is to bring people together who love to sing in a fun environment. But this isn’t just to make a great sound. We also want to demonstrate the amazing power that music can have when it carries a message of hope, or the feelings of a community”.
The next exciting chapter will continue under the banner of the Sing United Foundation, our charity, with a whole host of new challenges and local causes to support. Watch this space…
This is community singing.
This is Voices Together.