BRADFORD Friendship Choir - which welcomes refugees, people seeking asylum, and their friends and supporters - is seeking a new home.

The award-winning choir is currently based at Kala Sangam’s premises, in Bradford city centre, but the arts centre is to close later this year, for a major refurbishment. The choir is appealing for help in finding a new venue, and is also aiming to develop a fundraising group to secure the future of the choir.

Says choir Trustee Karen Jones: “Working in partnership with Bradford Festival Choral Society, we make regular contributions to cultural life in Bradford, singing with different groups and choirs, performing in many venues across the city.

“In the past year we have taken part in the Lister Park Lantern Parade; Good Chance Theatre poetry and writing evening; the Bradford Doula birthday celebration; and the Schools of Sanctuary award ceremony.

“A highlight was the Refugee Week Great Get Together celebration when we sang our new song, City of the World, with children from Westminster Primary School. The development of the song was funded by a Bradford 2025 Mini Seed commission and we were delighted to invite Bradford Voices and Bradford Festival Choral Society members to sing with us at the premiere launch.

“In August, it was exciting to sing along with Song Geet - fresh from their appearance at King Charles’s Coronation! - at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield.”

Adds Karen: “We now need some support to find a new venue, after the closure of Kala Sangam later this year. We need somewhere in the city, preferably near to good public transport links.

“We also need support in raising funds. Bradford Friendship Choir receives no regular funding and we are looking to build a group of regular supporters to secure the future of the choir.

“Our target is to recruit 80-plus friends who contribute £5 per month. Here’s the link to our campaign:

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford Friendship Choir at a Kala Sangam sessionBradford Friendship Choir at a Kala Sangam session (Image: Bradford Friendship Choir)

Bradford Friendship Choir (BFC) was founded in 2015, initially as a branch of Bradford Festival Choral Society - one of the country’s oldest choirs, established in 1856.

The aim of the Friendship Choir was to welcome and support refugees and people seeking asylum from across the world, and celebrate diversity through the power of song. The choir comprises members from Syria, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Lebanon, Uganda, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Congo and Turkey. Their ethos is: “To sing for joy, in a relaxed and fun way”. Members learn songs by ear and the choral singing helps them to learn English.

The choir has performed at venues and events across the UK, including the Great British Song Book at The Sage Gateshead, Bradford Literature Festival, WOW (Women of the World) Festival and a Born in Bradford conference.

In 2019 members joined Bradford Festival Choral Society (BFCS) at a concert celebrating the re-opening of St George’s Hall, following the refurbishment of the venue.

“The support from BFCS has been invaluable,” says Karen.

Last year BFC and BFCS jointly won the Group Hero Award from Making Music, the national body for amateur choirs and orchestras. The award recognised a remarkable online recording project carried out by BFC and BFCS in 2021, when lockdown restrictions prevented choirs from singing in person.

During the first lockdown, in 2020, the Friendship Choir ran online sessions, supporting members at home and providing them with equipment enabling them to stay connected so they could continue to sing.

The two choirs teamed up online to record two songs: Jikelele, a South African song meaning ‘everywhere’ or ‘universal’, and Here is My Home, an American Thanksgiving folk song. The digital collaboration premiered in 2021, screened as a video at BFCS’s first in-person concert since the pandemic.

This year BFC’s song City of the World was composed in a series of workshops funded by a Mini Seed Commission Grant from Bradford Council.

The words were set to music by the choir’s musical direction team, Fran Wyburn, Alice Phelps and Mary-Jane Walker, who said the anthem celebrates the diverse cultural profile of the city: “The lyrics explore what we bring to Bradford, and what Bradford gives back to us.” City of the World was performed at Kala Sangam earlier this year.

Bradford Festival Choral Society is looking forward to a busy 2023-2024 season. Its next performance is at Bradford Grammar School’s Price Hall on November 18, featuring Will Todd’s Mass in Blue and music by Duke Ellington, Anna Thorvaldsdottir and a world premiere by Lillie Harris.

The choir’s popular Christmas concert is on December 16 at St George’s Hall, with the award-winning Rothwell Temperance Band. On March 16, 2024 the choir returns to St George’s Hall with the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra for Mendelssohn’s epic oratorio, Elijah.